Ever feel like you're shouting into the void when it comes to creating online content? Whether you have big plans to hire out content writing services in 2020, or are determined to keep plugging away at it yourself, this article will help ground you in the world of content writing.
This is Part I in a series of content writing posts. It assumes that you're a small business owner who:
Content Marketing: a Definition
According to intensive research (okay, Google), it appears no one knows who first coined the term content writing. It's cousin, copywriting, has been around for a lot longer. According to Copyblogger, the guru of copywriting, the term is defined as this:
"Copywriting is the art and science of strategically delivering words (whether written or spoken) that get people to take some form of action."
Note: people sometimes confuse copywriting with copyright. The two are not related: copywriting deals with written communication while copyright deals with security for people's creative works.
Doesn't Every Small Business Owner Write Content?
Yes. If you have a blog or an account on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook, then you are creating content for these platforms. The trouble with writing content for most business owners is three-fold:
What Makes Content Writing Effective?
This is a question I'm often asked indirectly by clients. Sure, they get that I'm a writer. They can see from my bio that I've been at this for nearly 12 years. But is my writing really effective?
I completely understand a client's hesitation. When you're handing over hard-earned money, you want to see results, otherwise you won't stay in business very long. So, let me give you a quick example.
An Example of Effective Content Writing
When *Roger came to me, he was worried. His new website was about to launch and he wasn't confident the writing was going to draw in readers. Because Roger's company sold high-tech medical goods, it was important not only that the language was engaging, but also that it built confidence in readers (i.e., medical professionals).
After our conversation and reviewing the current website copy, I could see Roger's point. The copy was long and filled with acronyms and high-tech medical words and procedures that I needed to stop and look up every few minutes. While there was a lot of good information, it was buried within the text and would be easily overlooked by website visitors.
According to The Daily Egg, website visitors spend an average of 15 seconds on a website before clicking away. 15 seconds! Of course, that's an average with some visitors spending much longer and some visiting accidentally and quickly clicking away. Still, it's a startling statistic.
I began by briefing Roger on the goal of his site. Every business owner wants to draw in new website traffic. But what were his goals beyond that? It turned out that Roger was pairing the launch of his new website with a huge direct mail campaign.
He wanted the medical professionals who would be receiving a glossy brochure to have a site to visit that was packed with reasons why they should hire Roger. We also created a free gift: a white paper that offered real-life, helpful tips on the pain points his product solved.
What Made the Final Site More Effective
Here are the steps I took to streamline Roger's site and make it more effective:
While all of these steps were necessary, the key was creating action/goal-oriented writing. This is the type of writing that makes you feel excited to stop reading an article or post so that you can hurry up and take action before someone else does.
Content writing, like any marketing, needs to be consistent, aimed at the right audience and memorable in order to be effective.
What are your challenges when it comes to content writing? Do you find that you lack time, focus or creativity? Please share in the comments and I'll do my best to help you find the resources you need.
*Roger is a real client but I've changed his name/business details to protect his privacy.
Do you have a frenemy relationship in your business life: one you know it isn’t healthy, but which you can’t seem to let go?
Lots of small business owners do. This is a twisted kind of friendship where you wake late in the night wondering if you said the wrong thing or didn’t say enough at all. A relationship where you put in hours and hours of effort but sometimes (okay, often) have very little positive results to show for it. This friendship feels really one-sided...because it is. And unfortunately, it’s you who is making all the sacrifices and doing the bulk of the work.
This relationship is one that most small business owners have with...social media.
Social media is everywhere. Not only are there a huge number of options for “connecting with clients” online, but there are a lot of do’s and don’ts about how to use each platform successfully. We’ve become slaves to algorithms, status updates, and the cold, hard data that shows how we’re “performing,” not only day to day but hour to hour and minute to minute. Somewhere in engine search land, I picture a few hairy, sweaty middle-aged men laughing in an uproariously as they tweak algorithms and watch all of us poor schmucks deal with the fallout. As a small business owner, most of us have one most precious commodity: time. And social media can be like a giant drain where our time swirls away from us.
The Glitter of Social Media
I’ve attended a lot of meetings and conferences in my 11+ years as a professional writer. And one question that is bound to be posed in any event is: “Which social media platforms should I be using to find customers?” I too, used to feel a lot of angst about this. I would listen raptly as the keynote speaker or marketing expert would share all the “inside information” I needed to find my “tribe” online. And then, with pages of notes spread over my knees, I’d clutch my pen thinking, “I have to focus on this. This is top priority. I must be on at least three social media platforms three times a day in order to be relevant”.
So, I tried. For a long time I tried being everywhere: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Slack, Reddit. I blogged like a maniac and felt like I spent the better portion of my workday shouting ideas, inspiration, encouragement and questions out into the great black void of the internet.
And you know what happened?
Or at least, not much. And that was for three reasons:
1) I tried to be in too many places.
2) I didn’t go where my potential clients were.
3) I burned out.
Letting Go of Social Media
Things changed when I reassessed the craziness of my social media schedule and honed in what was actually working. This took a little time and distance. And yes, I’ll admit, it was scary. Letting go of Facebook where I’d built a small following (but wasn’t really seeing any results other than learning about people’s kids’ interests or what their pets were doing), was a little frightening. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) runs rampant, especially online. But finding more free time and more focus had definitely been worth it.
Through my social media analysis, I discovered some important information: for business writing, LinkedIn was where I needed to be. I still have an account on Twitter, but post/share/peruse it more rarely. I’ve let all the other platforms go (hello Facebook freedom!) and haven’t seen a decline in my business. If anything, I’ve had an increase in new clients probably because now I have time to actually build real connections, reach out to people one-on-one instead of en masse, and (gasp) do my priority work instead of dabbling on social media.
Is It Right for You?
Only you can decide if this is also the right choice for your own business. Looking at the data certainly helps. And while it’s difficult to pinpoint with accuracy what leads come through social media, it’s not as hard to track which posts/information/images got the most interaction. If you can find those, then look at other metrics like new client calls, online forms filled out on your website, newsletter subscribers, and more, around the same time and try to find where the two intersected.
That was too complicated for me. I went the simple route which was to drop accounts one by one and see what, if anything sales wise, changed. You may be surprised to see that your numbers don’t change all that much. Or that you find with the additional time you’ve freed up you have more energy to put toward sales calls, scheduling coffee meetups with potential clients or developing skills to boost your business overall. If nothing else, you’ll at least see which social media platforms really are important to your business and continue with those.
Joy Choquette has been writing professionally from her home office in northwestern Vermont (which is currently covered in snow) for the past 11 years. She helps small business owners to cut through the clutter online by creating shareable stories and memorable messages that motivate customers to action. She specializes in the areas of business, environmental and health and wellness issues. When she's not writing she loves being in the woods, drinking hot beverages and reading...just not all at the same time.
Joy Choquette has been writing professionally from her home office in northwestern Vermont for the past 11 years. She helps small business owners to cut through the clutter online by creating shareable stories and memorable messages that motivate customers to action. She specializes in the areas of business, environmental and health and wellness issues.