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The six different ways of writing to schools

In terms of the way an advert can be presented to teachers there are six different ways of direct selling to schools. One approach works poorly, several work quite well, and one works particularly well (but is very rarely used).

These six ways of selling are

1. By announcing what you have, sometimes stressing the features

2. By focussing on price

3. By offering something free

4. By focussing on benefits

5. By asking an interesting open question that might genuinely interest the reader

6. By being quirky, funny or odd.

The interesting thing about this list is that it is written in order of the most common in terms of use. Most adverts that you see are announcements with the retailer saying, “I have this for sale.” The least common adverts are the humorous variety.

But the list is also a guide as to what is the most effective way of advertising, when the adverts are written by someone who has some experience in writing advertising. Because the least effective method is now at the top (announcing) and the most effective method is at the bottom (being quirky).

Explaining the terms: "free", "open questions" and "quirky"

Free seems obvious, and it is in many ways, but there are a few pointers to note. Teachers, perhaps sometimes more than others, can be suspicious, and will need to be assured that “free” doesn’t involve giving away out-of-date stock or programs, and doesn’t come with any hidden requirement to purchase something else.

Also because the notion of “free” is so obvious a selling ploy it has been used to death, and so the advert really does need to be carefully crafted to ensure that benefit of the free offer is clearly explained, and that the “free” element is clearly new, unusual and worthwhile. Free delivery really doesn’t do too much as a selling point these days.

“Open questions” are those which cannot be answered yes or no. To work, the question needs to be interesting, and create an immediate desire in the reader to know the answer.

Thus, “Would you like cheaper IT equipment?” is neither open nor interesting - the answer is obvious. “What is the most effective way of taking all your grade D students up to a grade C at GCSE?” is an open question, and one that is challenging. The reader might feel he/she knows all about teaching and learning, but will still be drawn in, just to see what you have to say.

Quirky means unusual, and with a hint of humour. It doesn’t, however, mean telling jokes or drawing cartoons. One of the most effective adverts I have ever written was sent to heads of special needs in secondary school and had a headline which read:

Ths s wht t fls lk whn y r dyslxc

The piece then went on to explain that the best aids for dyslexic students are created from an understanding of what the world is like for those with the disability. Many readers commented very positively on the headline; no one took offence.

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