Bored, bored, bored …
Bored of reading it – bored of being asked to write it.
Bored of endless lines of boring content.
Page after page of stuff. Making my brain hurt.
Inspire me … please?
The question for anyone who has to produce words for a living is, how on earth do you get inspired to write something different about the same things?
It’s hard enough to get over writer’s block, let alone endlessly repeating the same, tired prose about the same products and services – their amazing features, how shiny they are, and how little they cost compared to their competitors etc. etc. etc.
We’re writing for the wrong people
The problem, all too often, is the brief. Those of us who write for businesses shouldn’t be writing for product managers. But that’s what we end up doing.
And in many ways, it’s understandable. People in businesses are usually quite passionate about what they do. In SME’s this is more so. If you’ve put your life-blood, sweat and tears into developing a proposition, you become obsessed with it.
You think about it daily …
Dream about it at night …
It’s features are your heaven, it’s complexity, your joy.
So, it’s natural to want to talk about it … endlessly …
The problem is, product don’t sell themselves. Context is critical. It’s what a product does for people that’s interesting.
And that’s when it becomes interesting to write about.
Writing for human-doings
There is a very famous maxim that we are human beings, not human doings. It’s about not pigeon holing people by what they do. And it’s all very well and good, and it sounds nice and sound-bitey, but human doings are far more interesting than humans simply being.
It’s what people do, their actions and interactions, that are of interest, rather than the fact that they just exist.
In the same way, how people use a product or service is far more interesting to a new or potential customer than the bare facts about the product or service itself.
For those of us in the words business, this is when writing becomes fun, and when the possibilities become exciting.
Still boring us to death
The question is, if we know this, why, why, why is there still so much of the boring stuff around?
We know that customers search online for answers and information. This is not a new discovery. It’s been the case for the last fiteen years.
But why aren’t we taking note?
Why aren’t we writing content that’s actually valuable to the customer, instead of content that makes the product manager feel good?
From Marketing Collateral to Valuable Content
Those people who are taking note and doing something about it, are the ones who are now the marketing leaders.
Two people who coined the phrase and literally wrote the book on Valuable Content, Sonja Jefferson and Sharon Tanton, understood the principle and applied it years ago.
Their approach is to encourage businesses to think “customer first”, not “product first”. And they demonstrate this in their content by being valuable and useful in everything they write. They even have a Valuable Content Award which goes to the organisation that provides the best customer-focussed information online.
For anyone who writes for businesses, their example is a most valuable piece of content in itself.
Follow your NOSE
There is a definite advantage to be had from engaging customers by being useful, valuable and interesting.
If we know who it is we are writing for, what their problems and needs are, we can start to use our imaginations to a far greater extent.
When I first moved from writing contemplative articles and novels into writing for businesses, I was quite literally given some hard-nosed advice: “Every piece you write should follow your NOSE“. That is:
Needs first, means understanding what the customer is looking for, what problems and questions do they have.
Outcomes is also customer focussed – what do they want to get out of an engagement with you?
Think about that before you start thinking about the solutions you offer, and the evidence that backs this up.
Focusing on your NOSE before we begin to write means focussing on our customers, not ourselves.
It means answering their questions, not our own, and giving them valuable answers – rather than boring them and ourselves to death.