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Lead With The Heart, Not The Head
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by Robert Warren

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Many businesspeople make the same mistake when they sit down to write their own marketing copy. They know their businesses, understand their industries and know all the logical reasons why their offerings are superior to those of their competitors. They write these logical points into their sales copy and then wonder why it isn't bringing in business.

The truth is simple: human beings don't make rational decisions. They never have, and never will. It's just not the nature of the animal.

Human decisions are born in risk, and risk is fundamentally an emotional process. With every decision there is the risk of failure, of loss, of damage to self-esteem and confidence; in any sort of professional marketing situation, livelihoods are often lost due to bad decisions. In writing an effective marketing lead, your understanding of reader risk is what gives you credibility.

The lead is the most important part of any marketing piece: if you don't hit the emotional mark, your readers won't bother listening to your reasoned arguments. Follow these tips for creating a lead that makes your readers want to become prospects:

Lead with risk and hope, not with reason. The attention span of the disinterested reader is pretty short; you need to attract the reader's interest early, with your headlines and opening paragraphs. You simply don't have the time to build a case. Understand how your business addresses an emotional risk, and instill hope in your opening words that your services will offset that risk. Address the central emotional issue as early as possible.

Always lead with active verbs. Passive verbs describe fixed, unchanging situations ("We are a great company"); they redirect reading flow back towards the subject rather than on to the predicate, making it harder to transition to followup sentences. Once again, you don't have the time for that in your lead. Active verbs accelerate reading flow rather than disrupting it ("We serve great clients"); they represent situations where the subject is committing a change of some sort onto its environment, with results described in the predicate. Always use active verbs in your lead.

Avoid Latinate words in your lead. The modern English language is mainly the product of two major historical influences, dating back over two thousand years - Roman-era Latin and the Germanic barbarian tongues of Northern Europe (called Anglo-Saxon). Latin-derived words ("implement") tend to be longer, more intellectualized, and harder to read; Anglo-Saxon words ("build") tend to be shorter, punchier and more emotional. Any good dictionary will tell you whether a given word is Latinate or Anglo-Saxon: save your Latinates for your followup informative copy, and be a barbarian in your opening.

Don't be needy. Because your timeframe is limited, you can't give the reader an opportunity to stop reading. Don't put anything in your copy that could even remotely be interpreted as desperation; avoid "grabber" headlines, FAQ's that list the reasons why the reader should buy, and the overuse of personal pronouns ("I", "we", "you", etc.). Stay focused on the reader's interests rather than your own. Write your sales copy as though you don't need the business.

Support your lead well. Once a reader has made an emotional decision, they then set out in search of rationales and rationalizations: that's where your good reasons, comprehensive arguments and Latinate words come into play. Make it as easy as possible for the reader to obtain whatever intellectual support they need. Provide information, and lots of it.

Separate lead from support - with action. Force the reader to make a decision and take an action (mouse click, page turn, email, etc.) in order to transition from lead to the secondary support arguments. A passive reader isn't a prospect - if your lead is properly constructed, forcing a minimal action subtly shifts control back to the reader, further cementing the emotional decision and leading to further action. Only readers who make that shift will ever be persuaded to take a larger risk.

Human beings make decisions in simple and very predictable patterns; if you want your writing to persuade, you must respect those patterns. Lead with the heart, not the head - understand and empathize with your reader.

You will enjoy the benefits of serving more of them as clients.


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