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3400 words. That’s a lot of words, isn’t it?
But that’s about what you write in content for your small business every year. That includes things like social media posts for one social platform, blog posts, website copy, emails, all that kind of stuff. 340,000 words a year.
And that goes to show why so many business owners are sometimes getting very overwhelmed by the amount they need to write, the amount of content they need to create. And if that’s you, you’re really not alone, because a lot of people feel like that. Because these words are important – they’re what connects you with your customer. They’re what your customer sees and judges you from and decides whether they’re going to trust you or buy from you.
These words can be utterly powerful when they’re used in the right way.
But so often we get so intimidated trying to write copy and content for our business, that we don’t necessarily perform at our best.
So I’ve decided to let you in on my Five secrets of great writing for your business, and make it fun and easy as well.
No one wants hard work. You want it to be fun. You want it to your personality to shine. And your personality is only going to shine if you’re enjoying yourself when you’re writing. So it’s my mission to help everybody to learn to write well and to enjoy it too. So I’m hoping that these five secrets will help you do that.
I like to call them five ‘sprinkles’, because that’s kind of what they are. It’s like if you have a cupcake and you throw sprinkles over it right at the end, it’s the magic touch at the end of the cake making that brings them to life. It adds color and crunch to the cake, just like these sprinkles will add color and crunch to your writing.
Shall we get started?
My first sprinkle is ‘Chattify’.
Now. Yeah, I know that’s not a word, but I’m allowed to do that sometimes for artistic license. So what does ‘chattify’ mean? Well, we need to be writing conversationally now – but that doesn’t really come naturally to most of us. We’re taught at school that business mode is ‘formal’ mode. So many people go into this kind of robot mode, where they start becoming very formal when they’re doing any kind of writing or talking to do with their business. And it becomes very long winded, not very personable, and very difficult for your audience to connect with.
They want to get to know the real you. The best way to do that is to be conversational. When I started out my career, I started out as a journalist back in 2005, and I obviously learned to write in a very chatty style because I had to write program cues and I had to write program scripts. And then when I moved to the corporate world eight years later, I thought, okay, I’m going to have to write more formally now. But it wasn’t true, because I found in the corporate world there was this whole shift going on from talking very formally to talking much more informally in a conversational tone.
So when I started in the corporate world, my skills were hugely in demand and I was asked to teach the rest of my team how to write because I knew the skill of writing conversationally. These days smart businesses who want to connect with their customers are writing in a chatty style. It helps you connect with your customers. And here’s the thing.
If customers feel that you’re chatting to them when they read your website or read your social media posts, they instantly feel like they already know you.
They feel like you’re already a trusted friend. And they’re going to feel they can trust you a little bit quicker than they would have done if you’d have written it more formally, it just helps build that relationship and really nurture that relationship. So learning to write conversationally is a really important skill, maybe the most important, one of the most important sprinkles that I can teach you because it’s such an easy way, once you get the hang of it, to add personality to your copy.
Sprinkle number two is ‘Cherry on top’.
Cherries. What on earth have they got to do with writing? Well, you’ll often see a big, fat, juicy cherry sitting on the top. And for me, that represents the juiciest, most interesting nugget of information that you’ve got in your social media post or email or whatever it is you’re writing. The thing is, we all know we’ve got shorter attention spans than ever before. We have so much on our plate. Life is so busy. Our customers are the same. And no matter how much they love your brand, they very often won’t read a whole social media post, a whole email because they are so busy. The kids are calling them, the doorbell is going with another parcel. Whatever it is, they get distracted.
You need to put the most interesting piece of your topic right at the top to get their attention.
PR people often call this a ‘Hook’. When I was a journalist, we called it the ‘Top line’, the top news line. And what we’d always do is find the most juiciest part of the story and put it right at the top of whatever we were writing, because we know that people weren’t going to read all the way down or they weren’t going to listen to the whole of the news. They want that instant hit. So it’s really important that you find the most interesting piece of your writing and your cherry and put it right at the top of your copy where you can see it.
We’re taught to write very chronologically and it’s kind of a logical thing to do. So, this is going to take a little bit of practice, but when you’re writing, try and think, what is the most interesting thing? What will get readers interested? What will my customers love to hear and put it at the top of your copy to entice them in.
