Reprinted from The Catalog Marketer

7 Key Marketing Considerations

Before Your Copywriter Starts to Write

by Rene Gnam

Art attracts, enhances and creates desire, but copy sells and that brings us to several basic concepts of getting ready for copywriting.

Far too many managers are mostly concerned with how their products look and will look, what colors will be used and how beautiful their catalog will be, often treating copy and the copywriter's role as secondary, often providing unreasonable deadlines for writers who want to do a proper selling job.

Copy is king.

Management should accept the fact that the copywriter should be involved in every aspect of catalog creation, development and production, from initial product selection meetings to final blueprints and color keys.

It is the copywriter's job to thoroughly study the audience and the product line before promoting the specific items in the catalog. That study includes:

  1. LIST EVALUATION & ANALYSIS. Simply put, you cannot write selling copy unless you know who you're writing to.

  2. OVERALL PRODUCT SELECTION. The writer must understand why each product (or service) has been selected for this issue of this catalog, and he should have a voice in suggesting changes in product selection, especially if he feels that including certain products can destroy an overall "feel" of value and uniqueness for the catalog. He should also know why each product "fits" in the line being promoted. This often leads him to suggest additional items which can be profitable.

  3. AUDIENCE HISTORY. A writer approaches lists of customers differently than prospects, and he tackles different prospect lists differently. It is important to management to make all audience facts known to the writer at the outset. If he must write one version to both customers and prospects, he must be attuned to this.

  4. INVESTIGATION. Give all products to the writer and let him play with them, and with all accessories. Also give him supportive literature and documentation on how the product was developed or manufactured. Allow time for your writer to "get the feel" of each item and to "feel good" about each item. He'll write better than if you simply give him a photo of your super widget.

  5. FIELD TIME. Your writer should be able to test your products and see how they are used by the very people he'll write to. The same applies to selling services in a catalog -- let your writer go with your service people to a few actual jobs...let him examine your service contracts and policies...let him go on sales calls, gauge customer and prospect reactions, learn new benefits about what you promote.

  6. QUESTION TIME. Before and during writing, the serious writer (and you wouldn't retain writers who weren't serious) must be able to question YOU, your engineers, producers, marketers, customers and sales people. Deny this opportunity at your own peril.

  7. THINKING TIME. The good copywriter doesn't just start writing. He thinks, sometimes for a long time before turning on his typing machine. His copy will flow beautifully and be more successful if he has had a chance to structure it in his mind. For example: Liberty Life Insurance gave me six weeks to think about promoting its insurance policy. Everyone knows what an insurance policy is, but because I had six weeks, I was able to restructure the offer and create a more powerful promotion.

These seven points are ideals and many times deadlines and other business considerations do not allow a manager to exercise them all. But here's the proof: years ago I was, frankly, scared about getting a computerized word processor, fearing that my writing would be structured, restricted, limited by the machine. Then I read what sci-fi guru Isaac Asimov had to say about his machine. And, if he could use it, so could I. So I bought, not one, but two of the same computers he recommended in his articles and ads.

What was the convincer? The manufacturer gave Asimov many moons to play around, before writing. He tried it, invented on it, got frustrated with it, discovered what it could do, and suddenly he was able to endorse it with the ultimate in compelling copy.

I didn't accept what he said because of who he was. Instead, I was motivated by the believability and frank statements that came from his thinking time, just as your prospects will be motivated by selling copy from a writer who has had ample time to get his feet wet with your merchandise.


Rene Gnam is an independent response marketing consultant

specializing in creative advertising techniques.

He can be reached at 813-407-8400


Photo of Marketing Consultant Rene Gnam

Rene Gnam is a Marketing Consultant and Advertising Copywriter

logo for Rene Gnam

I'm usually in Florida, and here are the numbers:

FAX 813-475-4354      CELL 813-407-8400

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