Master The Most Marketable Skill You Can Ever Have

The resolution I’m going to ask you to make today has the power to change your life in many profound and specific ways.

People will respect you more.

You’ll have more power to control your life, your career, and your future.

You’ll be richer, happier, and more confident.

You’ll have a much easier time getting people to do what you want them to do … on your timetable and on your terms.

I’m talking about developing the ability to clearly and persuasively communicate your ideas in writing.

Whether you’re writing a memo to your boss making a case for a raise … or a letter trying to get an appointment with a prized client … or a report selling an idea to your employees … you’ll have much more success if you’re able to communicate effectively.

Plus, some other things will happen.

Effective communicators are automatically held in higher regard than those who struggle to get their ideas across. You’re seen as someone who’s intelligent, organized, and a clear thinker.

Your thoughts and ideas carry more clout. People respect your opinions more and give more credence to what you say.

They trust you more, because they can “feel” the sincerity and confidence that’s associated with good writing and communication.

They want to help you, because your “caring” for them is evident in the tone you use and the words you choose.

I think you’re getting the idea here. The way in which you frame and deliver your words can be the difference between getting people to champion your ideas – and having your ideas set aside (or, worse, dismissed altogether).

So how do you become a more persuasive, more effective communicator?

There are a few simple rules.

Know Your Reader, Love Your Reader

The Number One rule of good, persuasive writing is to know who you’re writing to. This might sound obvious – but I’m talking about knowing more than just his name or position. I’m talking about really knowing him and what motivates him – his needs, his wants, his desires.

Everyone has an emotional hot button – and when you write to someone, your goal is to find it, know it, and press it. Not in a blunt way, of course. For instance, you wouldn’t say to your boss: “The idea I have for you will make you the star of the next national sales meeting.” Instead, you would tailor your message so it’s obvious to her that you’ve got an idea that could have a dramatic impact on this quarter’s sales figures – dramatic enough, for instance, to get the attention of the head office.

So, you see – it’s a subtle, sort of backdoor, path to what she really wants.

Get Your Reader’s Attention by Caring

Another little trick in making sure you’re speaking directly to the needs, wants, and desires of your reader in a real and sincere way is to truly care for him and want to help him.

When you know, care for, and truly want to help the person or people you’re writing to, you can’t help but write something that’s more personal and sincere.

Keep It Conversational

Good writing is all about establishing a rapport and connection with your readers. That’s why the last thing you want to do is “write”to them like a writer would. Instead, you should “speak” to them the way you’d speak to a friend – in an easy and free-flowing “conversational” tone.

Now, by “conversational,” I don’t mean “Ya, it’s like, wow, man” or “Getta load of this, dude” or “This is soooo rad, it’s sick.”

No. These examples are a little too conversational, if you know what I mean.

On the other hand, you don’t want your writing to sound like a policy paper or a government report either. Nor do you want to use a lot of big, flowery words that could be perceived by your reader as trying to impress him.

Good writing is about striking a balance between the two extremes. It’s about writing in the way a caring, intelligent person would speak to someone he sincerely wants to help in some way.

Make the Benefit Clear – and Demonstrate You Can Deliver

Now that you know, respect, and care about your reader, you need to state what your idea or proposal is going to do for him – clearly, early, and often. State it in the form of a benefit that will have a direct impact on his well-being. (In copywriting, we call this the Big Promise.)

When doing this, try and be as specific as possible. For instance, if you have a product or an idea that will increase sales, don’t say: “I think this idea will add thousands of dollars to the bottom line.” Do the research to determine how much your idea will impact sales. Come up with a specific number, so you can say: “I have an idea that will add $94,000 to the bottom line next month, $114,000 the month after, and over $221,000 every month after that” – and then show how it will happen.

The “showing” is very important. You can’t just throw numbers out there without proving how you’re going to get to them. You have to back them up with real and credible research – and show your reader how you’re going to achieve your promise.

Here’s a simple example … an e-mail message to a manager from a sales rep about a new lead opportunity.

Re: A Plan to Add $1.12 Million in Sales This Year

Dear Richard,

I know the brass is putting some pressure on us to up the numbers in the coming quarter, and I know our last meeting generated some pretty good ideas for doing just that. But something you mentioned in our last meeting triggered an idea that might go a long way to accomplishing that. In fact, when I do the numbers, I think we could realistically add at least $1,128,000 to the bottom line – this year and every year that follows.

Let me explain. Remember when you mentioned we don’t do enough market-specific selling to our peripheral markets – those customers who can benefit from our products, but don’t see our national advertising campaigns? Well, I think I have a solution.

I’ve done some research and identified 146 companies in 12 specific market sectors that could benefit from our products immediately. These are people who don’t know much about us – but should. Like Amco International, which, according it one industry journal I read, spends over $776,000 a year with our competitors. And then there’s Bilco Resources. They spent $1,240,000 last year alone buying products similar to ours – and have budgeted $1.6 million to do the same for the coming year.

I think you’ll agree, these are huge opportunities. If Amco’s numbers are typical of this “unexplored market” (and my research suggests they are) – and we were to get just 1% of that over the coming year – it could have a $1.13 million impact on our sales in 2006.

I think 1% is a realistic number (with a good campaign). But I’m sure that number could be even higher with your help. Which is what I’d like to talk to you about …

I’ve come up with what I think is a solid plan for reaching those markets without impacting our advertising budget. And although I’d love the opportunity to put it together with your blessing, I would also like to get your input. After all, you know this market better than anyone … and I have a hunch that with your views and direction, we could realistically capture 2% to 5% of this market – perhaps much more over time.