Sprinkle number three is ‘Simplicity’.
When we’re talking to our customers, we need to talk to them very simply. That’s not dumbing down. It’s just talking to them in very simple language. And the reason is because we want them to understand everything we say. Obviously, we don’t want to make them work hard to read your email or your social media posts because they just won’t do it. Like they’re not getting paid to do it. Why should they? They’re doing it because they want to do it. If you make it hard for them, they’re not going to want to do it. So we need to make things really simple when we’re writing.
It’s so easy to fall into that trap of overcomplicating things, because when we’re a business, we want our customers to be impressed by us. We want them to think, “Wow, that person knows what they’re talking about”. So we might start talking very long words – big, impressive words. Use lots of industry jargon. All that will do is either -l turn them off so they’ll go elsewhere, or worst, it might make them feel small. If they don’t understand what you’re talking about, they’re just going to feel really stupid. And you really don’t want to make your customers feel stupid because they’re definitely not going to buy from you if you make them feel rubbish about themselves. The best way to avoid it is just to keep everything simple.
Sprinkle number four is ‘Stories’.
Telling your stories really is the most effective way to powerfully connect with your potential customers and clients. But this is where people panic because they say, “Oh, I don’t have any stories. I don’t have a story. When I was writing a jewellery blog, I used to go to big craft fairs and meet jewellers. And I said to them, “I love your work. I want to tell your story on my blog.” And they’d all say to me, “I don’t have a story.” But there were some amazing stories!
Everyone had a really good story to tell about following their passion and following their dreams into the world of jewellery.
But they didn’t see it. And the reason they didn’t see it is because it’s normal to them. For them, it’s everyday life. We don’t see our own stories, but they’re so important because they’re what connects us to people. The key is to think of the things your customers need to believe before they’ll buy from you. Those are called key messages. Find your key messages and then find stories to back them up, because the stories are what will prove your key messages and make them memorable.
An example of this is – I used to hate writing. When the teacher told me to write in class, I just wouldn’t know what to do. And although I loved reading, I hated writing. When I became a journalist, I had to write. I had to write a lot. So I created a process for myself (which you can learn on my Be Copy Confident Course here) and it was fine. And over time, I started to find I enjoyed the process of writing. So my key message would be, ‘Everyone can learn to write well, if they just learn some simple techniques.’
That goes to show the power of stories. Stories are memorable in a way that facts aren’t. Stories definitely sell and they help build trust with your audience. And they’re memorable.
The final sprinkle is ‘Your Voice’.
You may have heard the phrase ‘tone of voice’. We all have different tones of voice when we speak, and I’m not just talking about our speaking voices, but we have them in our writing voices too. We have a style that’s specific to us, and it might be that you’re not really tapping into your distinctive style enough. This is so important – as it’s what helps us stand out and connect with our dream customers in a busy marketplace.
When you’re at school, you’re taught to go into a very robotic mode, and it might be that we’re just kind of going through the motions that we’re writing. Our personality isn’t coming out, but we need that personality to come out and we need people to hear our voice, if we want to connect with them.
If you don’t know what your tone of voice is, then where do you even start? A really good way of finding your tone of voice is to find inspiration around you.
I’m not just talking about books and magazines, although they’re great. But look everywhere for the words around you, because there are some really great words on packaging. Pie boxes. Shampoo bottles. There are brands that even make the ingredients sound fun!
Everyone’s preferred tone of voice will be slightly different. But to me, a quirky, fun tone of voice really appeals. So when I see great writing on a cereal box (or wherever), it really inspires me.
The other thing you can do is think of a word that you think might reflect your tone of voice and use that as a bit of a guide. Then all you need to do is practice when you’re writing and just be conscious of bringing your personality to it, making sure it fits with your brand.
Don’t overthink it too much, but just practise talking in your own voice and being brave to find your own voice. You’ve got to be brave enough to go for it. It’s a lot easier to go into that robotic, formal mode. But you’ve got to be brave to put yourself out there. If you do, your customers will absolutely love it!
There you go – my five sprinkles for great writing – I hope you found them really useful. I encourage you to go away and use them every time you write a social media post or email post.
And to make it super easy for you – I’ve even created a guide with them in – you can find it here – use it as an easy checklist that you can tick off every time you write something for your business!