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Monday, December 27, 2010

BNI: Personal Copywriting in the Digital Age

How to ‘sell’ yourself to potential customers without sounding like a commercial.

For the purposes of this article, Copywriting is the advertising message that is delivered not the method of delivery. Referral relationships or close marketing opportunities involve a certain amount of selling ourselves without being crass or off-putting. We essentially write our own ad copy.

We inevitably incorporate ad speak from commercial copywriters into our language and expressions from our exposure to main stream advertising. Print, radio, TV, newspapers, internet, billboards. It’s everywhere. The average American is exposed to 1,000 to 3,000 separate advertising messages each day.

The changing methods of delivery in advertising is changing copywriting or ad speak as it were, and therefore our collective language of how we sell ourselves and relate to others is changing. Referral marketers must always strive to speak clearly, succinctly and sincerely or become less referable and just simple salesmen selling a simple product.

A Brief History of Copywriting in America

Up until the 50’s you had expansive copy extolling attributes of people, products and services. You had Norma Rockwell artwork, hand drawn cartoons and full blown fine art pictures along with the accompanying copy that was literally, according to early copywriter Albert Laker, “salesmanship in print.”

In the 50’s or as I like to say the black and white era, television was just developing and newspapers were not doing much in the way of full color advertising. Magazines were king, like Life and Look. That's when copywriting began developing the power of the idea and planting said ideas in our minds.

The 60’s were a time that saw the rise of powerful Madison Avenue ad execs such like those depicted in AMC”s “Mad Men”. Advertising began to move merchandise with a thought or an idea that compelled. Everybody had to have a TV, and with more and more time being spent in cars, radio became a powerful medium to hoist those ideas up into our consciousness. Expand our mind, expose us to different, and tell us we need that product, with slick ad campaigns combining modernism and nostalgia. Color TV, FM radio came on the horizon as advertising vehicles.

As the 70’s ended and throughout the 80’s the copywriter’s mantra was positioning Marketing strategy that aims to make a brand occupy a distinct ‘position’ relative to competing brands, in the mind of the customer. It was all about being in “the right place at the right time”, and “where would you rather be, than right here, right now.”

The 90’s was an era of allegiance, where you could sell a pair of tennis shoes, more superior than another for 10 times more, because the one brand carries the promise of allegiance to a popular sports star, or the clothes you ‘must’ wear, and the foods you ‘must’ eat, and the car you ‘must’ drive all center around an alliance between you and a celebrity.

Advertising delivery methods are changing rapidly. Broadcast is now broadband; Television is watched on line when you want, where you want. Radio is commercial free. Smart phones are becoming a primary source of reach and frequency.

So, how do we write our own ad copy?

So how does copywriting apply to referral marketing and how we communicate with others? The next big trend in advertising copywriting is honesty and sincerity, as Madison Avenue borrows a page from entrepreneurs. It’s now about knowledge, information and personal relationships.

So as entrepreneurs, learn as much as you can, and keep your ad speak exposure to a minimum, talk less and say more. In a true referral relationship it’s all about, “How Can I Help You?”

Alan Seaton is a consultant in Northern California for CPR, First Aid, AED, Forklift and Defensive Driving training. He has been an Area Director for Business Network International (BNI) for 4 years in the BNI Central Valley region of California.

With over 5,500 active chapters, and over 100,000 members throughout every populated continent worldwide, BNI is the largest and most successful business referral organization in the world. BNI was founded in 1985 by Dr. Ivan Misner and the organization, which allows only one person from each profession to join a chapter, offers members the opportunity to share ideas, contacts, and most importantly, referrals. Last year alone, members of BNI passed 6.2 million referrals, generating 2.6 billion dollars’ worth of business.

For more information on BNI, please visit or call BNI Headquarters at 909.608.7575.

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1 comment:

Christopher Scott said...

Congrats on another article published, Al.

Good article with a great history of copy writing.

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