Know your audience
Business Writing That Sells. Part 4
I’ve been a professional writer since 1998 and as Editor for The Business Show and Business Startup, I’ve worked with literally thousands of business owners and entrepreneurs to improve their content marketing. As a freelance copywriter specialising in content marketing, I meet and talk with many entrepreneurs, start-up founders and owners of SMEs on a regular basis. I will share some of my secrets and tricks of the trade with you here. Today, we look at who you’re writing for – and why it matters.
If there’s one golden rule for commercial copywriting, it’s that you should always – ALWAYS – remember who you are writing for. And why. For it to have value, any interaction must be meaningful and to accomplish that, you need to know who you are talking to.
If you’ve done your market research to write your business plan, then great – you know who your potential customers are. Now the trick is to talk to them on their own terms. Find out what they like to do, where they go at the weekend and – as I’ve mentioned previously in this series – what newspaper do they read? I come back to this because it’s such a convenient ready reckoner for content marketing that anyone can relate to. Customer profiling and personas are buzzwords in content marketing right now, but if you can picture the average reader of the paper your customers are most likely to buy, then you’re off to a good start.
Write for them. Look at the way the paper structures its content and follow suit. Long sentences or short? In-depth investigation or bite-size tittle-tattle? We’re not into value judgements here – whatever works for your audience works for your marketing plan. Go with it. This will dictate not only the ‘content’ of your content marketing, but also the tone and very possibly the medium too. If you can hit on the right language for the right content for your potential customers, then you’re on the home straight.
Talk To Your Audience
Any piece of writing is a series of decisions. You can approach the same topic from any number of angles and the one that makes sense to you just might not appeal to your audience. So stop for a minute. Step back. Think about how you would broach the topic with your prospect in a cafe or bar. Talk to them in their language, with their idiom. Copywriting is part sales, but it’s also part translation: learning how to talk with your audience on their terms. Keep your writing relevant to your audience.
It’s not about what you want to say; it’s about what the reader wants to hear. To be blunt, nobody cares about the year-on-year growth of your business. Of course, you care – and if you’re my client, I care. But beyond a press release to the trade press, the only use for that info is to support the image of your business as an expert-driven success story. And there are far smarter ways to communicate that message.
Benefits, Not Features
Talk to your audience with authority about the industry and the marketplace; offer insight into the ways you have innovated; but most of all, explain in clear terms how this will benefit your customers. In classic copywriting terms, any piece should talk about the benefits of a product or service, not the features. In other words, don’t talk about what your business does; talk about what it does for your customer.
Many businesses enter the online space with yah-yah content that is all blah-blah. It’s all about ‘me’; never mind ‘you’. Would you want to talk to that person in a social setting? No, me neither. And yet companies keep on doing it – and wondering why they don’t engage their audience. I’ll tell you why: you’re boring. Brands are like babies. And not just because you’ve given birth to them and nurtured them to grow while the world was busy turning. Your babies are beautiful to you, but to anyone else, they’re just another wrinkly little thing crying for attention.
Put The Spotlight On Your Customer
Successful copywriting spins the spotlight from the business onto the consumer. It puts them front and centre throughout the whole transaction, from marketing to completed sale. Of course you want to establish your credentials and it’s only natural you want to publicly celebrate any success, but you must ask yourself every time “How does this benefit my customer?”
Don’t make the mistake of just pumping out content for the sake of it – or even worse, because you enjoy talking about your brand to anyone who will listen. As Roger Horberry puts it in his book, Brilliant Copywriting, “Copy that isn’t written for its reader is almost certainly destined to fail.” If you want to engage in meaningful interaction with your audience, you need to know who they are, what they like and how you can help them.
It sounds simple when you put it like that, but it’s a lesson that many businesses never learn – and then they wonder why their content marketing doesn’t achieve the returns they hoped for. Like the very best games, the basics are simple, but winning strategies come with time and experience.
Why Does Your Reader Care?
I’ve spent 16 years putting myself into the mindset of the consumer in industries as varied as interactive entertainment to automotive; with audiences that range from young adults to time-poor asset-rich executives and entrepreneurs. And every time, I’ve boosted sales, increased engagement or grown circulation. It isn’t because I’m a brilliant writer – although I like to think I am – it’s because I always ask ‘Who am I writing for?’ I’ve spent more than a decade-and-a-half getting to the point where I make this look easy. It isn’t. It always takes research, several drafts and a lot of work to come up with words that look like they trip off the tongue. You know that; I definitely know that, but your customers don’t need to. All they need to know is that your business meets their needs. So the next time you write anything for your business, just ask yourself this simple question: ‘Why does my reader care’?
I hope this blog has helped you to find an inroad into the art of copywriting and how it can benefit your business. If that’s all the insight you need, then great – glad I could help. All I ask is that you tell your friends and favourite or link to this article. If you want to take it further and you think I can help your business with words that sell, please get in touch today.
Next: The Answer To ‘So What?’
If you find the series – or any of the articles in it – useful, please share them via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or your own blog. I’d really appreciate it, thanks. If you need professional copywriting for anything from your new web copy to marketing collateral and press releases, I’d love to hear from you. Get in touch today to find out how I could help your business.