The day has come and you can’t avoid it any longer. Extroversion and networking have gotten you as far as they can and now you venture where small businesses adventurers before you have only dreamed: to write content for your business. Think of us as your helpful Content Dungeon Masters as you take this journey with words. Here are our top tips for writing copy that can promote your business online, in print, by carrier pigeon, whatever.
First, we’re going to create a plan for our piece of content. And our first three steps are going to revolve around that. We’re going to set goals for the content, review our assets, and strategize what kind of content is going to be most beneficial. A product catalog that informs retailers and takes advantage of a fun brand voice to create a memorable customer interaction might look very different than a product catalog of service offerings designed to get a salesperson in the door with a client on a cold call. The backbone of the content game isn’t just writing the first thing that comes to mind, but being strategic in how to invest your time building a piece of content that will serve the business’ other goals. That starts with deciding on the right format or source for your content.
- Choose the right format for your content
A .pdf on the home page might be your immediate choice for providing your restaurant customers with the menu, but maybe there’s an integration with Google my Business that will allow your users to access it on a more intuitive platform.
If your customers are mostly on Instagram (we’ll talk more about knowing your audience shortly) then making a blog post isn’t going to be nearly as effective to get their attention as say a video with a voiceover.
Picking the right source and format for your content right out of the gate can save you a lot of time and heartache. Don’t believe me? Try needing to cut painstakingly-written copy that no longer works within the parameters of the project. That’s heartache. Being clear about your goals for the piece from the beginning will help you keep the time investment cost effective.
- Ask what people want
Now that you know what you’re delivering and how, this is where we add the secret sauce. You have an advantage that even the most thorough marketing company can’t bottle (except at Avant8. We found the recipe in a dungeon on an old vellum parchment some years ago.) That advantage is your industry knowledge.
Anyone who knows a trade is equipped with the raw material to produce content. Shape that content according to the holes in the market. What helpful info for your industry can’t be found online? Is it a tutorial that doesn’t exist or a reference table? What are you well-equipped to explain? Nobody gets views for free and if your content is going to compete with big dogs and their big bucks content writers, you have to give something away for free in your content in order to get views.
- Read similar content
To know what’s worth writing about, check out your competition. This stage can get out of control quickly. It’s a good idea to set a timer, pick some keywords related to your topic and just start Googling. Keep an especially close eye out for content produced by your competition and any inspiration brands you follow.
If you do this kind of work quickly and with some kind of regularity, it will come in handy over and over again. If you’re starting from zero and itching to get writing, it may take a little longer, but it will be worth the step! Writing ideas don’t get worse the longer they sit, but a single glance idea during some research can pay dividends.
- Know your audience
As an entrepreneur, you probably have heard the mantra “know your customer” a lot. Well, get ready to hear it again. It is just as important in content writing as it is in setting up your brand. It’s just focused on readers instead of customers.
Knowing who you are writing to will make all the difference in how you approach it. If most of your customers are parents, write copy about how your product or service will make their hectic lives easier. If your customers are youths, maybe try some copy that suggests that what you have to offer is the coolest, most ironic hipster trend out there (but be wary of going too meme-y here, kids don’t love that).
Catering your content to your customers is more likely to get the attention of that crowd. I know this likely seems obvious, but it is a good thing to remember. Plus, we’re about to talk about why explaining something that might seem obvious is a good idea.
- You know it all
One assumption you have to make when writing content is that your audience knows pretty much nothing about what you’re writing about. Some of them may know as much as you, but there are still plenty of others who have come to you to learn.
You never know what blog or post will be someone’s introduction to your world, to your company. This means that you may have to explain some of the basics often. Since this is your business that shouldn’t be too hard. Who knows more about what you do than you? In doing this, you will have established yourself as a fount of knowledge, hopefully encouraging people to come back to learn more.
However, be careful when approaching this. Tone (which we will talk about in more detail next) can sometimes be a tricky thing. While you definitely know a lot about your field, no one likes being talked down to. When going over the basics be friendly, helpful, but not condescending.
To avoid this, you could read your copy aloud. See how it sounds to you. Have someone else read it. If they say it makes them feel dumb, you may want to do some rewording. One trick is to imagine a customer you’ve never met before and imagine you’re delivering the information to them.
- Ask for help
You’re probably thinking, “Ask for help? Why should I do that, when I’m trying to write the content myself?” This may initially seem counterproductive, but you would be amazed at what a difference an outside eye can make. Afterall, by this step, you should have most, if not all, of your content written. Now it’s time to have someone else look at it.
Have another person look over your content and edit it before you do. There are a lot of mistakes that are easy to overlook when you’re the one writing. Someone else will probably be able to catch those errors. They can also catch messy sentences and help you reword them. They may even be able to help you find the tone you’re looking for.
If you are struggling with a particular section of your blog or what have you, there is probably someone in your life who can help you out with that. Even just one suggestion from someone else can be enough to get you moving again when you hit writer’s block.
When it comes down to it, no one writes alone. Any writer worth their spit should be willing to let someone else look at their writing and give them notes. Do you think that Hemmingway did all of that amazing writing on his own? Well, I don’t actually know if he did, but I am willing to bet he didn’t.
- Keep it Evergreen
Now that you’re putting all this effort into the content, make sure that it’s going to be useful to you for as LONG as possible. Try to keep the content devoid of timelines or information that might become invalid before the piece too quickly. Save yourself plenty of copies in multiple formats and save them in places you will have easy access.
- EDIT EDIT EDIT
Another tip that might seem like a no-brainer to you, but it is always a good reminder. Your content is what people will judge you on. If you’re reading a product description and it is riddled with typos, how likely are you to trust that company? Probably not very much. So, editing is always a good idea.
If you have followed the steps we’ve been laying out you have probably already had someone look over your copy. You might be thinking that you’re done with editing. Nope. Look it over yourself again. There is a good chance that something has been overlooked.
If your eyes are tired and you don’t want to read it again, try running it through a program like Grammarly. These programs aren’t always perfect (especially the free versions), but they are helpful sieve for catching all of the things that may have been missed.
This doesn’t mean you need to edit your content to death. In fact, overediting can take away the natural voice of your writing, making it lose its charm. We (the members of the Avant8 content team) tend to do about two to three rounds of editing. That tends to catch any mistakes and clear up any confusing language, without overediting. It’s the sweet spot.
- Share it
This is the most important part of the content writing process; sharing what you’ve written. This doesn’t just mean publish it on your site. It also means post it on your social media!
Any time you publish a new blog, make a post on twitter, instagram, facebook, and whatever other social media you use. This post should consist of a brief description of what the blog is about, a link to the blog, and a picture. You want these posts to be enticing. You want those clicks, so tell people why they should read your blog, but without giving away the meat of what you’ve written.
It is also a good idea to tag the post with relevant hashtags. This way it reaches, not just your followers, but also people who are just scrolling through social media. It is a great way to expand your audience and, hopefully, customer base.
Content writing takes some time and practice. It is one of those skills that you never truly master, because there is always something to learn about it. This process that we’ve laid out for you is just the starting point to becoming a content master. Your first few blog posts/articles may not be exactly how you want them, but that is why you keep doing it. It can only get better from there.