The Arrow

By Michael Knowles’ Guerrilla WriteFare™

The Arrow

Have you ever shot a bow and arrow? You notch the arrow into the bowstring, pull the string back, aim at your target, and let the arrow fly. The bowstring imparts its stored energy to the arrow, propelling it at high speed through the air. You’d never even think of pointing the arrow at yourself, would you?

Yet this is exactly what many companies do when they write a marketing piece: They notch the arrow of their message into the bowstring, aim the arrow at themselves, and release it. Then they wonder why customers fail to knock at their doors.

The Cost of Miscommunication

A friend of mine was telling me the other day about a sales letter his company had used to promote their services. The senior partners took a letter produced by a capable copywriter, added their own “messaging,” and mailed out 200 copies to contacts the company had collected over the previous few months.

They received not a single reply.

There is a cost to miscommunication. Including postage, the copywriter’s fee, and the time wasted by the three senior partners, my friend’s company wasted over $5000. And that doesn’t include the cost of the missed opportunity.

What went wrong?

The company forgot that business is about helping people. Marketing is the communications tool that gives people the information they need to understand how your company can help them solve their problems. People are not interested in how wonderful the company is. No one cares about marvelous technology or powerful, innovative solutions.

They care about own problems. The ones they need help in solving.

The Point

Post the following message on your monitor…inscribe it on your favorite pen. Hell, tattoo it on your forearms in red if that’s what it takes to remember:


It isn’t about the atoms of your wisdom, the magnificence of your product, the versatility of your tools, or the efficacy of your services.

Yes, you want to communicate the value of what your company does to those who need to hear it. Yes, you want to convince people to use your goods and services because (I hope) you believe they are worthy and that they do, in fact, help solve people’s problems.

One of the reasons marketing gets such a bad rap is that it is perceived as being manipulative. It often is. There are scores of books that preach the use of psychology, for example, or hypnotic techniques to mesmerize readers and manipulate them into buying your goods and services.

Manipulation feels dishonest to me, and I cannot approach writing from a place of dishonesty. Marketing works best when it is authentic, inclusive, and outward-facing.

We try so hard to get our messages out. We shout, “Look at me, look at me,” when what we really should be saying is, “Look at you, look at you!”

By all means, publicize the benefits of your solution. But never point the arrow of your message at yourself.

Copyright© 2004 by Michael Knowles. Visit Write Thinking All Rights Reserved.

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