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Creating business-to-business advertising copy that gets attention.

Ernest Hemingway rewrote the last page of A Farewell to Arms 39 times.

When a reporter asked what the problem had been, the answer was vintage Hemingway. "Getting the words right," he said.

We should have it so easy. The fact is, perfect prose alone won't get your ad read. Creating business-to-business copy that really works means more than getting the words right. Much more.

But you don't need hours of study or years of experience to improve your ad copy. In fact, you can take the first and most important step toward high-yield ad copy just by following one simple rule.

Remember who you're talking to. Forgetting the audience is probably the most common mistake made by business-to-business copywriters. If you don't believe it, take a look at the ads in the trade journals you read. What you'll find is that a third (or more) fail at least one of the two most important tests for effective copy.

1. An effective ad plays up the payoff.

You're not interested in the storied history of a potential vendor. You don't have time to wade through self-serving baloney. And you won't read an ad unless you know what's in it for you.

The same goes for you customers. If your ad doesn't point out the advantage of your product right away, it's money down the drain.

Remember, if the reader has to ask "so what?", he's going to say "so long."

2. An effective ad speaks to the individual reader in his own language.

Again, pick an ad from a trade magazine you read. If it doesn't seem to be talking directly to you, the copy is poorly targeted. It should address your concerns using the idiom of your industry. In short, good ad copy sounds as if it were written by somebody who knows you and your business.

How does your business-to-business advertising stack up?

Naturally, there's quite a bit more to successful media advertising than keeping the audience in mind, but if you're not getting the response you'd hoped for, poorly targeted copy may be the culprit. Applying the two simple tests outlined here won't make your ads read like Hemingway, but it will give them a fighting chance to earn your prospects' attention amid the clutter. And that, after all, is the first step to a sale.

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