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To boldly sell: what the Ferengi can teach us about copywriting

The Ferengi would make excellent copywriters. Because they know how to sell the benefits, and how to close a deal.

For those that don’t watch much TV sci-fi, the Ferengi are a fictional race from Star Trek, a people obsessed with trade and profit.

They spend their whole lives doing deals. Or, as Wikipedia, puts it, the Ferengi are:

characterized by a mercantile obsession with profit and trade and their constant efforts to swindle people into bad deals.

Of course, as virtuous copywriters, we don’t want to ‘swindle people into bad deals.’ But we do need to sell the products and services of our clients. So maybe we can learn something from these Ferengi, and their Rules of Acquisition.

The rules are numbered guidelines and aphorisms that govern business, and serve as the religious canon of Ferengi society.

So, just for fun, I decided to look through the list and see which ones might apply to copywriting:

Rule of Acquisition 194: It’s always good business to know about new customers before they walk in the door.
A reminder that we need to find out as much about the audience we are writing for as possible. Only by knowing what concerns them and what they respond to can we write in a way that really gets their attention.

Rule of Acquisition 47: Don’t trust a man wearing a better suit than your own
Be careful who you put in your ad. Be wary of the picture you paint with your words. If you make the company or product sound too successful, people may be suspicious and distrustful.

Rule of Acquisition 141: Only fools pay retail
A useful reminder that everyone wants a bargain. Always include an offer.

Rule of Acquisition 218: Always know what you’re buying
People want to know what they’re getting. Always give them enough information to make a buying decision. If that means more words than the poor designer would like, then so be it.

Rule of Acquisition 60: Keep your lies consistent
Yes, well, if you have to embellish the truth a little…

Rule of Acquisition 162: Even in the worst of times someone turns a profit
Ah, now this is really useful, especially as we seem to heading into a potential recession. You see, a recession isn’t necessarily all that bad for a copywriter. Because smart people turn up the marketing during a recession. Why? Because it’s the ideal time to grab market share.
If the competition is tightening its belt, it will likely dump its advertising and marketing as the easiest way to save money. No wonder sales go down. By increasing your marketing efforts during the slump, you can take their customers away. So go tell your clients – now is the time to advertise like crazy.

Rule of Acquisition 48: The bigger the smile, the sharper the knife
Be wary of clients generally, especially the ones with good business skills. Never trust anyone in a marketing department. Or sales. Account managers in ad agencies are even worse.

Rule of Acquisition 121: Everything is for sale, even friendship
Just look at the state of social media and the marketing frenzy that surrounds it. Sometimes online marketeers make the Ferengi look like Mother Theresa.

Rule of Acquisition 284: Deep down everyone’s a Ferengi
We all need to earn money. We can all be a little bit greedy at times. Those of us who run a business (and that includes freelancers) have to pay homage to the Ferengi god of profits too.

Hopefully, however, we’re not as bad as the Ferengi all the time. And I hold that principles should always come before mere money.

But then again, the Ferengi would just say that I lack the lobes for business…

To be continued…
Come back tomorrow, for the next instalment – what the Ferengi can teach us about blogging….

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