For a long time, I’ve been advising clients to begin launches by writing a sales letter, adding that great copywriting can’t be separated easily from great strategy. Some people get it right away; others dismiss the idea as a sneaky copywriter ploy. And now I’ve found support in a most unlikely source.
The Year Without Pants sounds like a punch line to a bad joke in a comedy show. In fact it’s a pretty interesting book. I suspect it would have more direct relevance for people in corporate life, because the main theme of the book is, “What happens when an executive with traditional corporate experience lands a job at Automattic – the company that makes WordPress.com?”
Scott Berkun spent a year with the company in a unique role. He wasn’t a coder or techie (although he had techology degrees). He was hired to deal with some of the managerial challenges of a growing company. He points to Automattic as a company of the future: distributed workforce, few rules, high dedication, strong culture and of course, total competence.
But here’s the best part. On page 60, Berkun writes:
“Most features are announced to the world after they go live on WordPress.com. But long before launch, a draft launch announcement is written That sounds strange. How can you write an announcement for something that doesn’t exist? The point is that if you can’t imagine a compellingly simple explanation for customers, then you don’t really understand why the feature is worth building.
“Writing the announcement first is a forcing function. You’re forced to question if your idea is more exciting for you as the maker than it will be for your customer. If it is, rethink the idea or pick a different one.”
For “launch announcement,” substitute “sales page,” which is indeed a launch announcement in the early stages of a product or service before becoming an ongoing sales and marketing tool.
For instance, recently I was working with a client who wants to create an exciting new workshop. Disguising the details, let’s say this program is designed to help women develop their feminine, intuitive side. When we began asking, “Why will the participants be eager to pay? What motivates them to make the purchase?”
Asking these questions might lead to a revision of the workshop sessions and titles. Clients might want to focus on the outcomes of using intuition, such as better relationships and smoother life transitions.
You probably can enjoy a year (or more) without pants – a title that came from a joke among Berkun’s team members – if that’s what you want. And you can enjoy easier, more successful launches when you follow the WordPress model and write the letter first.
I’m happy to help with your sales letter as a writer or consultant. Check out the consulting option here.