how to write website content

5 Ways To Create Intimate Customer Connections (and sell more in the process)

Trello. Innocent Smoothies.GoPro.Apple. Old Spice. What do they all have in common? ...not much, you're probably thinking. They're outrageous. They're personable. They're silly. They're insulting. They're unique. They're engaging. Importantly, they're all companies who relate profoundly to their audiences. Coincidentally (or not) they're also kings of their respective industries.

But it doesn't happen by accident. In fact, it's one of the most carefully-orchestrated, deliberate elements to creating a successful brand. Your voice is important. And what you say to your audience - it's everything.

Keep reading for some actionable, no-bullshit tips on connecting and relating to your audience.

1. Speak To The Individual. Not The Collective.

When your prospect is engaged with your brand, it is as an individual. Not as a collective - no matter the situation. So why would you communicate with them in an impersonal manner?

This is a problem that's rife. Companies spend infinite time and money gathering data and statistics about their customers. Thing is...this puts the focus on the collective. It averages data and evens out  the most important subtleties and eccentricities of your target audience. It limits the very thing you should be focussing on - the individual.

Think long and hard who your ideal customers are - and learn from them - individually. Talk to them on Facebook and Twitter. Ask them what they like. What they hate. Find out about their individual lives. In the process, you'll learn the most valuable thing possible - how your brand can be a relevant part of it.

2. Dare To 'Think Different'.

Yeah, it couldn't sound any more clichéd if it tried. It also couldn't be more correct. Will you be successful towing the line, following the herd, and copying from previous trailblazers?....Yes. But you'll be forever limited by your own derivativeness. Some of the most ridiculously successful companies thought outside the box. They took risks. They bared it all to the world.

Because your prospects can relate to the trailblazers. The people who think outside the box to solve their problems.

Look at the origins of 'Think Different'. Apple. One of the most successful, respected tech companies in the world. Their very existence embodies 'think different'. And people love them for it.

But should you 'follow their lead' and 'copy' their model for success? NO! Being different doesn't mean being the same as those who are different. It takes true guts and innovation. Could it fail? Definitely. Are there risks to being different? Sure. But it's the most worthwhile risk to take in the world.

3. Be Funny. But Think A Little.

Humour works. Like, really, really well. But it takes a profound understanding of your audience - and humour, for that matter - to get right. And when it goes badly?

It...

Goes...

Spectacularly...

Badly.

Tip: Laugh with people, not at them.

Good brand humour is a careful calibration between your audience's sensibilities, your brand's identity, and timing. Taco Bell. Old Spice. Impact Design. They all know their audiences profoundly. And they know precisely where their audience's sensibilities overlap with their brand identity.

Next time you're trying to be funny...think a little deeper. Who is your audience? Who's your brand? Double-check your attempts. Or the consequences will be disastrous.

4. Show Your Imperfections. Even If It Hurts.

There's nothing more human than imperfections. And what - if anything - are you trying to connect with? Humans. From the houses we buy to the supermarkets we choose, us humans choose things that reflect our identity. Just look at Victoria's Secret. They advertised perfection. Perfect people wearing perfect products created by a perfect brand.

People went crazy....they hated it. Why? Because Victoria's Secret were advertising a lie. People simply don't look like that. In fact, the entire fashion and beauty industry is slowly, slowly coming to this realisation:

People desire self-improvement. But more importantly, people desire to be loved. To feel a sense of belonging. To feel they're worth something - not despite their mistakes, but because of them. And brands who can offer that? They'll win their customers for life.

Look at Dove. Their advertising is based on rejoicing in the differences (and imperfections!) of their brand and their audience. And their customers love them for it.

"Never write an advertisement which you wouldn't want your family to read. You wouldn't tell lies to your own wife. Don't tell them to mine." - David Ogilvy.

5. TL;DR? Be Human.

There's a reason why we love wonky, imperfect artisan pizzas. Silly, tongue-in-cheek brands. The companies who speak to us as individuals. The companies who make us laugh or leave us awe-stricken.Because all of these things are inherently human. And in a world becoming increasingly sterile and technological, the value of 'being human' is an ever-inflating commodity.

Want to share your thoughts on relating to your audience? Jump head-first into the discussion. Add your comment below!

Tobias Pettigrew.

20 Reasons Your Web Content Is Failing Your Business

You’re probably sitting there, thinking, “is…is my web content weak? Please let it not be so…” Well, I have some good news, and I have some bad news.

The bad news is…it’s likely your copy isn’t great. Copywriting – like any skill – takes years to master.

Don’t despair though, not yet. I have some good news.

You’re here. You’re here because you want to learn. And, like all things, bad copywriting can be remedied with the right answers.

Feel better? Here are a bunch of reasons why your web content sucks – and how you can fix it.

 

The Marketing Side of Things

 

1. Gibberish Sales Tone

Are you guilty of using words like ‘innovative’? ‘Forward-thinking?’ Perhaps…wait for it…even ‘synergetic’?

