Updated: Aug 21
Imagine receiving a love letter that reads as follows:
Do you want the best romantic partner ever? Well, then I am your only choice. I am the most beautiful, the highest quality, and the most convenient. None of your other options meet your needs the way I can. I understand all the struggles in your life, and I can fix them all (because I’m the best). Let me tell you about all the things I’m good at, and why I’m the best. I have charts, graphs, and icons...”
Would you feel inclined to start a relationship with the writer of that love letter? Most people would cringe and run. This might seem obvious, but it is essentially the type of messaging that most companies lead with in their marketing.
They write about themselves. They write about how they are better than others. They write about product features and solutions. It is cringeworthy.
What if marketing content was more like a love letter? What would it look like? How would one feel when reading it?
Of course, companies and customers are not lovers (usually). But there are some principles that transfer perfectly, and great brands use these every day.
The following are my top five.
1. Know Your Audience:
This is the most important principle. Knowing your audience allows you to be specific, personal, and provocative.
Imagine a man writing a love letter to his wife emphasizing what women between the age of 40 and 50 tend to prioritize. That’s not going to win any points.
But what if he knows that a clean car is really important to her, and he has made it a point to wash her car once a month for the last ten years? Then, in the letter, he can refer to “a relationship like a clean car” and he has her attention in a genuine and specific way.
A great example of this is Cards Against Humanity. On their home page they have an FAQ section that they title “Your Dumb Questions”.
There are very few companies who would want to use this title for their FAQ. But Cards against humanity players are comedian’s at heart who enjoy being a little bit inappropriate. This copy connects in a beautiful way.
2. Be Genuine:
I often see companies trying to pretend they are something that they are not. I see small companies that try to pretend they are big companies, or consulting shops trying to look like hip technology startups, and so much more.
Here’s the thing: It’s okay to be small. It’s okay to be a staffing agency. It’s not okay to break trust with your audience.
Make sure that whatever messaging you put out there genuinely reflects the size, culture, and capabilities of the organization.
In the context of love and relationships this is obvious. Are you inclined to go on a second date with someone who lies (or exaggerates) on their dating profile? Probably not. The same goes for businesses you frequent.
One example of genuine marketing copy is the fit clinic page for Speedvagen, a bicycle manufacturer out of Portland. On this page they show pictures of their people standing in a parking lot. The copy states:
“Our Fit Clinics are new for us and are still in beta mode, so you’ll be a part of refining the course curriculum. Come hang out with a bunch of other bike lovers, pick up a couple of skillz of your own, have a couple of beverages on us!”
In an industry where so many companies are frantically trying to prove their technological superiority, their candid words are a cold drink on a hot day.
3. Write about problems (less about yourself)
One of the most common mistakes that companies make is to pack their marketing content with words about their technology, their solution, their team, their process, etc. This is unlikely to engage the audience (remember that cringeworthy “love letter”?)
Great marketing copy, like a great love letter, acknowledges that the world is full of suffering. A love letter might reference the loneliness that both parties feel, or the difficulty in making ends meet. This helps the writer and the reader to feel their connection.
A great example in marketing copy is the “About” page for Transfer wise. The section begins with: “TransferWise was born of frustration…” Then it continues to talk about how difficult and expensive it is to send money.
For people who have been suffering with this, it is exactly what they need to hear.
Imagine if Transferwise had started with how brilliant their team is, or how much better they are than the competition. Those words would likely bore or annoy a frustrated audience.
4. Show Your Passion:
I see a lot of companies that lead with the problem/solution framework in their marketing content but they stay “safe” and don’t show their passion. This isn’t wrong per se, but great content can achieve so much more.
Imagine a love letter that said something like “You are lonely, and I am also lonely. Together, we could keep eachother company.” This doesn’t exactly get your heart racing.
By contrast, one could write something like “My heart aches when I think of the joy we feel in each other’s presence. I am counting the seconds until I get to see you next.”
Let’s try this in marketing copy with a fictional food delivery company, “Snackwheels.”
Problem solution marketing might look like this:
“Hungry and don’t want to drive? Snackwheels delivers food to your doorstep.”
By contrast, showing their passion might look something like this:
“We want you to enjoy the best local restaurants from the comfort of your home. That’s why we are in business.”
What did you notice about the two versions? Both conveyed the same basic message but the second is likely to elicit more emotion and connection to the brand. (for those who prefer the first version, I suggest some light reading.)
5. Invite Action:
So much marketing content leaves people hanging without a next-step (essentially directing them to close the web page or delete the email).
Great love letters inspire you to act. Marketing should do the same.
Calls to action (or allusions to it) should be littered throughout content and always be at the end. A marketer’s job is to create a simple, intuitive path to purchasing or engaging with the brand.
This can be a button, a CTA, phone number, or directions to a secret meeting place. Choose the option that best resonates with your audience but make sure to have something.
In closing, I ask “What would it feel like to employ these principles in your marketing copy?
Does it feel exciting? Daunting?
If you want some help, I invite you to schedule some time with me (Galen) to review and brainstorm possibilities with you.