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Writing Stuff That Gets Read


Writing in general didn’t come easy to me when I first started.

And I certainly don’t think I’ve mastered it at this point in my life. Honestly, I was a mechanical engineer with a degree who never worked a day in his life as an engineer. I was given a tool box as my graduation present and sent into the field to learn the trades my family business did. It wasn’t as radical as it sounds since I basically grew up working in the business. Even while attending school every day off was spent working in some facet of the business.

I share my background because you should know I was way more suited to engineering than writing for a living. That’s because I loved science and math and really stunk at spelling, grammar and pretty much any of the other mandatory liberal art courses I had to take to get my degree.

To my great luck, my girlfriend in college, now my wife, was great at all the liberal art courses so she became then and still is my primary editor. The good news for her is auto-correct has made me better at spelling and grammar so she only has to endure what I still can’t figure out as proper English. My goal is to write like I talk without the ex-New York accent. This style of writing is often called conversational writing.

I think contractors could learn a thing or two about improving skills in this area. I know it can be done because I’m not exaggerating about how terrible I was. But, I worked at it because I knew it was important.

Just as importantly, I had to learn to stop speaking and writing in Technalize [yes, I made the word up] and I had to learn to convert it into plain-English. If you’re like I was back then, I liked the fancy terms our trades use. I used to like using them when I spoke to customers too so they’d be impressed [really overwhelmed] at my vast warehouse of technical jargon.

That thrill faded fast when I learned to read their faces and body language and came to understand they were totally confused by it so there was going to be no sale made today…if ever.

I teach my clients that they need to reach out to their customers at least four times a year. But, there’s no good reason to reach out if your message isn’t worth reading and if the way you write it doesn’t make it worth reading.

Today, it’s easy to send email blasts and ezines [some people call them enewsletters] to your customer list if you have their email addresses. And I strongly suggest you gather all the email addressed you can as fast as you can.  It’s the cheapest way to stay in touch.

Remember, no one wants to read a sales piece including your customers who already know you and presumably really like you. Here’s what I do know…they will read something that’s written to educate and enhance their lives. And if you take the time to write something worthy of reading because it’s of concern or just helpful to your customers you must commit to writing it in a way that it gets read.
To me, the best examples of good writing are still newspapers and magazine in the printed world. Know that there are tons of great blogs in the internet world who also know and practice the key skills to get us to read on.

The magic they know is how to catch your attention with great headlines. If the headline doesn’t hit home with the reader, they won’t read on and act on the information being shared.

My marketing mentor, Leo, taught me that headlines are best if they are short [5 words or less is a great goal!…but sometimes tough to do]:

  1. Put the headline in the form of a question because a good question creates the need to know.
    Ex: Want to make twice as much money at work with half the effort?
  2. Put the headline in the form of a profound statement.
    Ex: Lose 25 pounds in two months and never feel hungry!
  3. Pay attention the next time you’re cruising down a highway to what billboards get your attention. I’m betting they have the magic headline strategy above.

And whether you’re writing a direct-mail postcard, an email blast or ezine, know that the best headlines actually come from a great testimonial from a happy customer who will testify to what you’re saying. Testimonials are the secret sauce to making anything your write more effective. That’s because we all want to know someone that we can relate to and trust says that what you’re saying is true.

Some more words of wisdom Leo, the marketing guru, taught me.

All of your writing and your ads follow the same formula:

  1. Great headline that makes the reader feel they either must have this or they don’t ever want to suffer with this thing you’re writing about so “give me the cure.
  2. A little plain-English conversational copy with nothing technical unless you use the key word to help them understand it which is the work “like”.
    Ex: The heating system is like a car in that it needs air, spark and fuel to run properly.
  3. The turn or pivot statement from your headline which is “But don’t take our word for it….” or “Here’s what one customer had to say….”
  4. A great testimonial to what you’re writing about
  5. Call to Action that aligns to what we’re talking about
    Ex: Call in the next two weeks for a $50 coupon for water filters

Rule for writing:

  1. Make sure there’s a paragraph break every 7 lines. You must have some white space or our eyes glaze over at the big block of copy and we won’t read it
  2. Font size is a minimum of 10 and better yet 12 for the 40 and over crowd to easily read it.
  3. Keep the font style consistent. You don’t mix in too many font changes or it’ll end up looking like a ransom note!

We buy the benefit not the features so use these words in your copy:

  1. Save money
  2. Peace of mind
  3. Safety
  4. Comfort

What to write about?

  1. Ask the CSRs what are customers calling about or concerned about when talking to them.
  2. Ask the Techs what are customers calling about or concerned about when they’re on the job.
  3. Ask the Sales People what are customers calling about or concerned about when they visit.

Always end with a Call to Action. This means that you lead me to what you want me to do with the knowledge you’ve imparted to me.

Ex: Call in the next two weeks and save $50 on your cooling tune-up

Follow these tips and watch your writing results pop your sales and marketing!
Hey take a look below at a recent testimonial ad I just ran in PM magazine that incorporates some of these techniques. I try to practice what I preach.

Being a Contractor is Tough!…

Well, it doesn’t have to be…but don’t take my word for it. Here’s what just one client had to say:

“Why is running a commercial and residential service and install business so hard? Why can’t employees do what I need them to do? After all, it’s just common sense…isn’t it?

Truth is I love being in business. I’m excited to design solutions to the problem and acting on these solutions. All great stuff until I’m faced with the frustrations of day to day business.

With the work our company has done with Al, I came back from a vacation and the GREAT  thing I found was that the team had kept the progress of what we are doing going forward. It is as if I was still there, boy this is really nice! Progress was made without me being there to push. Also speaking to the CSRs, the busy days went really smooth…a lot better than in the past. Better customer satisfaction and the employees are working more efficiently. Everyone sees the improvement and likes it”

David Dalpe - Victory Mechanical

Dave Dalpe, Owner
Victory Mechanical
Bellingham, MA

Al Levi teaches contractors how to run their businesses with less stress and more success through his book, seminars, webinars and his exclusive 1-to-1 consulting practice.

 Also check out Al’s latest business adventure as part of Zoom Franchise Company at www.zoomdrain.com/franchise-opportunity. It’s a living example of the power of manuals and more— in action.

More Ways to Become a 7-Power Contractor

The 7-Power Contractor book lays out 7 simple business powers to help you run your business with Less Stress and More Success. And now, it's available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook.

The Build Your Operating Manuals (BYOM) Program provides you with 90% done manual templates plus step-by-step instructions on how to edit them, roll them out, train with them.

Get Your Life Back: 7 Secrets of Super Effective Time Management will show you where you time is really going throughout the day so you can begin to get some of it back immediately.

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