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June 11, 2012

Bullets With Bite: Master Copywriting’s Second Most Powerful Tool

Whether you’re preparing a sales letter, a space ad or a Web page, if you’re hoping to incite the passion to buy, spend ample time crafting energetic bullet points. These usually appear in the heart of your marketing piece, and they can have such power that if just one hits a bull’s-eye with a particular reader, the sale occurs.

Bullets are the second most powerful copywriting element, after headlines. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating excitement with these verbal nuggets.

First, generate a dry, factual list of the benefits of your product or service. A benefit is what the product or service does for the customer, an advantage they get from using it. For instance, the benefits of a press release writing service include:

* getting visibility and exposure
* saving on advertising
* making more sales
* gaining credibility

Second, dramatize the benefits. Add passion, mystery, intrigue and contradiction. Note the electricity added here to the straightforward bullets just listed:

* become the envy of your Chamber of Commerce by being “read all over”

* enjoy a bonanza of ink all over the world from a story that gets picked up by the wire services

* receive out-of-the-blue orders from new accounts that wouldn’t previously return calls from your sales reps

* acquire a halo of importance after being featured in respected publications

And these:

* get highlighted as extraordinary even though you run your business exactly like your competitors

* become able to double your fees without complaints, and bask in the privilege Bill Gates once called “the sweetest reward” of success

* develop a lead-generating system that you pay for once but benefit from all year

Third, make them fearsomely specific. Instead of “you’ll save lots compared with advertising,” write, “enjoy $63,548 of print or broadcast exposure for just $375 (our fee) plus fax charges or postage.” Numbers are always a dependable way to get precise:

* five ways to save 420% on your publicity budget
* sixteen bonus services all our clients receive once a month
* eighteen-hour turnaround for tie-ins with fast-breaking news stories
* multiply your leads five-fold with our two little-known magnetic techniques

Fourth, check that you’ve appealed to every possible motivation. Bullets should target a variety of reasons people might buy and a range of concerns and interests. Some prospects for press release services may care more about impressing the boss with media hits than about improvements in the company’s bottom line.

Fifth, proofread and check your facts. If you promised “seven ways to make a boring product launch sound interesting,” make sure there are indeed seven and not six or eight. Likewise, grammatical mistakes, spelling errors, reckless capitalization of words not usually treated that way and overuse of boldface for emphasis distract the reader and detract from your credibility.

Last, tone down anything that comes across as a promise you may not be able to keep. A bullet point I cited earlier might be more safely worded as “enjoy up to $63,548 or more of print or broadcast exposure…” Keep your dramatizations within the bounds of reason for best results.

Veteran copywriter and marketing consultant Marcia Yudkin is the author of Persuading People to Buy, Meatier Marketing Copy, 6 Steps to Free Publicity and 13 other books. Besides writing publicity and marketing material for selected clients, she runs a one-on-one mentoring program that trains copywriters and marketing consultants. In 10 weeks, participants improve their no-hype marketing writing skills and business savvy. For more information, go to