Folks, your readers are human. Speaking to them in a stilted, manipulative sales tone is the quickest shortcut to alienating them as much as possible. Using these vague clichés also indicates you don’t really know what you’re trying to say – at all.

Solution: Try to write conversationally. Imagine your ideal customer as you write your content. Read your content out loud. If it sounds ridiculous, edit it. Here are some great CopyBlogger tips. Always clarify exactly what you’re trying to say.

 

2. No ‘Call To Action’

Imagine a super-charismatic, informative salesperson gave you this amazing pitch. You’re practically begging them to take your credit card. And then…they just walk away.  They cut the conversation short. Where are they going?!

If your content – be it a blog post, web copy, or sales email – has no ‘call to action’, this is what you’re doing to your readers. You’re stopping the conversation.

Solution: Think of your content from your customer’s perspective. They are attracted to your content (adverts, social media, catchy headline), then converted (benefits, testimonials, useful info) and then – finally – encouraged to take action (subscribe! Purchase! Contact!). You get the point. Your customer’s on a journey…walk with them (cringe). Learn more about actionable content from KISSMetrics.

 

3. You Write For A General Audience

People are often scared of alienating ‘demographics’. What do they do? They use a fearful, ‘catch-all’ method.

E.g. A feminine moisturising product. A catch-all method would look like “Femoisturiser is great for healthy skin for the whole family”.

Okay, okay, no one’s going to buy ‘Femoisturiser’ (another one of my dreams goes ‘poof’). But you get my point. Because of the above ‘scattershot’ approach, the key target audience (women aged 24-46) isn’t being engaged and – even worse – might feel alienated.

Solution: Know who you’re trying to speak to. Be fearless in speaking to them. Engaging with a smaller demographic on a deeper level is invaluable. Learn how to find your target market.

 

4. You Ain’t Done Your Research

Facts, statistics, information. Dry stuff. And yet, invaluable. Nothing puts your readers off more than unsubstantiated, weak, vague statements and thrown together content.

Solution: Ask the questions ‘Who?’ ‘What?’ ‘Why? And ‘How?’ whenever you write your content. Who is this for? (audience). What is it exactly? (products/services). How will it help your audience? (benefits). Reinforce every claim with information, and use statistics/facts/quotes tactfully to improve your credibility.

 

5. You Focus On Robots (SEO) Over Humans

The golden era of SEO is over. Now, Google punishes you for stuffing keywords and spamming content. Now, focussing on SEO primarily is not only idiotic (because of said punishments), it also alienates the people that matter – your readers.

Solution: Stop it. Okay, you can use SEO a little. In fact, tactful keywords, well-constructed meta-descriptions and the likes can be really beneficial. Just please…speak like a human, because you’re talking to humans. Here’s some tips.

 

The Technical Side of Things

 

6. You Use Weak, Vague Language

Nothing will undermine your credibility like an excess of ‘amazing’! ‘Mind-blowing!’ and ‘awesome!’. Other examples include a reliance on the passive voice and a misuse of adjectives. Vague words like ‘stuff’, ‘things and ‘got’.

Solution: Try to translate these vague, meaningless terms into tangible benefits/values. ‘Mind-blowing device’ might turn into ‘The device that saves 2.5 hours a day’. Write like the great Ernest Hemingway with the Hemingway Editor app.

 

7. Your Writing is Lengthy/Complex

In the era of the web, long, rambling, complex sentences and paragraphs will result in your readers dropping off like flies (have I mentioned clichés, yet?). People have miniscule attention spans. Your writing needs to adapt to this.

Solution: Cut words that don’t add anything. Keep your sentences short, concise and punchy. Say what you need to say as quickly as possible – then reinforce it with quality, value-oriented content (show them the money!).

 

8. Lack of Proper Formatting

What will send your readers running to the hills even more? The dreaded wall of text. It’s a terrifying thing.

Truth is, good writers understand the value of aesthetics, form and design. The balance between content and white space. Between words and imagery. A wall of text is insulting to your readers – you don’t even have the time to spare to edit a little.

Solution: Easy - format. Your. Content.  Keep paragraphs short. Use a readable font. Use a variety of fonts (paragraph, h2, h3, etc). Break content up with bullets, lists, images and columns – even white space. Here are some more ideas.

 

9. Your Content Is Too Short

Sometimes, being minimal is a bad thing. It becomes negative when it impairs your reader’s understanding of what you’re trying to say.

Solution: I like to – first – write a list of everything I need to say. I then create a longer first draft. I then edit this down to the perfect length. Create a checklist of things you want your copy to achieve. Tick them off as you achieve them.

 

10. Filled With Errors

Please use a spelchecker, seriuosly. Nothing (nothing!) undermines your credibility more than error-ridden content.

