Steve Slaunwhite’s 3 Tips for Writing Faster

Steve Slaunwhite is an accomplished copywriter, author and speaker. He is a B2B specialist who sends out a monthly email that always has solid nuggets about copywriting and related topics.

Following are three tips Steve recently shared about how to write faster. It’s simple but powerful advice for novices and veterans.

1. Schedule writing time.

“I find that putting writing into my daily schedule, like an appointment, works best for me,” Steve says. I agree. This is also a must for me. It includes ignoring all other distractions.

2. Plan what you’re going to say before you say it.

“Some writers create a detailed outline,” Steve says. “Others make a simple list of bullets. I prefer mind-mapping ….” My plan varies, depending on what I’m writing. Longer, more complex pieces might necessitate an outline. For short pieces, a list or informal notes and scribbles can do.

3. Ask the editor to leave the room.

Again, Steve scores a bull’s-eye. Nothing can kill the spirit of a writer like the fussy editor (that’s you, of course) who is dissatisfied with first efforts. It’s paralyzing. In fact, you might have to tell (instead of ask) the editor to leave the room. Walk him or her to the door, if necessary.


I’m on the Big List of B2B Marketing Blogs

I hope this doesn’t come across as false humility, but I was surprised to learn that I made the 2009 Big List of B2B Marketing and Sales Blogs. The list was developed by Proteus B2B Marketing, a top B2B agency according to BtoB Magazine.

So I’m giving myself a fist bump. I did not expect it.

I started this blog a little more than a year ago with a few humble goals. I would blog as a way to share with the marketing and communications community—some of whom already knew me through my e-newsletter (sign up at right) and LinkedIn, and others who might find me through organic search or inbound links. I would attempt to post a few times a week. I would allow the blog to grow organically.

I had already learned from my ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG that blogs can grow into something and lead to new connections and opportunities. There are many things one can do to grow a blog. The problem, for most, is time and focus. I decided early on that I would do well just to add regular posts to this blog.

I’m glad that some have noticed my efforts. And I’m thankful to all who have stopped by.

(Image: The Urban Mermaid/Flickr)

Think Visually

(Click to enlarge image)

Even if you’re a writer or copywriter, thinking visually can be just the thing to generate a fresh idea or creative concept. I know this may seem obvious, but for some writers (myself included) words have usually been the way to solve a communications challenge.

And that’s OK. As writers, words are our creative playground.

There’s a saying I’ve heard that goes something like, “He has to talk to know what he’s thinking.” A similar thing can be said about wordsmiths: “He has to write to know what he’s thinking.” That’s been me much of my career.

For example, when developing concepts for B2B advertising and marketing projects, I’ve often just scribbled raw headlines, taglines and such in stream-of-consciousness fashion. Sometimes for hours at a time. I can usually come up with something. Add a complementary visual or image to a smart headline or slogan and it becomes a snappy ad or perhaps a campaign.

But there’s another way. It’s the way graphic designers and art directors think. Visually.

As the years have gone by, I’ve improved in this area. I’m not great, just better. Sometime I’ll suspend the writing and just think visually. This week, for instance, I came up with the above image idea for a direct-mail piece about a fax-to-email service. The creative director liked it, and after the art director rendered it, I worked on a headline.

I’ve also at times suggested that those talented art people come up with the concepts or a visual direction, and then I’ll write the headlines and copy. This approach can work quite well.

Use Exclamation Points Sparingly in B2B

I’ve been writing some direct mail lately for an ad agency client. While they are B2B pieces (the audience is small- and medium-sized businesses), they do have a bit of a B2C feel. As such, an occasional exclamation point has been in order, especially in the call-to-action language.

Generally, I see too many exclamation points in business communications. They’re everywhere—in Tweets, emails, blog posts and more. I find it even more distressing when I see exclamation points littering B2B marketing pieces.

Business people wouldn’t continually shout in face-to-face meetings or sales presentations, would they?

Besides, continual use of a particular punctuation device tends to diminish its effectiveness. Too much seasoning spoils the stew.

My advice: Refrain from widespread usage of exclamation points! Especially in B2B.

8 Effective Headline Types for B2B

“If you haven’t done some selling in your headline, you have wasted 80 percent of your client’s money.”
−David Ogilvy, Confessions of an Advertising Man

Writing a compelling headline isn’t as easy as it looks. That’s why it’s good to consider all the possibilities.

I thought of headline types after seeing a recent post at copyblogger. Actually, headline types haven’t changed much, if any, over the years. Following are eight variations that can work well for both B2B and B2C copy.

1. Direct. Direct headlines make a straightforward statement to readers. (Save up to 70% on generators.)

2. Indirect. Indirect headlines are designed to pique the curiosity of readers, providing the payoff in the body copy. (Issaquah is now home to 42,469 of your favorite authors.)

3. News. News headlines can be used when you have news or a special announcement. (Introducing the first watch you can wear with a wet suit and tie.)

4. How to. How to is the workhorse of headlines, promising useful information. When you’re drawing a blank, try a how-to headline. (How to get more mileage out of yellow pages advertising.)

5. Question. Question headlines are effective when your audience wants to know the answer. Craft a smart question and you’ll have them eating out of your hand. (What does the pilot strike mean for your travel plans?)

Continue reading “8 Effective Headline Types for B2B”

The Calculator Concept

135168824_a23f67c327_s“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”
-Yogi Berra, baseball legend

Hard times and hard-hitting creative often go well together. More specifically, I’m thinking about creative – I’ll call it the calculator concept – that computes savings or demonstrates a financial benefit in dollars and cents. Examples follow.

An Avaya ad featured in B2B’s Chasers section is straightforward. The copy reads, “With Avaya Unified Communications for Small Business, we’re ready to grow.” The call to action, which serves as a link to a landing page, reads, “CALCULATE YOUR ROI >>.”

Here’s another example from last year’s election season. On the home page of, a headline read, “What’s Your Obama Tax Cut?” A calculator graphic accompanied the payoff copy: “Barack Obama’s plan will cut taxes for 95 percent of workers and their families.” The click-button copy was “FIND OUT.”

Whether used in B2B, B2C, or even politics, the calculator concept is solid because it focuses like a laser beam on a monetary benefit. That’s a smart creative strategy in hard times.

(Image: atomicshark/Flickr)

The Stimulus Package and B2B

In a recent feature story, B to B magazine reported on the impact of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 on B2B, including the construction, health care, energy and telecommunications industries.

One of the key industries is construction. The current business environment has changed the approach for marketers.

“One of the biggest changes is shifting from brand awareness to much more focused marketing targeted at the public sector,” Rick Stepien of Contech Construction Products told B to B.

“We are shifting from print media to more electronic tools and taking more of a rifle-shot approach to target places where dollars are being spent.”

In general, marketers and experts from other industries were optimistic about the coming federal dollars. But things won’t happen overnight. The challenge for some, if not many, will be hanging tough until the dollars start flowing and have an marketplace impact, which is not expected until late 2009 or early 2010.