That’s when the numbers really take off. At that level, we’re looking at anywhere between $2.26 million and $5.65 million in added sales. And because my plan piggybacks off existing marketing efforts, it’s bound to increase the margins as well.

And wouldn’t that make the boys upstairs happy?

I hope you’re as excited about this opportunity as I am. This could be even better than the last time we put our heads together … and landed Rockwell Inc., which has gone on to spend over $2.3 million with us over the past five years.

I’m ready and anxious to move on this. All I need is an hour of your time and your valuable input.

Please let me know when we can get together.

Bob White, Eastern Sales

This letter does some very good things. “Bob White” takes the time to know who he’s talking to … to understand that “Richard” is under pressure from the head office to increase sales. He makes it clear that he has a plan to help. Plus, he makes some specific promises, backed up by solid research (which gives him great credibility).

He makes it clear that he’s ready to champion this plan on his own – and that he doesn’t need anything from Richard but an hour of his time and the benefit of his experience. He even makes it a point to remind Richard of a past success they’ve had. He provides secondary benefits. And he wraps it up with a clear and specific call to action: “Please let me know when we can get together.” (Notice he didn’t say, “Can we get together?”)

Also, the tone is conversation, yet authoritative and respectful. He doesn’t brag, pander, or offer opinions.

This is not a letter someone could just shrug off. It commands respect and attention – and positions the writer as someone who’s eager, knowledgeable, and cares about the company’s – and, therefore, everyone’s – success.

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.”– James Humes

[Ed. Note: Paul Hollingshead is a professional copywriter and the co-founder of AWAI.]

Today’s Resolution

Promise yourself that you will become a more effective communicator by applying Paul’s guidelines to everything you write from now on.

And if you’re interested in learning much more about communicating in writing, you may want to look into AWAI’s copywriting program. Although it’s designed for people who want to take up writing sales-oriented letters as a career, it’s loaded with tips, secrets, and techniques for making all of your writing as powerful and persuasive as possible. In fact, the report detailing the program is, in itself, a very good and successful example of what persuasive writing can do, having generated millions of dollars in sales over the past two years.

Read the report and get all the details here:

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Turn A Single $100 Investment Into A $2,000-A-Week Profit Machine

In the next seven days, 4,589 people will leave their jobs, never go back… and have all the money they will ever need.

I would tell you that these people are “very lucky,” but the fact of the matter is that there is no luck involved.

It’s happening everywhere. Ordinary people — including people who never finished school -– starting their own businesses…and making in the neighborhood of $40,000…$60,000…even $100,000 or more a year.

Even though all these people are “ordinary” in some ways, one thing is certainly “out of the ordinary” about them:

Many used the same secret to start a business on less than $100. You can do it, too. Here’s how:

Eat More to Lose More (Weight, That Is)

If your goal is to lose weight this year – whether 5 pounds or 50 – you should NOT go on a diet. Dieting fails for more than 9 out of 10 people – for two very simple reasons.

First, most “diets” focus on restricting the amount of food you eat. And unless you enjoy being in a perpetual state of hunger, you won’t stick with it. Plus, by restricting calories, you send a signal to your body that you are starving. This sets off a survival mechanism that slows down your metabolism and causes your body to hoard what you eat and store it as fat. With a decreased metabolism, you’re bound to regain the weight – and then some – when you begin to eat normally.

If you want to lose weight – and keep it off for life – you should eat smaller meals more frequently. And you should focus on eating more of the right foods. This will raise your metabolism naturally. It will send a signal to your body that there is no emergency – that it is okay to release fat.

So ditch the foods that add to your belly and detract from your health, and keep your kitchen (and your workplace) well stocked with nutritious foods and snacks. I make it a point to always keep fruit, yogurt (unsweetened … I just add a little stevia and berries), almonds, sardines, peanut butter, and celery around. I also spend some time every few weeks to make healthy meals that I can freeze in individual portions. That way, when I don’t have time to prepare a meal, I always have a healthy lunch or dinner ready to go.

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight, don’t plan to do it by dieting. Stop starving yourself … and lose the weight forever by eating more of the foods that Mother Nature intended for you to eat.

– Jon Herring

Notes From Michael Masterson’s Journal: What Is Amex Thinking?

These new American Express advertisements – the “My Life. My Card.” ones – are obnoxious. (Have you seen them?) The one I’m looking at now displays a pseudo hand-written profile of Mike Lazaridis – the genius behind the development of the BlackBerry. Mr. Lazaridis says his childhood ambition was “to change the world” … that his fondest memory is “the image of my children’s smiling faces” … that his favorite soundtrack is “laughter” … that his wildest dream is to “unblock the secrets of the universe” … and so on. Did he really write this namby-pamby stuff? Or … is it an image that some ad exec thinks Amex ought to be projecting?

– Michael Masterson

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Setting Goals –And Sticking To Them – Will Help You Achieve Financial Independence

Don’t take our word for it. That’s the headline from an AP article than ran in hundreds of newspapers across the nation last week.

“This is definitely the time of year to get things started,” was how Barry Armstrong, a Boston financial planner with Woodbury Financial Services put it.

“For some people, it’s a bitter message. There are things that you don’t like doing. But they have to be done.”

Former waitress Pamela Newman went from hand-to-mouth living to owning two condominiums in the San Diego area. What did it take? Resolve.

Resolve to make 2006 the year you kick it up a notch.  Here’s how:

to the Wise: Innocuous

Something that is “innocuous” (ih-NOK-yoo-us) is harmless. The word is derived from the Latin “nocere” (“to harm”).

Example (as used by Andrew today): “Fed Chairman Bernanke thinks he can keep inflation within the relatively innocuous 2%-3% range in the future.”



Copyright ETR, LLC, 2006