The purpose of any marketing activity is to get someone to take action.
To that end, Ann Handley, head of content at MarketingProfs, offers this advice:
“Be a writer first and marketer second.”
Too many times, marketers tout their products and services—chock-full of jargon and industry terms that most people have no clue about—in an attempt to “sell” the user. People’s dwindling attention spans are another obstacle.
Whether you want someone to click on your email, fill out a form or contact you directly—your words matter, and you must be able to relate to people.
Here are five tips to remember as you write and publish content:
1. Lighten up: Use ‘talk’ instead of ‘converse.’
Web content should be easy to read and have a conversational tone. Using unnecessary or uncommon words doesn’t help you resonate with your audience; it alienates them.
That’s why throwing industry jargon or “branded” terms on your products and service pages is a bad idea. Instead, share stories about how people use your product or service, how it helps them solve everyday problems, and how it improves their life and work.
2. Use the return button often, and write in short sentences.
Your content should be clearly formatted and easy to read. One effective method is to use the return/enter button every two to three sentences.
Big walls of text are overwhelming; people feel they have to read everything to understand your message.
Space out your text, and write in clear, short sentences. Doing so will make for a better user experience and hold your readers’ attention.
3. Tell a story, and use conflict.
Every story has a beginning, middle and end—and no story holds people’s interest without conflict.
As you draft copy for landing pages, blogs, emails, etc., make sure you’re illustrating a conflict and how your product/service helps resolve the problem.
Here’s how you might create conflict on a landing page:
Situation: Too many salespeople from company X were leaving before completing their 12-month sales training program.
Conflict/complication: It cost company X over $50,000 just to recruit and replace the employees who left.
So he called Superior Sales Training.
Resolution: Superior Sales Training helped cut Company X’s sales training program to six weeks, drastically reducing onboarding time and allowing employees to jump right in.
Think about the best TV shows, movies, or books you’ve ever seen and read; there is always conflict. It’s the conflict (and resolution) that keeps us engaged and entertained.
4. Be authentic and transparent.
Businesses are ever focused on driving leads and customers, but before you can turn a prospect into a customer, you first have to earn their trust.
To gain trust through your content, start by being transparent about your company, its goals and why you’re in business. Share why you began helping people, and don’t be afraid to address any shortcomings you may have dealt with.
Wells Fargo, Uber and Facebook have faced backlash for how they’ve dealt with internal crises, and all have released ads to regain users’ trust.
Consumers should trust you, so be authentic and honest in your writing.
These tips can help you relate to people as you write:
- Write in the second person.
- Cite common experiences.
- Use simple words.
- Avoid using industry terms/jargon.
5. Format your posts.
To make your content easily readable, you should:
- Use bulleted lists or numbers when possible
- Use subheads to clearly label what the next section/paragraph is about
- Boldface important text and phrases, but do so sparingly
- End with a summary or a call to action telling the user what they should do next
Keeping your content cleanly formatted will help you maintain the attention of your readers. Take a few minutes before you publish your next landing page, blog, or email, and ensure that readers—at a quick glance—can see exactly what you’re trying to communicate.
A version of this post first appeared on the SmartBug Media blog.