Your letters may be tone deaf

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Dean Rieck
Dean Rieck

Every audience is different.” “Speak to people in their own voice.” “You must be believable.” These basic truths are drummed into direct marketers. But these lessons don't sink in with some copywriters.

These days, more writers seek freelance work — spurred on by promises of big paychecks in myriad get-rich-quick e-books sold online. The result is a flood of inex­perienced, poorly qualified writers who think that selling means writing hype-filled drivel, and that experience means writing a half dozen hard-sell Web pages.

I've seen increasingly club-fisted copywriting showing up in sales letters online and offline. I even receive e-mails and letters from copywriters soliciting jobs from me with this sort of wild-eyed copy.

One copywriter has sent me at least 20 let­ters — each spanning 10 to 12 pages — that scream about his guarantee to make me rich if I hire him because his copy is full of “so many techniques, customers will be powerless to resist its magnetic and magical attraction.”

Is this is an appropriate tone to use when addressing a fellow copywriter or prospec­tive employer — or any businessperson, for that matter? Are copywriters today so tone-deaf, so mired in over-the-top, hard-sell patter that they can't hear how ridiculous they sound?

I am unimpressed by his over-the-top boasts and wary of his ease in rendering customers “powerless.” Direct marketers hiring copy­writers must realize that, yes, every audience is different, that it is important to speak to people in their own voice and that you must be believable.

A letter is a personal conversation. You must adjust the tone of your message to match the expectations and sensibilities of the reader. If the expectation is hard sell, fine. But if the assignment calls for some­thing else, you need the skill to deliver that something else.

dean@directcreative.com

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