Most of us are pretty clear about the importance of design when brand building, but we are often less sure about which words to choose to bring our brands to life.
But every time you put pen to paper you either engage or disengage your customers. Words matter and brands that tell their stories as well as showing them win hands down. Successful brands like Apple and Volkswagen match the words to the visuals to create a strong voice.
Twitter, instant messaging, texts, online chat — they’re all proof of the power of words. How many times have we heard about people forming long distance relationships online, with only words at their disposal?
And think of how much information we find on the web before purchasing just about anything nowadays. Reviews, descriptions, listings and websites all contribute to our decisions to buy.
Finally, assess your writing capabilities honestly and if writing isn’t your thing, get help. You can keep costs down by doing as much groundwork as possible, putting all the content together in one document. Most copywriters charge by the hour.
I read the 2014 Lloyds Bank Business Digital Index with interest. Its findings broadly corroborate our own research conducted at the London Business Show into SMEs’ attitudes to online marketing — although the Browser Media survey found that most small firms do in fact have websites, compared to the 50% in the Lloyds study.
However, both reports found that SMEs generally have a laissez-faire attitude to digital marketing. Many small businesses build their website and sit back and wait for clients to arrive, instead of actively promoting themselves online.
It’s not that SMEs think their website is working for them — many admit to being unhappy with their Google rankings and online presence — but they aren’t investing in marketing to improve the situation.
I initially thought this was a financial issue and still believe that’s a big part of the problem. Any small business will tell you they have to cut their cloth according to their means and can’t invest in everything on their wish list.
However, I also think there may be a certain “Britishness” behind these attitudes as well. Many small businesses start up because the owner has already worked in a particular field or has a particular personal interest. Either way, the business tends to focus on a small group of prospects at first; and, let’s face it, promoting yourself is just not a very British thing to do.
Our research also found that those companies that were using an external agency for digital marketing were happier with the results than those who were undertaking this in-house. This may be partly because the external agencies have more expertise but it is also much easier to market someone else than market yourself.
We also looked at SMEs’ understanding of various marketing disciplines: most had heard of social media marketing and email marketing but few were aware of content or inbound marketing (although more were familiar with the related field of SEO).
In fact, small businesses can really make an impact with content and inbound marketing as they’ve usually got a lot of niche expertise. Building up a loyal customer base by providing useful content is an excellent way to create a long-term business.
If you’re a small business, don’t make the mistake that other SMEs may be making of sitting back and admiring your shiny new website — use content as an online megaphone and spread the word about your business to the digital universe. If recent survey findings are anything to go by, you’ll already be one step ahead of the competition.
Ali Cort is the PR director at digital marketing agency, Browser Media.
It’s good to be able to vary your copy style — different styles for different tasks.
Deep level service pages or white papers, for example, are a place where people will be looking for detail, and will expect to find copy that lays out your process or explains the nitty gritty of how your products work.
Your home page and blogs, however, are a different matter. Here you’re after copy that grabs people quickly, and packs a real punch.
So how do you do that?
The quickest way to pack a punch with your copy is to address the reader directly. Putting “you” into whatever you’re writing is your short circuit to making a connection. How do you feel about that? More connected, I’ll bet than if I had written how does the person reading this feel about that?
Direct from me to you is the shortest way to hit home fast. Imagine your ideal reader, and forget about everything else, just write it to them.
Short sentences are another way to keep people moving so quickly through the copy in a way that doesn’t feel like a long hard read. Keep sentences short. That way people won’t drift off. They’ll stick with you.
Of course not every sentence needs to be super short. You want to pack a punch, not make the reader feel under fire. So vary the sentence length sometimes, so it feels conversational, but not like gunfire.
Active verbs make writing punchier. Seeing, running, jumping are all pacier than saw, ran or jumped. Similarly cutting out unnecessary “wills” and “cans” make your writing more direct. So don’t say, we can deliver solutions. Say, we deliver solutions. (Except avoid the word solutions at all costs. Find some real words that describe things people can picture instead).
Metaphors and analogies can help pack power into your writing. I could tell you that last night in an Aberdeen hotel surprised me, because there seemed to be no women anywhere, except those working as waitresses, and that all the men seemed to be sizing each other up, and you might get the picture. If I told you it was like the Wild West, you’d get a quicker and sharper image of the place, and that picture will stay with you for longer. Metaphors add colour and vision to whatever you’re writing.
