Good copy and content marketing: get the basics right

Content is how customers expect to be reached now, so whether you’re making it part of your strategy, or you haven’t managed to understand why you should bother, read on.

In this ‘post-marketing era’, forward-thinking businesses know that good copy builds trust and authority with customers in their given industry – but not all decision makers value it.

It’s the key to:

1) Customer retention
2) Building awareness
3) Drumming up new business

Yet writing generally remains a neglected area of business, let alone something to be utilised in strategic planning. I remember a time when writing blogs to attract customers was laughed at as an indulgent exercise. But if you look at your competition (the best of your competition) it’s plain to see why companies who aren’t thinking about this need to address it quickly.

Any company serious about customer retention and growth should be exercising thought leadership, showing that they are at the cutting edge, and contributing to their community. This sharing of information helps build relationships. But there are two common barriers:

The first: Many businesses are aware that they need good content to drive business. But they don’t have the time, which means it’s usually one of the most neglected areas.

The second: Too many decision makers think that content is the ‘fluffy’ side of corporate activity. To them, it’s not a concern of the core business, and so they view it as a lot of work and spend for little gain. Bottom line – if it’s not directly selling, why should they care?

Why bother?

What many business owners struggle with is the fact that traditional one-way marketing methods have taken a back seat. Traditional marketing requires no interaction from the consumer. But relationship building through content – blogs, videos and social media – is the long game to customer wins, because it allows customers to interact with your brand when you make an impression on them, and this solidifies a relationship. You become memorable to them.

Not to mention the fact that it’s an invaluable (and instant) form of customer feedback.

…it’s a fantastic opportunity to add depth, human voice and story-telling to your brand.

In a time when everybody consults the internet to solve their problems, written content has never been more important. It should be among the top priorities that a business should be concerned with, because your content is a major component of your brand, and directly affects how clients and potential clients feel about you.

Boiled down: Anyone who thinks content is overrated is doing it wrong. Effective copy creates relationships with clients and future customers. It can boost your sales, increase your discoverability and position your brand as a trusted leader.

And if you are a business who has woken up to content as a lead generating exercise, then this is exciting times ahead for you – it’s a fantastic opportunity to add depth, human voice and story-telling to your brand.

But before you move into content as a strategy, are you hitting the right marks on the content you already have?

The old ways are over – but many of the principles still stand

Ask yourself:

  1. Have you ever visited a website that is selling goods or services, and it’s full of terrible grammar, or spelling mistakes, and then gone on to buy from them?
  2. If you casually hit a website and can’t see straight away exactly what they do, do you go digging for it, or do you close the tab and carry on scrolling through Twitter?
  3. If you’ve ever seen a page on social media written badly, are you likely to ignore it as a spam account?

It’s a sad fact that businesses suffer for poorly written content. It may seem old fashioned, but it’s one thing about marketing that hasn’t really changed – well written words equate quality and trustworthiness. It qualifies your leads and reassures people that you’re legit. It’s a basic facet that can’t be ignored if you want to be competitive. Yet I frequently see websites and social media full of ill-thought out posts.

Don’t underestimate how savvy clients are – they’ll bounce without thinking if they see something that doesn’t look right. That might seem unfair, but browsers are making decisions every nanosecond as they click and they aren’t even aware that they’re doing it. You’ve got a few seconds to create a meaningful connection with them. Careless content will have them move on and forget you.

It’s knowledge sharing, and if you’ve got the answers to someone’s problem, you’re going to make friends.

Business owners need to put themselves in their customers’ shoes and understand this before a content strategy is even possible. Once you’ve covered the basics, you can grow your content as part of your marketing activities – but not before. Build the foundations of your brand first.

Moving on: Why well written content is an investment

Content isn’t an empty process of publishing and moving on. It lives on. If you come up with a smart strategy, then you will be producing material that continues to give value over time, will always be needed, read, and continue to do its job long past its publish date.

It’s knowledge sharing, and if you’ve got the answers to someone’s problem, you’re going to make friends.

Remember, when someone is researching a product or service, a lot of work goes in first. They don’t want to speak directly with a service provider until they are almost ready to make a purchase. They will have already educated themselves adequately by the time they decide to contact you. And this is why content is so vital – it lays the foundations down early and gives you the potential to catch the buyer in the research stage. This means you are able to position as your brand as worthy of their investment, tell your story, and help them to make the decision to buy before they even get on the phone to make a query.

Your customer facing copy is the voice of your business. In fact this is also true internally – your communications can massively affect how your staff view the company (they are also ‘buyers’).

The impact of copy

  • Copy affects revenue: it persuades people to buy from you (or not)!
  • It communicates value: it shows whether or not you’re worth client’s money.
  • It shows your brand values: it creates ‘meaningful’ connections. Buying is about identity.
  • It increases chances of being discovered: particularly prominent in SEO and social media engagement.
  • It can encourage word of mouth marketing (WOM): good content gets people talking about you.

You can’t be too busy or strapped for resources – otherwise, you’re creating a stream of unconscious copy. For instance, you are on social media because you know you need to be, but because no thought goes into what you are sharing – content is created without real aims.

Conscious and unconscious copy

Conscious copy, like social media, blogs or awareness reports, is content that is created with a purpose in mind. Some companies actively choose not to participate in this type of content creation, but whether decision makers realise it or not, copy is constantly being created to support the digital media that is on their digital channels.

When copy is created unconsciously, it means it’s created as a by-product, subsidiary labour, to get something pushed out, and is always without exception thrashed out as each task needs doing without looking at it holistically – it’s created without being aligned with the company’s aims in mind.

If copy is being created anyway, isn’t it better to plan and align it with company values, strategy and mission statements? Otherwise, at its best, it’s bland copy. At its worst, it’s preventing you from meeting your audiences, and wasting the money pumped into the products you are creating.

Words are the supporting content of your other media, and will make a difference to how it’s interacted with and by who. It should include the overarching aims of your brand. Where does this fit into who you are, what does it say about you and what you want the viewer to do?

This filters down from your mission statement, your values, and your aims. No piece of media sits in silo from another, and none of your messaging should either.

Copywriting as a marketing framework

You may be aware that video is on the rise – so isn’t that where your focus should be?

Yes. It’s proven to be a highly engaging tool that continues to grow, attracting fans and interaction that can win followers and buyers.

But who is writing the scripts to your video? The social media headlines and by-lines that contextualises them, calls to action, the quality of the subtitles? Good quality copy is a tool that pulls in viewers.

No media exists in a bubble alone, each has different functions, and quality copy is a vital part of that marketing mix that feeds into the overall content strategy. Just like a website isn’t just words – you need good graphic design and effects, photography, videos – it’s much more. Each faction depends on the other.

Quality copy, at its most basic function, is the framework that contextualises all of your client-facing activities. And that’s why it’s more important than many businesses acknowledge.

The content game is not easy. It’s particularly difficult for the traditional bricks and mortar businesses who find themselves in a new frontier but don’t have the in-house team or tools to meet their clients in the way they now expect to be met. But it is completely possible to achieve.

If you want more advice on content, like our facebook page. A new installment on copywriting will be out next month.

Written by Jade Zienkiewicz, Content and Services Director at Phlashweb.

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