Whether applying timeless rules or today’s news, better marketing comes from good writing. Below are a handful of ways to power up your writing for marketing purposes.
Who are you?
Evoking a classic song by The Who, today’s prospect doesn’t care about you; the prospect cares about what you can do for him/her. When appealing to your potential customers early in the purchase process (i.e., before they know anything about you), you need to be addressing their needs, not talking up your company, its products/services or its thousands of accolades and accomplishments.
It’s boring, long-winded and often impenetrable. Take heed of Strunk and White’s classic, The Elements of Style, and make your writing vigorous by elimination. I’m going to go out on a limb and say jargon is not always the culprit; sometimes more generic overused words can destroy intended meaning (and ability to keep readers’ attention). Some of my current favorite examples seen in everyday business:
- Drive (as in “drive success”)
Don’t get me wrong: Skillful writers will find ways to use these words well. However, the average writer in the business world today overuses them to the point of nonsense. (Let’s leverage our efforts to drive successful results.)
Think XX … chromosomes
Women have 85% purchasing power in the U.S. (via Women’s Marketing Inc.). I’ve heard lower figures from several years ago, but regardless of whether it’s 55% or 85%, their majority purchasing power means you should generally be writing to them. Not a bad idea on the Web, either: They also account for 58% of total online spending (Ms. Smith Marketing). And according to the Marketing to Women Conference, women constitute majorities in the following specific types of purchases:
- Healthcare decisions (80%)
- New car purchases (65%)
- Food purchases (93%)
- Computer purchases (66%)
As the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs people preach, fewer things get and keep people’s attention than a good story. And there’s a reason why narrative has endured since we gathered around fires in the caves of our hunter-gatherer days: It’s primal and powerful.
Be readable for the Web
I mentioned this in my last post here about conversions. Web writing needs to consider the fundamentals of how people read on the Web (hint: they typically don’t). Design also plays a role, as 80% of user time is spent above the page “fold.” As Jakob Nielsen has written, Web users are information foragers who avoid wasting time. (Side note: I recommend reading anything the Nielsen Norman Group publishes on user experience research.) Therefore, Web writing typically requires at least some of the following elements to be more readable:
- Clear, descriptive titles and sub-headings
- Short paragraphs (one idea per)
- Bulleted lists
- Hypertext links (for easy navigation and research)
- Visual elements (boldface, italics, colors, highlights, images, etc.)
Know thy audience
To paraphrase the ancient Greek motto of “know thyself,” the best marketing writing knows its audience. Ultimately, the old principle of appealing to a particular audience applies as much to the Web as it did to the oral tradition before early humans started etching things in stone. Determine who exactly your audience is, and then speak its language. Whether you’re addressing 14-year-old boys or 75-year-old women, you want to be using their familiar terms and appealing to their sensibilities.