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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

How to Score More Impulse Sales with Report Summaries

For this edition of The Copywriting Tune-ups Blog, we makeover a report summary from The Aberdeen Group . Clients of The Aberdeen Group are vendors of information technology (IT) products and services. With the market research and business strategy services of The Aberdeen Group, they attain leadership status in emerging markets.

While this particular summary of "e-Learning in the Enterprise " is dated, the business points it makes are truer today than ever. Moreover, the need to write clear, crisp literature is timeless.

Previous tune-ups show B2B marketers how to embrace the second person voice while maintaining a respectful corporate tone. Since this is a report summary, second person voice is not an option. Still, the summary acts as a "sample taste" of what purchasers of the report can expect for their money. For this reason, the summary plays a marketing role and must entice readers to buy the report.

Size-up your Audience and the Point of Sale

The audience for Aberdeen Group offerings is most likely to be educated and upwardly mobile. This means it's reasonable to assume purchasers of a report see themselves as rational consumers. Still, since the sale is happening online, impulse plays an important role in the buying decision. Summaries which are easier to read mean more sales of reports for The Aberdeen Group.

Copywriting Tune-up

The challenges for this copywriting tune-up are:

  • Eliminate wordiness
  • Make it easier to read
  • Whet the reader's appetite to buy the report

Before

After

Employee training is a major issue — and expense — for today's enterprises, which increasingly recognize that their competitive economic advantage is related to education, knowledge, and training. As a result, there is a heightened focus on developing technical, professional, and managerial skills through the use of training and education, causing enterprises to invest increasing amounts of time, money, and effort in employee training. To keep up with stiff global competition and today's fast-changing technology in an Information Age economy, enterprises are trying to quickly and effectively train employees, while keeping expenses within reasonable limits.

The pace of change in technology is making continuous learning both more critical and more difficult. The nature of learning has changed in that enterprises must continuously and quickly train and update the skills of their employees, especially in critical professions such as information technology (IT), to keep pace with all the changes. The market is demanding true enterprise-level training and education solutions. Traditional classroom training methods simply cannot keep up with the vastly increased speed and flexibility needed to meet training and education requirements for businesses running on Internet time. Nonetheless, all of this training is expensive, and training organizations are often finding themselves under pressure to lower their costs by more efficiently delivering training.

For these reasons, enterprises are seeking alternatives to traditional classroom training, especially technology-based training (TBT) alternatives, such as e-Learning, computer training, and satellite video broadcasts. "TBT" refers to training through technological media that takes place in venues other than a classroom, including computers, television, audiotape, and videotape. Of the TBT alternatives, e-Learning is the most attractive alternative for enterprises and individual consumers because of its flexibility, convenience, cost-effectiveness, real-time interactivity and ability to leverage the power of the Internet.

 

 

 

Training employees is critical to the success of today's businesses. With their advantage in the marketplace hinging on education, knowledge and training, companies are committing more time, money, and effort to training. To rise to the challenge of stiff global competition and fast-changing technologies, companies strive to train their employees quickly and effectively while keeping their expenses in check.

As the pace of technological change quickens, it alters the learning challenges businesses face. The need to train and update employee skills quickly and continuously grows more urgent. This pressure is acute in professions like information technology (IT) which are on the front lines of technological change.

The market calls for speedy and flexible solutions to meet the demands of global companies. Traditional classroom training is unable to keep up and training groups seek more efficient ways to deliver training.

Training delivered in venues other than a physical classroom we refer to as technology based training (TBT). Among the possibilities are computers, television, audiotape, and videotape. TBT options include e-Learning, computer training, and satellite video broadcasts.

The most attractive alternative is e-learning because it is the most flexible, convenient and affordable. Also, e-learning is able to make full use of the Internet. This makes it easier to create and update interactive learning experiences.

 


Readability Statistics

The makeover is more readable by a ten-fold margin. Note the drastic reduction in length. The After summary has less than ¾ the number of characters. Several other changes are also likely to boost Aberdeen Group's conversion rate. These include:

  • More paragraphs for greater whitespace
  • More sentences with fewer words for easier reading
  • Smaller words for instant comprehension

Embrace Simplicity

Anytime someone views this summary, a sale hangs in the balance. Dense sentence structures hold back sales.

