Writing for Reading

Everyone on the marketing team is a writer sometimes. Whether you are writing copy for the website or advertisement, writing an email to a partner or business associate, or writing the content of an internal presentation, you will become a writer. And it is critical, in those times, to know who you are writing for.

Writers, those who do it for a living, develop a writing style. They write consistently in one way.

But for marketers, our writing style must adapt to the audience. We need to write for the people who will do the reading. No other form is acceptable.

Know Your Audience

The first question to ask yourself whenever you are set forth on a new writing task is, “who will be reading this?” The answer to that question should determine how you write.

I imagine that if you were writing an email to your CEO, it might read a little differently than an email you write to a peer. And that is exactly the point. We cater our messaging to our audience. So step one is – know your audience.

Readability is Key

Once you know your audience, you can begin writing. When doing so, or when you edit thereafter, remember that someone is going to have to read this. And the easier you make the reading, the more likely your writing will be effective.

Think of the copy on your website. Let’s use the product page as an example.

Who is it for? Prospective customers. You are writing for them. You want a prospective customer to read what you have written and then take the next step and complete a purchase, or request more information.

Studies show that the average adult reading level is 9 or lower. Unless all of your customers are literary critics or doctoral students, we must assume that their reading level is a 9 or lower. So therefor, since we are writing for them and not for us, we should write at a 9th grade reading level, or less.

The Hemmingway App is a great tool (and free) for this. You can copy and paste the text from your website (or anywhere else) and it will tell you the approximate reading level of that material. Not only that, but it will suggest ways you can make it easier to read.

The easier your writing is to read, the more effective it will be.

Who Are You Writing For?

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There is a tendency among those charged with writing the marketing copy for any website, email, or advertisement to ignore their audience. This is not intentional, but rather, results from a natural human tendency to see things from our own perspective rather than others’.

But marketers should know, ignoring your audience is not the way to win customers. So the question becomes:

Who Are You Writing For?

Often, the answer to this question is simple. If you are writing copy for your website, you are writing for the many visitors who come to your site each day in search of a solution to their problem. If you are writing copy for an advertisement about your new product, you are writing for the prospective customer who is unaware of said product and all of its benefits.

Rather than trying to imagine this vague notion of your audience, though, you should seek to get as specific as you can. This is why companies create buyer personas, representative descriptions of a target customer group.

Rather than writing for “all website visitors”, you are writing for Susan, a 50-year old married woman with adult children who lives in a wealthy suburb and makes weekly trips to the grocery store. Rather than writing for “prospective customers unaware of your product”, you are writing for Tom, a 30-year old technology enthusiast who lives in a big city and takes public transportation to and from the office every day.

When you know who you are writing for, it changes the way you write.

Now you can speak directly to your audience, identifying how it is that your products or services can improve their life, instead of speak in vagaries, using the type of language that your employees might use to describe the product but means very little to someone who has never heard of your company before.

Sell the benefits, not the features. And talk in words or phrases that your customers would use, because that is how you are going to grab, and hold, their attention.

The Right Words Matter

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Most of us probably don’t think twice about the exact words that appear on our website, our landing pages, our emails and ads. But ask any copywriter whether or not words matter, and they’ll tell you they do. Of course they do.

The right words and phrases can make a difference at every stage of the conversion funnel. Whether a prospective customer is only just being exposed to your brand for the first time, or they are in the final stages of research before they commit to your product or your competitor’s, the right piece of copy can make or break the sale.

The best writers seem to have an uncanny ability to find the right word to express the exact sentiment they want to represent at any time. They have a strong knowledge of the English language (or any other language) and investigate the intricacies in the meanings of each and every word.

That’s because there are countless different ways to phrase something. And that matters in marketing.

Does your company offer “one-to-one support” or “personalized service”? Some people may claim that it doesn’t matter, since both of those could potentially mean the same thing. But if you test one versus the other, you are likely to find that one of them two phrases outperforms.

3 Ways to Examine Your Words

Many people assume there is just one way to understand and choose which words we use. In fact, there are three distinct lenses with which your marketing team should look at word choice:

  1. Meanings – this is the most common understanding. Does the word mean what we are trying to say?
     
  2. Association – the second way to understand and interpret words is to consider groups of words together. Will people associate this word or phrase with something else that they have seen or heard in the past? Does it have the right connotation? What emotional feeling is provoked by this word vs. an alternative?
     
  3. Sound – sometimes a word just doesn’t look right. Even if it means the right thing, it might not sound right. This is a valid concern. When choosing words for your marketing materials, read them out loud. This simple act will clue you into problems with certain phrasing and may make it easier to simplify phrasing and readability for consumers.

Words, Words Everywhere

The average ecommerce website contains something like 10,000 words. The average email contains approximately 500. The average online advertisement contains roughly 10.

All of those facts are 100% made up. But the truth is, marketers of all stripes use lots and lots of words. One can argue we often use too many words, and that consumers are not interested in reading.