Solution: Carefully comb through your content for errors. Sometimes these won’t appear (e.g. flower and flour – these are called homonyms). In this case, you should probably call in your super detail-oriented buddy to help.

 

The Creative Side of Things

 

11. Overly Technical

Engineers, scientists, programmers…put down the keyboard. Sometimes – especially if you’re technically-minded – it can be difficult to avoid listing features, facts and statistics. However, this isn’t engaging for your audience.

Solution: Write out your ‘features’ or ‘facts’. Now, list the ‘benefits’ of each alongside. Use these benefits within your copy. You can tactfully use ‘features’ and ‘facts’ for credibility – see Apple for more.

 

12. Descriptive

Think of it like this – if you’re being descriptive, you’re adding work for your reader. They have to figure out why this matters to them. If you’re specific, you’re reducing their work. Pretty simple.

Solution: Stop being descriptive. Don’t say “we design websites and stuff”. Say “we create responsive, custom-built websites for your brand”. You get the idea. Make it easy for your audience, and be specific.

 

13. Too Generic

With the web, competition is ridiculous. Now, it’s even more important to distinguish yourself. Using generic descriptors, soundbites and bland tones simply won’t cut it.

Solution: Take time to develop a brand voice that speaks to your ideal customer. Take time to think about what you’re trying to say. Look at your competitors, and see how you can say it better. Can you add humour? Use interesting, ‘off-the-wall’ phrases? Perhaps you can simply highlight key differentiating factors that work in your favour.  Entrepreneur tips for carving out a niche.

 

14. Not Compatible With Your Brand Voice

From the first email or advert, to your website, through to their interactions with you, your customer is on a journey. You want that process to be smooth and seamless. If your content clashes or contrasts significantly with previous content, at best, it can perturb your reader. At worst, it’ll send them running.

Solution: Look at your content holistically. If you have an established tone of voice, use examples of that (in existing content) as a touch-point in writing your web content. It doesn’t have to be identical…just don’t make awkward switches (e.g. from a quirky, humorous approach to a cold, corporate tone). Here’s how to develop a tone of voice guide.

 

15. You Write Too Quickly

This one might seem obvious, but – from the amount of websites that appear rushed – it clearly isn’t. There are very few masterpieces - in any context – that were rushed. Your web content matters. Take time with it.

Solution: Slow down. Your website content matters, and your web copy isn’t your latest journal entry. It demands respect, damnit!

 

16. You ‘Attempt’ To Be Funny

Okay, okay, humorous copy – when executed well – can be brilliant. However, there is nothing more cringe-worthy than try-hard, unfunny writing. In all honesty, writing humorously takes two things – skill, and a profound understanding of your audience.

Solution: Focus on being clear and concise. You can even add a little personality or quirk. If you’re truly set on trying to be ‘funny’, take your time, understand your audience, and get as many perspectives as possible before publishing.

 

The Mental Side of Things

 

17. You’re Boring Yourself

‘Industry front-runners’…yawn…’solutions-oriented business consultancy’…yawn. It seems obvious, but if you’re not being entertained by your own writing, your readers won’t, either.

Solution: Drop the industry gibberish. Stay clear and concise. Focus on your core message – and how you can communicate that quickly and confidently and – possibly – in an entertaining manner.

 

18. You Don’t Know What You’re Trying To Say

A muddled, confused message a muddled confused reader makes (confused?). If you have no idea what you’re trying to say, you won’t say very much at all.

Solution: Simplify. Have 3 take-away messages? Hone it down to one. Always plan out your content before-hand.

 

19. You Believe Design’s More Important Than Content

Unlike other forms of media, written content is more than a commodity. It’s your brand’s voice. It’s one of the sole methods in which you can speak to your audience.

Solution: Focus on your message – first and foremost. Good design should do one thing – reinforce this. Write your content first, then add the pretty parts later.

 

20. You’re Writing For You – Not the Customer

The amount of companies that have this issue…it’s unreal. I’ve found that creatives – designers, photographers, artists and the like – are particularly bad for this.

“We invest in our people, love what we do, and we focus on doing great work”.

We, we, we. Yes, the results of such writing truly are wee wee. If you fail to focus on your reader, why should they focus on you?

Solution: With each paragraph, sentence and word, ask yourself – “how is this relevant to my reader’s problems?”. Use direct language to address your readers – ‘you’ and your’. Avoid self-important, vague statements like “we love what we do”. No one or their granny – frankly – cares.

 

Conclusion

Useful Takeaways:

  • Focus on the customer's perspective
  • Importantly - know your ideal customer
  • Write clearly and concisely - cut the sales spiel
  • Write like a human, for humans
  • Research and carefully craft/edit your copy
  • Keep writing, testing and trying!

 

There you have it! 20 reasons. Remember – writing great content isn’t simple. But with time, thought and practice, it’s definitely achievable. And if it all gets too much – my schedule is open.