Feb 2013 – Write With Power.

Write With Power

Choose Words With Precision

Writing is more than the sum of its parts. We receive more information when we read than the definitions of a bunch of words. In high school and college English classes your teachers spent a lot of time talking about voice and tone, about reading between the lines and subtext.

Subtle information is conveyed by the specific words you choose.

To get a feel for this, close your eyes and picture the action these words suggest. Jump. Leap. Hop. They all describe vertical, self-propelled movement. Did you picture the same action for each word? Now feel these emotions. Happiness. Bliss. Joy. Did you feel something different for each word?

The thesaurus is your friend. Choose your words with precision.

That’s Not What I Meant!

You write for your business to convey a message. You choose your words accordingly. But, as I keep telling my teenage daughter, you only communicate successfully if the person on the other end receives the meaning you sent.

The power of your writing lies in the meaning and emotion the reader receives. To write with power and achieve your business goals, you have to know your audience and the words they use. Then you have to use their words to show them What’s In It For them.

Benefits 1.0 Give You What You Want Out Of Life

If you write about the characteristics, or features, of your product or service, your readers aren’t going to care. What your readers care about – what you care about when you’re making a purchase – is how your product or service will help them get what they want out of life. These are the emotion-laden benefits of your product.

So to write with power, you have to

  • know your audience,
  • know the words they use,
  • know what they want out of life, then
  • use their words to tell them how using your product or service will help them achieve it.

Do you have trouble identifying the emotion-laden benefits your product offers?

One method of identifying benefits is to drill down from feature to benefit. Choose a feature and ask yourself, “Why is that important?” Now ask why your answer is important. Lather, rinse, repeat until you get to the core benefit. This is pretty humdrum stuff. You can find it all over the internet. Tell me something I haven’t heard before, right?

Benefits 2.0 Protect Your Self-Image

I think you’ll find a better approach in How to Find Benefits That Sell Products by Antone Roundy of whitehatcrew.com. He quotes Daniel Levis:

…What you’re looking for is emotional content. To be even more specific, you’re looking for things that protect or enhance the prospect’s self image.

and Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick:

Appeal to a person’s identity … People will often act against their own individual self-interest in order to remain consistent with who they believe they are and want to be.

Laura Clampitt Douglas illustrates the self-image benefit in her article Marketing Features Vs. Benefits, on Entrepreneur.com.

The best way to understand the true benefit of your product or service – or to answer the “What’s in it for me?” question – is to focus instead on results. A customer’s perception of each feature’s results is what attracts him or her to a particular product or service. When someone chooses a VCR with a self-setting clock, the assumption is that the benefit is convenience, but the actual results are that they don’t have to read the instructions, watch a blinking 12:00, and, most important, feel stupid. Those results are the true benefits.

That’s exactly what Chip and Dan Heath said. A person chooses a VCR with a self-setting clock because it helps them remain consistent with their self-image of, “I’m smart.”

Try This Exercise To Identify Self-Image Benefits

Back to Antone Roundy.

So how do you identify “self image” benefits? …[ask] probing questions. If you ask someone why they bought your product, and the answer isn’t connected to their self image, keep probing deeper till you find the connection.

In a workshop I gave recently, I had everyone pair off. They took turns offering a customer’s-eye-view of the “self image” benefits of the other person’s products. How does Lia Sophia jewelry protect or enhance a customer’s self-image? How does Country Financial life insurance enhance or protect a customer’s self-image? How does a career coach’s program enhance or protect a customer’s self-image?

Next time you meet with a customer or have a one-on-one with a networking partner ask why they bought or would buy your product. Ask follow-up questions until you find out how your product enhances or protects their self-image.

Now you not only have a deep understanding of one way your product or service benefits your customers, you have their words to describe it. Store them in a virtual toolbox, a spreadsheet or text document, then go ask more customers. Your goals are to attain a full list of your service’s self-image benefits and to create a rich collection of the words and phrases prospects will respond to.

Write With Power

You know your audience, the words they use, and what they want out of life. When your readers see themselves reflected in your writing, they’ll be moved by it.

That’s powerful writing.


Would You Like More Articles Like This?

Fill out the form to the right to get my free eBook, Get Stuff Out of Your Head and Onto the Page, and sign up for my weekly newsletter.


About the Author

If you’ve ever found yourself wordless, out of time, forced to write and hating it, you’ve needed my help. I’m Debra Hemminger. I write content for people like you who want to grow their small business by sharing knowledge their audience values. Writing content for small businesses is my dream job because I draw on all of my interests as I help people like you grow their audience.


February’s Special Offer

Free Power Writing Workshop

Would you like to arrange a free Power Writing workshop for your employees or networking group? Contact me to make it happen.

1 Comment

  1. Susan
    February 5, 2013 at 7:44 am · Reply

    So much information here that I will use. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *