Please welcome ReaderReady writing. (This time around.)

ReaderReady? Yes, I just coined that word. It means the same as most of the terms and descriptions mentioned below going back to about the 1950s or so. So why is it new?

conversations in slaes

In both business writing and sales, success now lies in conversations – not presentations.

Short answer? It isn’t. But along with every new incarnation of the concept, we get the accompanying yee-hahs and whizzing bow ties assuring us that this is how we should be writing our books, online content, blogs, ad copy, and everything else down to the note you stick on your front door asking the delivery people to leave your stuff around the back.

There is nothing new about writing ReaderReady material

I wish I knew just what it is that digs such a deep chasm between what business and other entities write, and what their audiences want and need to know. That chasm seems to have been around for centuries.

Addressing the chasm and wondering why the f*** it’s there, has been perplexing marketers and other purveyors of — shall we say — the more influencial types of writing, for some time.

Each time the topic comes up someone in the back row shouts out the absolutely correct mantra:

“But all you need to do is write as people speak – and of course, as your particular audience members speak.”

That has to be one of business and nonfiction writing’s weakest lightbulb moments

Dohhh … unless you’re a literary wizard aiming for the highest Booker Prize in steroid-enhanced woo-woo fiction, you are writing not for yourself, but for your audience. Your readers. Remember them?

Those of us brought up in the days when definitions about writing were not so pink and sparkly, we were told the truth bluntly. My old lecturer at Watford School Of Art back in the Dark Ages told us on our first day in his copywriting class, “anyone here who says they have their own writing style can leave the room now.”

Why? Because as copywriters we were — (and are, although I don’t write copy any more) — charged with the responsibility to write in the way our clients’ audiences speak and read. Not our own. Not that of our clients. Never forget the old WIIFM (What’s In It For Me): it is as robust and healthy today as it has been since advertising began, and still matters.

OK, but how does that affect business and marketing writing today?

Even back in the Ming Dynasty of advertising in the 20th century, ad wallahs and no doubt a few psychologists etc. figured that one out long before any of today’s beautifully-intentioned writer gurus did.

Being a cynical old goat I can’t help but snicker about the way new / wannabee copywriters pepper their Facebook pages and websites with such delightful offerings as:

  • Reader centric copywriting
  • Reader centred copywriting
  • Heart centred copywriting
  • Reader-focused writing
  • Writing from the heart
  • etc.

Why? Not because their thoughts and motivation are wrong – on the contrary. What’s wrong (and perhaps a little dishonest) is that they put these “new” concepts forward when in fact those have been around for a long, long time.

Writing reader/heart-centred copy/text is doing what copywriters have been taught for generations

And OK, that p*sses me off somewhat.

Not that I write copy any more as you know, but many friends of mine still do and are still struggling to make their clients (or clients’ clients in the case of ad agencies) get the simple reality that words not aligned with readers’ needs and wants will fail.

In this article in 2019, the folks at the no-bullsh*t website Just Write tell it like it is:

“Your reader doesn’t care about you. So focus your writing around them.”

Can’t say it sharper than that. Time to focus harder on WIIFM.

Here are some thoughts from a friend of mine in Canada, Nick Usborne, who, like me, has been promoting the concept of “conversational copywriting” for some time.

“It’s a way of writing sales copy that sounds like one friend enthusiastically selling something to another friend. Conversational copywriting is still about selling … but in a way that is honest, transparent, and respectful of your audience.”

Think that’s a new bit of woo-woo, touchy feely newspeak? Uh-uh.

Way back in the dim, distant year 2000 (and in fact in 1999 when the first papers were published that led to the book) three guys calling their initiative The Cluetrain Manifesto started saying stuff like this:

“A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter, …and getting smarter faster than most companies.

These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can’t be faked.”

Similar sentiments are part and parcel of Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing.

In this iconic book, Seth shared with us more than 10 years ago (2008) some realistic, sensible and utterly usable concepts. A couple of quotes:

“Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them. It recognizes the new power of the best consumers to ignore marketing. It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.”

If it sounds like you need humility and patience to do permission marketing, you’re right.”

What IS new, in some circumstances, is the way in which this has percolated through to sales

Partially, at least, due to consumers becoming far too savvy to have faith in the old-fashioned, read-from-a-script sales patter, sales gurus have found ways to achieve similar success without shoving Encyclopaedia Britannica down a prospect’s throat while blocking the door with their foot.

Sales experts like Dragon’s Den (UK’s Shark Tank) winner Jules White, international sales speaker and trainer, show people that sales isn’t a tennis match: it’s about real life, connection, and human conversation. As she says in her latest book, Live It, Love It, Sell It:

“…is for anyone interested in doing sales in a human, non-sleazy, non-pushy way, whether you’re male or female, working for yourself, or working for an organisation … you will understand that life skills are indeed sales skills and everyone can sell.”

“You will see that the power lies in using your natural ability, adjusting your mindset, developing an understanding of why you do what you do and tuning into why your ideal client needs your solution. Become friends with those four elements and selling will feel as natural as breathing.”

So: ReaderReady Writing and, er, CustomerReady Selling: what are the takeaways?

This sentiment — or to be correct, allied sentiments — are nothing new. They go back to the 1950s and probably thousands of years earlier when cave dwellers painted images on the walls that invited debate and conversation, not just one-way messages. We should have learned our lessons back then.

Marketers and copywriters need to keep reinforcing the message that it’s about conversation, not presentation. That’s simply because consumers and B2B prospects have much more freedom to explore and investigate what they want. What they don’t want, is a load of hard-sell crap. They want good relationships.

Remember that whether in sales copy or in F2F environments, we must not “sell to.” That’s an old notion that stopped working around the end of the 19th century, and it continues to turn most  consumers/customers off now when it sneaks back into the public eye. What we must do, is to “help them to buy.” But only when they are ready; trust us; and need what we have to offer.

PUNCHLINE: Ain’t it interesting how these notions wax and wane over the decades!

And it’s nice to know that this one, about honest, no-sh*t business communication keeps coming back into fashion.

What do you think?

Please share your views!

 

 

Comments

comments

Thoughts

  1. Hi Suze. I’ve always thought that whenever you write something, you are also ‘doing something’, behaving in a certain way. This digital body language tells you more about the writer than the words. You can be kind, thoughtful and genuinely caring, or self interested slime. We’ve all now been subjected to the persuasive tropes of cialdini so many times, we know what is coming. Time limited scarcity for an ebook.. right 🙂 I am not sure whether I am disagreeing with you, but I do believe some people want to be sold to – if they are ready to buy. Others might want help to understand how to choose from multiple solutions to a problem and others just want to be entertained. It just helps to know the difference. Which is my cue to get off the stage and leave that challenge with you!

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