The secret to writing successful marketing materials? Your potential clients want to know what's in it for them. Your sales copy must answer this question.

Many marketing pieces are business-centric — they focus on the business and not the customer. To see how your materials relate, compare their use of “we” versus “you.” How many sentences begin with “We think,” “We understand,” “Our experience,” or “We remodel”? If the “we's” greatly outnumber the “you's,” you'll want to rewrite your words to focus on your customers.

FEATURES TELL. BENEFITS SELL. Another tip: Translate features into benefits. Features are flat; benefits appeal to the emotions, which drive buying decisions.

Let's say your specialty is kitchen remodeling, and your copy says, “Acme Construction. We remodel kitchens.” Rewrite that to be more emotionally powerful: “Does the heart of your home need a transplant?”

This image would continue inside the brochure, or to the other side of the card: “Imagine having a warm gathering spot for your friends and family. A place where good food and laughter come together. If your kitchen is looking worn or dated, we'll be glad to help you. Our specialty is warm kitchens.”

You've created the desire; now deliver reassurance. List your capabilities, then follow with testimonials that support the quality of your work.

YOUR PROJECT IN PICTURES Powerful before and after photographs strengthen your impact. Good photos make your projects pop; amateur photos do the opposite. A kitchen bathed in a warm golden glow — and staged for maximum appeal — has much more sales impact than one with dark, murky colors and shadows.

Using a pro is well worth the investment, even if Uncle Bob is great with a camera and works for peanuts. Why? Professional photographers have professional gear and training. Lights and filters help to showcase your work, exterior and interior alike.

Another tip: Go for the visual impact of large photos, rather than using many small photos. Less is more.

ASK FOR ACTION End your copy with a call to action. A good way to get a response is to offer a free service such as an in-home design consultation. This opens the door to developing relationships. —Patricia Frank, a former advertising executive, writes business articles from the North Carolina coast.