I’m convinced every business owner has a love-hate relationship with writing. We do so much of it, even if we don’t consider ourselves “writers” in terms of loving the craft. But volume does not always equal effectiveness.
Writing can be one of the most frustrating activities on earth.
No matter what your industry, as an entrepreneur, you may as well get used to crafting amazing copy. ("Copy" is an ad term that means "writing that’s meant for business," by the way.) While most entrepreneurs tend to think of the color scheme, logo and general look of their brand as their “signature,” your words can say just as much about you. So let’s make your words shine like your heart and soul already do!
I’m going to assume from here forward that you know how to write clean copy. That is, write words for web, social, or blog that contain decent grammar and (almost) no typos. So we’re not going to focus on those elements at all, because that’s what most people think good writing is.
[Tweet "We don't want good writing. We want great writing. And that requires so much more than spell check."]
When we read great writing, it hits us in the gut. We’re moved to laughter, or tears. At the very least, we nod our heads and think, “Oh heck, yes!” Great business writing has a point of view, a personality and a voice. These less tangible elements are just as important as chasing down comma splices and correcting misspelled words.
Put simply, great writing is for human beings. And human beings still judge each other by what they say—as much or more than by what they do.
So how can you ensure that the business copy you’re writing makes an amazing impact both rationally and intuitively? You won’t hit the mark every time, and you certainly won’t be wow-inducing overnight. But with time, practice and some mindfulness to the following principles, you can build your business with copy that captivates.
Tip 1: Keep everything human
We’ve all seen enough boring marketing copy to last a lifetime. Before you write for professionals, before you write for an industry, even before you write for customers, please write for people.
Writing for people means keeping things emotional rather than clinical. Clinical is for technical writers! That does not mean that you must make your audience cry. (Although if you can, you’ve reached a whole other level!)
But do think about what make your people happy. What makes them sad. What frustrates and energizes them. Write for the human inside your customer, and you’re more likely to turn a human into a customer.
EXAMPLE // Mule is a famous design agency. They could use advertising and marketing jargon on their homepage. Instead, they use simple, everyday language that connects.
Tip 2: Use keywords effectively.
In this case, I'm not talking about SEO. I'm talking about words that symbolize what your brand stands for. These are the top dozen or so words that anchor everything you do. Know these words and use them liberally.
Also know which words you don't want to use. For example, I’ve made the decision that I will never refer to another person in my (or my client’s) industry as "competition." I believe the world is big enough for all of us. My brand is about knowing who you are inside so you can walk in confidence, not pausing to scan the field. Instead of "competition," I deliberately choose words or phrases such as "peers" and "other business owners in your industry."
What are the words that matter most for your brand? What are the words your brand would never say? Just like you notice when a friend says something out of character, your audience will notice too. Of course, this does not mean you have to use the same 5 words over and over again. But it does mean you should be intentional.
EXAMPLE // Nisha Moodley is a women's leadership coach who uses keywords effectively on her site. Click through and browse around. Can you guess what those keywords are?
Tip 3: Sell their problem
People are less interested in solutions than you might think. Most of us, psychologically, want to know that someone understands what we’re going through. While it might be counterintuitive, consider speaking more about the challenges your customer is facing than giving the details of their solution.
A great way to do this is with questions. Lead off your copy with phrases like, “Are you . . . ?” and “When was the last time you . . . ?” and my personal favorite, “What if you could . . . ?” These types of phrases are customer-focused and get them thinking about the problem them have or the world they wish they lived in. All of these questions should point them toward the specific problem you can help them solve.
Describing the problem does something else, too. It lets the customer know they even have a problem to start with. This does not mean that you are inventing challenges in order to sell them something. It means you are drawing their attention to a very real problem they’re having . . . and then offering a wonderful solution.
EXAMPLE // Kymberlie is a sales coach who knows exactly what her ideal customer struggles with. Even as she pitches solutions, she frames her words to address the problem she knows her client is having.
Tip 4: Write like you talk
If you wouldn’t say it out loud, don’t write it. Your brand should sound like you. Use your voice. Your cadence of speech. You have my permission to write in incomplete sentences, too! Some of the greatest advertising copy doesn’t have a proper subject, object and verb.
If necessary, tape yourself speaking and write down the words. Are their certain phrases or ways of saying things that crop up over and over again? Do you use complex sentences or very simple ones? Are you humorous or earnest?
Should you find that speaking your blog posts, web pages and social media posts comes easier, get a dictation software. Speak your content aloud and then clean up and edit the resulting text. Whether you use recording as a way to understand your voice—or share it—you’ll create a much more personal result.
EXAMPLE // Whether or not you're a fan of Marie Forleo, you have to admit: she knows how to talk about industries like marketing, sales and business in words that feel totally human. Way to go, Marie!
Tip 5: Avoid industry jargon
You’re likely trying to reach a certain kind of customer with your words. At least, I hope you are! (If you’re not sure who that customer is, let’s talk.) But just because you and they know a certain industry doesn’t mean you should talk in Klingon.
Good, simple, powerful copy will always trump jargon-y language. And when simple language starts to sound like jargon—which can often happen when people latch onto a certain term—you can simply pivot. There’s always a better, smarter, less jargon-y word to use.
For example, a client of mine, a therapist, wanted to use the phrase “create the life you’ve always dreamed of” but felt it was just too “generic and life coach-y.” We made a simple replacement of “create” with “shape”—“shape the life you’ve always dreamed of”—and she loved it. Easy switch; big change.
EXAMPLE // I use Cat as an example often .... because she's so good at what she does. Visit the average business coach site, and you'll be overwhelmed with jargon. Cat knows how to keep it simple.
Tip 6: Focus on outcome, not product
A few moments ago, I told you to focus on the customer’s pain points. Yes, that’s still true! But you do have to speak about what you can offer at some point. When you do, make sure you’re holding out not your product but the result of that product.
For example, would you be more likely to answer a headline that reads: “Get a 90-Day Program to Erase Your Debts” or “Erase Your Debts in 90 Days?” Or even better, "Achieve financial freedom in 90Days?" Active words that show what the customers will be able to do or achieve as a result of your work are absolute gold.
As business owners it’s easy for us to stay focused on what we can give. But your customer is focused on you only so much as you can solve their problem. So focus on them. On their problem. And where they want to end up.
EXAMPLE // Gala knows exactly what her goals are. In fact, she holds out a future vision and outcome for her audience right in her tagline. It doesn't get much more basic than that. You're not left guessing about what you're getting, are you?
Putting it all together
Which brings us back to the beginning. You’ll never go wrong by focusing on your customer and thinking from their perspective. Our brand is a representation of us … the way we want to be seen from their perspective. And the great thing is: you are in charge of that perception.
[Tweet "With the words you write, you can shape your audience's impression of your brand."]
Great words are gold, so head to your mental bank and cash out. Write compelling copy that stays human, gets keywords right, sells the customer's problem (vs your solution), writes like you talk, avoids jargon, and focuses on outcome.
All of this may sound great, but you're busy running your business. You only have so much time to fiddle around with copy and blogging and other writing activities that help grow your operation. Which is where I come in.
I can help you craft more compelling web copy, write better weekly blog posts, and pretty much hack any writing task you find yourself in need of.
Until next time, speak freely.
What's your biggest challenge with business writing? Comment below!
Ready to expand your brand and your audience by crafting a more powerful message? Schedule your FREE 1:1 consultation here.