Unexpected Insights for the Christian Entrepreneur Pt. 6

The Necessity of Copywriting for Christian Entrepreneurs in Spiritual or Secular Businesses

“If you talk to people in a language they don’t understand, how will they know what you mean? You might as well be talking to an empty room.”1 Corinthians 14:9

Unexpected Insight part 5 was about writing for ministry purposes. I want to get back to talking about business.

One of the most important qualities of strong copy is clarity.

As a writer, you should be easy to understand, and you should attempt to make the world easier to understand through your writing. No one wants more complexity in their lives. Colin Powell is quoted as saying “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers.” Donnie Bryant says that great writers are almost always great clarifiers.

Have you ever visited a website that made absolutely no sense to you? Read a letter that confused you instead of answering your questions? How does that experience make you feel about the other party?

Yet so many businesses I know spend as little time as possible putting together their messaging. They see it as a chore to get out of the way. “Let’s get to the selling!”

But confused prospects never buy.

Weak copy doesn’t answer questions, overcome skepticism, or demonstrate value.

What would happen if prospects were smarter and better-informed just for having visited your website? How much more likely are they to trust you over the guy who just threw some words on the page? How much more likely are they to believe that you understand them? How much more likely are they to connect with you and buy from you?

You must be able to write copy in an engaging, easy to understand way. Avoid trying to impress your readers. They’re not reading your message to admire your vocabulary or sentence structure. Gene Schwartz said that if someone read an advertisement and their response was “that was a great ad,” the ad was a failure. Instead, the reader should come away with a greater appreciation for, understanding of and desire for the product and the benefits that come with it.

This isn’t poetry.

Horace Greeley said that “The best style of writing, as well as the most forcible, is the plainest.” Say what needs to be said in the most consumable way possible.

You will lose a lot of readership by using big words, convoluted sentences and ambiguous statements.

Write and speak to be understood, not to impress. Not to make yourself feel smart. The Bible says that if the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for battle (1 Corinthians 14:8)?

Let there be no uncertainty in how you write. Business is no place for poetry or ambiguity. Clarity is of the utmost importance.

Spend the time necessary to write clearly and convincingly. You’ll never regret doing so. Or, enlist the help of someone you can trust to do a great job writing for you.

What’s the point of communicating if the reader doesn’t know what you’re saying?

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If you missed them, you can read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 of this series.

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Unexpected Insights for the Christian Entrepreneur Pt. 5

The Dangers of Christian Copywriting

“…preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” 1 Corinthians 1:17 KJV

“…When I came to you…not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God…And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom…”1 Corinthians 2:1,4 KJV

Ministry is not business. As such, ministries should not “market” in the traditional sense.

Not everyone will agree with this, but I’ve yet to find any way to justify using the idea that churches and para-church organizations should be treated the same way as secular businesses.

I’m not saying that marketing is bad. I’m not saying that persuasion is evil. Actually, I hold the opposite opinion.

But you can’t get around Scripture. In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, he says a mouthful about his preaching and his approach to ministry.

Paul was among the most educated men of his day. He was a gifted orator with a brilliant mind, and he understood people (the human condition, the heart) probably as well as anyone in history. If anyone could have utilized “excellency of speech” or the “wisdom of words” to persuade his hearers, it would have been him.

But he refused to do so.

He knew that the gospel is a demonstration of God’s power, not of the speaker’s intelligence or ability to create emotional impact. Christians must rely on the Holy Spirit to convict and teach (John 16:8, 13).

As a copywriter, I spend a lot of time learning about persuasion, and I seek to gain mastery of the English language. But as a Bible teacher, I put all of that stuff to the side (Philippians 3:6). It would be harmful for me to depend on those skills to do work only God can do by His Spirit and His Word.

All I ask is this: any copywriters who are working to grow ministries, please don’t put your trust in your skills or abilities. God will build His church (Matthew 16:18) using his method: the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3) working through men and women committed to sharing His gift of eternal life with a dying world.

P.S.  I don’t mean to imply that the words used to promote ministry should not be carefully chosen. They clearly do. Just listen to Ravi Zacharias or R.C. Sproul; these are brilliant men who can use language as skillfully as anyone on the planet. But they don’t rely on copywriting tricks, NLP or other gimmicks to get their points across. The content speaks, the audience listens and the Lord edifies.

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Read Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the Unexpected Insight series.

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Unexpected Insights for the Christian Entrepreneur Pt.3

(If you didn’t read Part 2 of this series, check it out here)

“Let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.”1 John 3:18 (NLT)

I think if I had one message to share with the world it would be this: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. This idea applies to every area of life. Let’s focus on how it pertains to business for now.

Businesses don’t exist for their own sakes. Sure, you become entrepreneurs to earn money and to try to live the life you dream of. Hopefully you also hope to make the world a better place and improve the lives of others through your work. But ultimately, your business is not about you.

Walmart founder Sam Walton reminds us that “There is only one boss. The customer.” Without customers, you have a hobby, not a business. So why do so many companies treat their customers and clients like anything less than the very reason they exist?

Why do many entrepreneurs fall in love with their product or service, to the detriment of the people who they are designed to serve? Theodore Levitt gives some terrific illustrations of this point in an article he wrote for the Harvard Business Review in 1975 called “Marketing Myopia.” Using examples from Hollywood to oil companies to railroads, Levitt shows numerous billion dollar mistakes companies and entire industries have made because of their preoccupation with their products instead of their customers. Many businesses have made themselves obsolete in the process.

(I strongly encourage you to read “Marketing Myopia” and take notes. The historical and practical lessons are profoundly valuable.)

Instead of being enamored with what we offer, we need to make our customers our number one business priority. How do our products serve them? How do they want to be served? How could they benefit them even more according to their expressed desire?

Elsewhere I have called this mentality “lowercase syndrome.”

As a Christian entrepreneur, you put God first, others (aka your customers/clients) second and yourself last. You should esteem others more highly than yourself, offering yourself as a servant, even as Christ humbled Himself to become a servant (Philippians 2:3-7).

Should you try to earn as much money as possible? Absolutely! Do it by offering the most value in the marketplace, becoming the most trusted provider of whatever you sell and making it as easy as possible for your ideal customers to buy from or work with you.

(John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church, had 3 rules concerning money. The first rule is to make as much as you can.)

For many of us, business is what the Lord has purposed for our lives. Do you think He designed a plan for you that required you to focus on yourself, your needs, your desires? Of course not. Selfishness is never God’s desire. He wants you to consider the needs of the people around you. Your business might be one of His ways to help you think about yourself even less.

Be a good steward of your opportunities. Be a blessing to each and every one of your customers instead of thinking of them as walking dollar signs.

In the words of advertising legend Leo Burnett, “What helps people, helps business.” I think God is pleased with that.

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