Business Writing That Sells. Part 12
I’ve been a professional writer since 1998 and as Editor for The Business Show and Business Startup, I have 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 the body copy for your content marketing, why it’s a critical phase of any campaign – and how you can convert it into sales.
Don’t let your start-up or SME marketing campaign fall at the last hurdle; how to make sure your body copy delivers a body-blow that’s a KO for conversion! (1)
In the last article, we looked at the old saying among journalists that, “If the headline sells, then the body copy tells.” That time, we were looking at headlines, so it only seems right that this time we focus on the other side of the equation – the body. We’ll look at how you can make sure it tells the story you need it to, but where content marketing differs from journalism is that the body also sells. It sells your product.
This is the moment every single penny of your marketing budget has been building towards. Every ad, every link share, every piece of coverage in the local paper serves one purpose: to get your content in front of your market. Don’t blow it now by letting the office manager write your most valuable marketing asset just because they happen to have an English GCSE. (2)
The advice in this article will help you get it right if you decide to go it alone, or talk to me today to find out about the difference that professional content can make to your business, your conversion rate and your profits. (3)
What is body copy?
It’s the main body of your content – hence the name. If you ignore headlines (the head), pull quotes (the hands), boxouts (the legs) or any other editorial furniture, then you’re left with the body of words itself. If your reader sees nothing else, this is what you want them to remember. It’s not only where you set out your stall, but also follow through on whatever promise your headline made. This is when you need to deliver. Don’t finish until you have – but do it as fast as you can.
Politically correct (4)
There aren’t many speakers more memorable than British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. But why did his words strike a chord with people? As he put it,
have one theme,
use simple language,
leave a picture in the listener’s mind,
and end dramatically.”
A strong beginning carries on from where your headline left off. You could answer a question or expand on an offer, but the important thing is to reward your reader with an instant payoff. Make them believe they were right to follow their instincts – and your link. You don’t have to give it all away on the first date, but don’t tease. Time is short and attention spans are shorter. Give them something straight away; give them more later.
One of the most common article structures among news journalists is the inverted pyramid structure. Look at any good newspaper – not one that recycles press releases – and you’ll notice that the most important information is all in the first paragraph. If you stopped reading there, you would know everything you need to be up to date.
Every following paragraph contains supporting information; looks at the issue from various points of view, gives a right to reply and offers a back story, but what you need to know is in the first paragraph.
The hierarchy is always the same:
- What made the story newsworthy in the first place
- Important facts
- Background information
The idea is that the reader can stop reading at any point and you’ve still communicated your message. It works for news, but it also works for business copywriting. As Jim Davies says, “The first sentence is the most important, but the second sentence is the hardest to write.” Why? Because the first sentence can hit the reader between the eyes, but the second has to convince them to read on and offer more…
Pay up or shut up
So how should you structure your content? Just remember that inverted pyramid – especially online. Remember that people can click away at any moment. Too many businesses spend their marketing content desperately trying to maintain their readers’ interest throughout an article/blog/press release with the promise of a delayed payoff and withold the punchline for the end. That would work great in a print magazine where the consumer has paid for an artefact where they’ll devour every word to get their money’s worth, but online? Forget it. Pay up or shut up.
Content marketing structure
Many of my clients come to me with the right words in the wrong order. Even if they’ve done a great job of explaining who they are, what they offer and how they can help, the wrong order is almost as big a barrier to entry as just getting it plain wrong.
Just like a story, any content, however short – or long, should have a beginning, a middle and an end. Start with a bang, expand upon your subject and go out on a high.
Here’s how to structure your body content for content marketing:
- Get their attention (headline)
- Hit them hard (first paragraph)
- Get them while they’re hot (first call to action)
- Back it up (following paragraphs)
- Get out… (strongest call to action)
- …Before you’ve outstayed your welcome
Now take a look back through this article. Notice anything familiar about those bracketed numbers you thought were odd the first time around? That’s right – the structure of this article follows the steps we’ve just covered. I’ve put the numbers in so you can see for yourself exactly how the theory works in practice.
I hope you’ll also notice that the body of this article follows its own advice in each section:
- Begins strongly
- Early call to action
- Instant gratification
- Fulfils the headline’s promise
- Inverted pyramid structure
- Focuses on one theme
- Expands on that theme
- Uses simple language
- Closes with a call to action
- Ends dramatically
Closes with a call to action?
Nope, you didn’t miss it – here it is. I hope you’ve found this article useful in creating your own killer content marketing copy. Good luck! But if you need a professional copywriter because a job is too complex or too crucial to gamble on, or if time is too short to do it yourself, get in touch today. I’d love to hear from you. (5)
Next: Don’t be afraid to kill your darlings (6)
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.