For example, the Before summary opens with an excellent point but dilutes it with an interruption ("— and expense —"). Following the interruption with a complex clause exacerbates the problem. The noun "advantage" is front loaded with a double adjective, "competitive economic." This wordy noun leads into a list of three more nouns to finish the sentence. The After summary breaks these concepts into sentences of their own for easier reading.

Keep Subjects and Verbs Clear and Connected

The second Before sentence begins with, "As a result, there is a heightened focus on developing training…" Who is the subject? By leaving the subject vague, we force readers to think in abstract terms. The more "thinking" they have to do, the lower our conversion rate.

We may not be able to use second person voice, but keeping verbs prominent and closely tied to their subject is the next best thing. These verbs should be concrete and action-oriented.

The first verb in the Before summary is "developing" which leaves too much to the imagination. The After summary offers up "hinging" – a visual verb and it clearly ties back to the pronoun, "their." In the same sentence, we have another visceral verb in "committing." This verb belongs to the subject "companies" and covers the all-important ideas of time, money and effort.

Jettison Jargon, Cancel Corporate Speak

One over-used word in B2B marketing literature is "enterprise." What does enterprise really mean? Is it a code word for companies over a certain size? How do we measure size? Is it number of employees, yearly revenue, or something else? Do we implicitly exclude public sector and non-profit organizations when we use the word, "enterprise"?

All of this ambiguity surrounding the word "enterprise" promotes thought not action. "Company", "firm", and "organization" are concrete substitutes for "enterprise."

Another superfluous term in the Before summary is "Information Age economy." By the time this term appears, the phrases "stiff global competition" and "fast-changing technology" have already done a good job of expressing how urgent it is for companies to invest in their employees.

Focus on Flow and Repeat Only When Necessary

The second paragraph of the Before summary opens with another reference to fast-paced changes in technology and how they affect training. Figure the sharp Aberdeen Group audience already digested this fact in the first paragraph. By this time, the After summary moves on to discussing alternatives to classroom training as a nimble way to respond to these challenges.

Define Your Terms Upfront. Stay on Track for the Call-to-Action

The third paragraph of the Before summary gets pretty far along when it introduces the term "technology based training." This introduction uses examples before defining the term. Even if the reader understands the terms based on the examples, defining it afterwards may cause readers to second-guess their understanding. Again, the Before summary prompts thought instead of action.

The After summary begins its second-to-last paragraph with a definition of technology based training and it flows well from the previous paragraph's discussion of the need for alternatives to traditional classroom training. The next sentence reinforces the definition with examples. This keeps the reader engaged and moving on to our call-to-action without breaking the trance.

Don't Bury Your Benefits – Spotlight them

The Before summary should have had a 4 th paragraph starting with, "Of the TBT alternatives…" This section is the only one focused on the benefits a purchaser of the report is looking for in his or her organization. Consider this our last chance to trigger a buying impulse. Keeping it buried as the second half of an overly long paragraph makes a good conversion rate an uphill battle.

The After summary breaks out the benefits of e-learning into a final paragraph with only 3 short, but direct sentences. The benefits are easy-to-understand and free of jargon.

Bonus Tip - Use Simple Adjectives, not Abstract Nouns

The Before summary uses the nouns "flexibility, convenience, cost effectiveness." The After summary avoids the extra thought these nouns require. Instead, it achieves greater impact with their adjective forms – "flexible, convenient, affordable."

Wrap-up

It's easy to lose sight of the fact a report summary is marketing collateral as much as it is an abbreviated form of "product."

While using the second person voice is off limits because the report summary surveys a market, it converts prospects into customers when the writer:

  • Recognizes the impulse purchase behavior at stake
  • Uses clear subjects and verbs, simple adjectives, and minimal jargon or corporate speak
  • Drives the reader to action with a strong benefits-oriented finish

Spreading good copy beyond the traditional boundaries of marketing collateral can only yield, as legendary copywriter Clayton Makepeace says, "bigger winners, more often."

To your marketing success,

Eric Rosen
Strategic Marketing Writer
Clear Crisp Communications
Easier to Read Means More Sales and Leads



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