A new website or blog is usually a sign that a business or brand is getting ready for what’s next. Which is awesome! But getting ready for what’s next means getting ready for a brand new round of challenges. Content strategy? Brand Identity? Social Media? SEO best practices? The blank screen gets more overwhelming the longer you look at it. I understand worrying about what to write: this is the future of your business we’re talking about, what you say today determines the path of your growth for many tomorrows. There is a ton to consider, but it’s way easier to get your head around when you break it down. So for the next few weeks here at Evermore, we’ll be showing you the most important principles and tools you’ll need to write like an online Hemingway. When this series is through, you will have gone from novice to expert at writing for your website.
By the end of just this post you will be well versed in the four basic principles of creating meaningful writing that can actually drive business.
First: Find Your Purpose
No need to get all existential on me. All you need to do is answer this question in the most basic way possible:
“What do I want this webpage/blog post to do for my customers / my brand?”
Of course, all content should be designed to help your business grow, but don’t mosey down those big highways just yet. First, focus on smaller goals that will bring customers closer to you bit by bit—like helping them learn something, convincing them to sign up for an email newsletter, or even buy the product. How you get to the purpose varies, but having the destination in mind is essential. Riding off into the sunset with no plan is great for cowboy movies, but makes for a pretty crumby content strategy.
When you don’t have a plan for what your content needs to do, you risk filling up a webpage with pretty words, then realizing too late that you tried to focus on too many things at once, or didn’t provide specific enough content to help potential customers take an action or make a decision, or worst of all, never asked them to act or decide on anything. Once you have your destination (growth, in whatever form makes sense for you) in mind, then you can start thinking about what each piece of content needs to do to reach that destination
Second: Create Value
Let’s say you’re a lawyer, and you want your website to convince people to call your office. You might have answered the question above with something like this:
“I want this page to teach my customers about the different options they have when they need legal advice.”
Good answer. I dig it. You’re doing a lot of cool things there. One of them is teaching your reader. Content that teaches is huge, because people trust the resources they can learn from and are way more willing to spend their hard earned bucks on someone they trust.
Always be honest and seek to build trust with everything you write.
Now, take it one step further and answer how that page is going to help your business overall. In your case, Ms. or Mr. Lawyer, you are one of the options they have when looking for legal advice. Okay, so the answer is obvious: you tell them all about you, right?
Your customers don’t come to you because they want to hear about you. Do you visit the grocery store just because you feel like squeezing through crowded aisles and listening to annoying, generic pop music? No—you’re there because you have a problem (no food), and you want to solve that problem (obtain food) and move on to the things you’d rather be doing.
Whether you’re a lawyer, a dentist, a body shop or a petting zoo, your customers want to know how their problems can be solved. If your content helps people solve their problems, they’ll keep coming back.
There’s one key detail to knowing how to solve customer’s problems, and it is this:
Know thine audience.
You need to know—really, deeply understand—the people you’re talking to. Big marketing companies call this a “target demographic,” and they do all kinds of research into who should be buying their clients’ products and why. If you have access to even a modicum of that level of research, you should use it. But if you don’t have a team of sociologists and statisticians lying around, try this
- Think about who you’re already working with
- Think about who you want to start working with,
- Think about what problems those groups have, and what they need to solve them
Focus on what will be most useful to the people you want to work with.
If someone is seeking legal advice, they probably have a lot questions about process and maybe a fair amount of stress around finances or time constraints. It would be useful to let them know that at least their most basic concerns can be answered with a few sentences of advice. That goes for every potential customer and every problem.
When someone realizes that you have the power to solve their problems, they begin to trust you, and that’s the first step to getting them to go anywhere else with your business. Provide answers that save the customer time, but that don’t cost you anything. You might add later that their bigger problems can be solved with a simple phone call, and boom—suddenly, trust has created a lead.
Third: Write Like You Talk
I don’t mean start throwing slang and four letter words around (unless that’s your vibe). I simply mean your writing should sound like you’re actually talking to someone. If you wouldn’t say it, don’t write it. Remember what I said up there about trust? Well, humans don’t trust robots; just look at all the movies where robots are the bad guy. Don’t write like a robot if you want people to trust you, or…
If it sounds like writing you need to rewrite it.
There are a couple of important things to note about conversational writing. To continue with our lawyer analogy from above, you probably talk one way with fellow lawyers, another way in the courtroom, and another way when meeting clients for the first time. When creating content for your site, it’s best to use your “client voice.” Write the way you would talk to your clients, not the way you would talk to other professionals in your industry. While proving that you know some spicy legal jargon might seem like a great way to build trust as a lawyer, the reality is that if your clients aren’t lawyers, the legalese will go right over their heads. They’ll arrive at a page full of Latin phrases and Supreme Court precedents, immediately assume it’s not the page for them, and leaving, taking their business with them. Which brings me to my next point.
Fourth: Demand Action
Remind your readers to act, and they just might do it. Ask nothing of them, and off they go. The final aspect to remember, one that should be peppered in your writing whenever it’s useful and natural, is action. Persuading your potential customer to take action ties directly back to the purpose you’ve chosen for the piece of content you’re working on, and should always contain an appropriate verb. A young hip business might prefer “hit us up” to the professional law practice’s “contact us today.” Find what is right for your feel, and remember:
The call to action is the connection between what you’ve written and what you want your writing to achieve.
The Four Big Takeaways
Purpose is your starting point. Once you have the purpose of your content clearly defined in a way that helps further your business, you’re invincible. When you finish writing, reread every sentence and ask, “Does this work to achieve my purpose?” If no, cut it; you don’t need no scrubs in your life. If yes, make sure all the commas are in the right place and publish that baby!
Value is the blood of your content. It takes purpose from the abstract to the actionable. Ask every sentence this question, “Will my readers learn from what I have just written in a way that guides them to my original purpose?” The last half of that question is key. If it’s valuable but doesn’t fit the purpose then it doesn’t belong on that page (there may be another page for that sentence). Even the nicest pair of black leather shoes is going to look bad with a brown belt. Remember that knowing who you want to work with is half the battle. You have to write to meet the needs of the people you want to do business with, not whatever you feel like writing. Keep it on point.
A Conversational tone is the whipped cream on your content cappuccino. The more people can relate to you, the more time they’ll spend reading, which leads to an increased chance of them emailing, calling, or buying. It’s important to focus on sounding natural, because if you don’t you probably sound like you’re selling something, and we’ve all gotten pretty good at filtering sales pitches out when we’re on the internet.
Action is showing a potential customer the next step they should take in a way that is meaningful, natural, and not ginned up like spam or a sales pitch (see above). If people trust you, and you have their best interests at heart, they will do what you tell them, so tell them what to do!
For today, you’ve gotten everything you need to begin writing the content for your web pages or blog. Next week, we’ll get a bit more technical about how and why you want to follow these four principles.
Want some one-on-one help getting started? Let us know what you want your website to do. We’ll point you in the right direction, and even manage the more technical aspects of your website for you so that you can focus on your business. Send us an email so we can chat about what’s possible with just a little help from Evermore.