But the more we pay attention to the details, the more we can connect with potential customers. Good copywriters learned this long ago, and that’s why they are in such demand.

If you want to see for yourself, run a test. Take the headline on your homepage, or the subject line of your email, or the call to action on your sales page, and have someone re-write it. Send half of your prospects to the old version, and half to the new version. Odds are the performance will vary between the two.

And that’s because the words we use matter.

How to Use Your Customer's Voice to Create Powerful Content That Converts (Guest Post)

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The following is a guest post be Brooklin Nash. Brooklin writes about the latest tools and small business trends for TrustRadius. When he’s not writing, you can find him reading YA dystopian fiction (with guilty pleasure) and cooking.

Creating content that converts may be easier said than done, but the concept is relatively simple. You are looking for content that connects with your target audience and encourages them to move forward in the purchasing decision.

The Power of Your Customer’s Voice

These days, companies have a powerful tool at their disposal: their customers. When approached in the right way, customers are no longer just customers. They can be brand ambassadors - and their voice often speaks louder than your run of the mill marketing content.

Customers now have a worldwide public forum at their fingertips, in the form of social media and review platforms. 90% of online users rely on customer reviews to make a purchase decision. At the same time, people have learned to trust customer reviews nearly as much as a recommendation from a friend.

It’s clear your customers have an opinion and a voice to be shared. So how can you harness your customer’s voice to create content that converts?

Tip #1: Recognize the Power of User-generated Content

The very first step is to recognize just how powerful user reviews can be. Authentic reviews give a voice to your customers, and your customer’s voice give authenticity to your brand. People receive vast amounts of information online, and your company is likely to stand out if it features authentic reviews over marketing language. Incorporating reviews into content marketing has the added benefit of helping out your SEO.

Tip #2: Identify & Own Review Listings

As you get started using your customer’s voice for content, you should make sure you have all the sources you need. Use a backlink research tool to identify which review platforms your company is listed on, and then take the steps to own those listings. This will give you more to work with and make sure only the best information is out there.

Tip #3: Focus on a Variety of Authentic Reviewers

In building up reviews, you should make an effort to get recieve reviews from a broad range of customers. Avoid cherry picking from one set of customers. This is important for a couple of reasons: first, buyers usually look for reviews from people in similar roles and, second, buyers are usually wary of listings with only positive reviews. It can take some time to build up steam, but don’t lose hope! Authentic reviews from a variety of customers will be much better in the long run than positive reviews from a small set of customers.

Tip #4: Leverage Your Customer’s Voice into Powerful Content

Online review platforms can give you a leg up on your competition, but you should also take the active step of changing customer reviews into content. This can take the form of a landing page that features customer quotes, case studies about how you helped specific clients, or social media posts that engage with your customers. All of this is content that is more likely to convert, primarily because they feature your customer’s voice.

Tip #5: Stay Engaged!

Leveraging your customer’s voice is not a passive activity. It takes quite a bit of work - and will be well worth it! Once reviews start to come in, stay engaged with both customers and your target audience. Respond to reviews - both negative and positive. Thanking a customer for leaving a review will show loyalty, and responding to negative reviews will show engagement.

Social listening tools can also help you see what comments, questions and complaints are arising about your brand.

All in all, authentic content is content that converts. Using your customer’s voice will help your brand become more authentic. So start with these tips today!

Make Your Calls to Action Active

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What is a call to action?

A call to action in the marketing context is a piece of content (graphic or text) intended to get a prospect to perform a specific act. This can be in the form of calling, clicking, submitting a form, etc. to get more information or make a purchase.

Every advertisement, web page, and email should have a call to action. This is the “ask”. It’s the thing you want people to do.

What makes a good call to action?

We measure the effectiveness of a call to action by looking at what percentage of people actually take the necessary next step. If your call to action is intended to get people to call, how many people actually did? If your call to action is intended to get people to visit your website, how many people actually did?

A good call to action is:

  1. Clear – it should be obvious what you want me to do next.
  2. Concise – keep it short and sweet.
  3. Captivating – it should grab my attention and get me to act.

A good call to action is active. What I mean by that is that it makes the prospect the subject of the action, and it suggests doing something. Let’s look at a few examples to better understand active calls to action:

  • Free Trial (this might sound like an enticing offer, but as a call to action is not active)
  • Sign Up for Your Free Trial (see how much better that is?)
  • Learn More (this is active, but “learn” is not an activity that is easy to measure or quantify)
  • Click Here to Learn More (this is active, and includes a direct activity in “click”)
  • Next (not active)
  • Continue or Submit (this is technically active, but it’s dull)
  • Get Started (much better)

You can see from the examples above, and the thousands of other examples all over the web, that there are a variety of different calls to action companies use – both good and bad. But when you make your call to action active, you entice a person to take that next step. You put them in control, and add a level of engagement that non-active calls to action do not match.