To summarise, the key to writing copy that packs a punch is to make it resonate with the reader. Put them at the heart of whatever you’re writing, keep the writing pacey and colourful, and get creative with your comparisons. It will knock them out!
Keeping your website updated is important for encouraging traffic that brings in business. If your team has got in the habit of adding to the business website regularly, you’re on the right track. A website that’s continually updated will pull better results from search engines and it demonstrates to customers that your business is doing well.
It’s also worth trying to come up with “evergreen” content. Evergreen content doesn’t become outdated or irrelevant. Rather, it always reads and appears as relevant whether it’s viewed the day you upload it or three years later. While all content that’s fresh and enticing doesn’t have to be evergreen, this kind of long-life content is very useful.
Blog about new products, share a tutorial with your subscribers or write about what’s going on in your business. It’s not necessary to blog daily, but add one or two blog posts per week to keep visitors coming back for more.
What are people talking about in your industry? Is there an event coming up or a new product launch? Fresh content includes news that’s current. To keep it evergreen, use dates instead of time frames. For example, say “on May 29th, 2014” instead of “in a few weeks”.
Current client testimonials show potential customers that your business is thriving and clients are happy with your services or products. Seek testimonials from satisfied customers, add them to a specific page and intersperse them amongst relevant product or service information. One of the best ways to convert a would-be customer is to provide them with previous customer reviews.
Know your customers and subscribers to provide content that is relevant and enticing. If you understand your demographics, you’ll be able to focus on your niche market to cater to the specific needs, personalities and interests of your customer base.
Update your readers on past stories or news items, especially if they elicited a large number of “likes” or shares. There’s nothing wrong with flying on the coat-tails of a previously popular post if you have a fresh update to add.
Tap into the interest in current events — national or local — through your blog; and promote products and services that customers would find useful in relation to those events.
All the fresh content tips in the world won’t amount to anything if they’re being applied to a website that is clunky to navigate and unpleasant to look at. Before adding a blog to your business website or hiring a professional writer to create content, ensure that your website is attractive to viewers and easy to use. Avoid cramming too much onto one page or overwhelming the viewer’s senses with music or flashing pictures. Keep your website clean so viewers can easily focus on the fresh content you’ve created for them.
Mary Ylisela is part of the writing team at TouchpointDigital.co.uk.
Creating great content is a sure-fire way for small businesses to attract and keep customers. Research shows that businesses that blog 15 times or more each month get five times more traffic than those who don’t blog at all. So it’s clear that content is key to generating leads and driving traffic to your website.
Yet, according to Hubspot, only 10% of companies have a dedicated content creator. That means, the vast majority of small business owners have to do all the hard work, and the marketing, themselves.
However, Hubspot research also shows that businesses that create new content just once a month are still 49% more likely to have acquired a customer through their blog. So even if you can only create a little content, you’ll soon be reaping the benefits.
But where does a small business that’s new to blogging start? Or if you’re already blogging how do you keep the ideas flowing? Ask yourself these questions:
1. Who are my clients? If you already have your marketing personas carefully scripted out, go back to them. Think again, have their needs changed? What are their business pains? Can you still provide a solution? And importantly, have you really been considering your targets when creating your content?
2. Why will they listen to me? What do you offer that makes people want to listen and how will your content benefit them? The average prospect doesn't want to hear a sales pitch, so what can you provide that will break down those walls and grab their attention? Authentic, intelligent and educational content is a great way to attract new clients, and keep them.
3. What search terms are leading people to your website? Use these to create content that answers their questions, but keeps them coming back for more.
4. What has been popular in the past? Remember that blog that got 2,000 shares six months back? Is it still relevant? Or could you update it and share it again? Think about the lifespan of your content — are they all one hit wonders, or do they have a longer shelf-life? Why not consider writing new posts on topics that have proved popular? If they’re still getting hits then it makes sense to provide your prospects with the great content that they’re looking for.
5. What do I want them to do at the end? Do you want potential clients to leave your page, or do you want them to download an eGuide? A simple call to action, a comment asking people to get in touch with their views, and at the very least, social share buttons are the next step in the lead nurturing funnel of love.
It’s just the beginning. But while these tips won’t turn you into a modern day Shakespeare, what they will help you develop ideas and pull new customers to your website — and fundamentally, that’s what content marketing is all about.
Rhian Morgans is an online PR executive for Tomorrow People.