Thank goodness January is behind us. The most depressing month of the year. When the misery of long dark days hits us, colds and flu proliferate, and everybody feels down.
Imbued with this prevailing sense of depression, I sat down at the end of last week, and start thinking about my first blog of 2016. Before my fingers touched the keyboard, I knew it was going to be a bit of a moan.
Everyone is stealing my niche.
Words Words Everywhere
The proliferation of the internet means the proliferation of words.
Content is everywhere. Copy is being churned out endlessly. And it’s not going to stop, despite what Gartner’s Marketing Hype Cycle says.
Businesses, left, right and centre, are blogging their socks off – in some cases, simply because marketers have told them to – but mainly because their customers are searching like mad for information.
So, the priority for businesses who want to engage these customers, is to satisfy their craving.
What it all means is that everyone has now become a writer. There are words spouting from every orifice of every business. Even the few, short words on social media have presence and punch.
In some respects, this is a good thing. More people writing means more information available to those who need it. And writing is very liberating personally, as well.
But (and here is my real moan) not everyone is doing it very well. And my main gripe about people not doing it well isn’t their bad grammar, poorly constructed sentences, or limited vocabulary (I was always better at English Lit than Lang, so have sympathy there). My main gripe is about what’s being said. It’s the foundation of the writing that’s getting me down, much more than the finesse of the finished article.
Here’s what I mean …
Manners cost us nothing
Whenever we sit down face to face with someone, there’s a set of norms that we adhere to. There are manners and politeness that need to be observed. One of these is that we listen to what the other person has to say about themselves.
If we meet someone in a business setting, this involves finding out what the person’s business does – what their niche is. We do this because it’s manners. But also because it’s in our benefit to listen first.
If our meeting is with a prospective client or customer, we have to find out how we can help them, which means engaging with them, understanding their requirements, their pain, their needs. All of that usually has to happen before we start offering them solutions, or showing how we can help to provide something that fulfils their needs.
What I see, a little bit too often, in content writing, is a complete disregard for these kinds of social norms. Too often, businesses don’t write for the customer, they write for themselves.
Customers have needs
Many of the websites I view daily are written very nicely. But too many of them are completely geared towards telling the customer why the business is great and why their products are great.
In effect, there is an overabundance of self-aggrandizement, with very little recognition of what customers actually need, what they are looking to solve, or how their pains can be addressed.
It’s not about you, it’s about them
Nobody wants to sit and listen to the someone talking about themselves. And it’s the same in writing. If you want to engage someone with your content, it needs to be about them, not you.
There are hundreds of blogs out there telling you how to optimise copy, what will convert and what won’t. All of these are very worthy. But, for me, the starting point for writers who want to engage prospective customers is to think first of all:
- Do I know who the person is I’m writing for? In other words, do I know my customers?
- Do I understand their needs?
- Do I understand how what I do addresses their needs?
If you can answer these three simple questions, you will begin to write to them, not at them.
Your readers are real people
The best sort of copy is simple and straight to the point. But, most importantly, it’s personal. It’s written for real people, who are looking for a solution that addresses their needs – your solution.
So, my plea for this year, to everyone who writes content or creates words for customers is, don’t fall into the trap of being rude, of talking at them about you. Write for them, and help them, and in doing so, help them to realise why they need you.
Moan over …