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Crafting Customer-Centric Copy
Kathy Burnham, APR, senior vice president, Padilla Speer Beardsley Manufacturing

You should approach customer-centric writing like you would when talking on your cell phone while roaming at peak times: Say what's important and hang up.

Customer-centric writing has two objectives: getting the reader's attention and focusing on what they want, not what you sell. Addressing a customer's agenda is imperative, but the most vital task is aligning your message with the reader's wants and needs. These tips can help you turn product-centric copy into more appealing customer-centric copy:

Be the reader — Understand your target audience before writing. Think about their concerns and needs. Consider the product as a solution to their problems, and address how your product or service meets their needs. Ponder your own reactions, in the role of the reader, to the product. Does the product excite you? Confuse you? Bore you? Consider the questions your target audience would have about the product. Contemplate the product's value, and answer why and how readers should consider it. Finally, answer the "so what?" question with the perspective of the reader in mind.

Sell the value, not the product specs — In other words, focus on the benefits, not features. The audience cares only about how your product can help them. So prioritize your copy: Tell what the product does and what the audience gains. This should dominate your copy. Announce the value in the headline. Construct the lead and body around this gain. Illustrate the value with statistics or examples. It's fine to highlight specifics such as product features, but only as a means to differentiate your product from a comparable one.

Fun it up — Engaging readers is critical for communicating your message. Turn your writing into a conversation by using a second-person voice. Address readers with "you" and "yours." This aligns your copy with their point of view. And always look for opportunities to personalize the content. Use quotes — particularly from customers or industry experts — but make sure the are colorful. If you have included an application example, make sure it's relevant and compelling.

Make it quick — Say what's important and hang up. When communicating the benefit to the reader, avoid wordiness. Don't overuse adjectives. Keep your sentences short. What's important is how your product solves your readers' problems. Explain that clearly. Use examples and statistics, but only as a means to that end. You don't need a fact if it doesn't help answer the "So what?" After all, very few readers have unlimited minutes.

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