How often do you find that your marketing fails to deliver the results you expected? Assuming your product and pricing are fine, perhaps the answer lies in your content.
Websites, blogs, direct marketing letters and brochures stand or fall on the effectiveness of their content. Applying a few simple guidelines can make a massive difference. So, before you trash everything you have and hire a new marketing agency or web designer, have a look at what you have already published with the following 5 points in mind.
1. Grab attention with a strong headline.
Imagine yourself in a busy restaurant wanting another bread roll, what do you do? Just announce the fact into the air? If you really want a roll you will probably attract the waiter’s attention with a gesture and say ‘excuse me’. That’s all your headline needs to do – attract attention and get your target reader to read the first line of your content.
If you’re trying to sell something, then you want to attract the attention of potential buyers – only the people with an interest in what you sell. The headline must, therefore, use words that appeal to that audience. Consider this: the great advertising copywriters spend hours creating a single headline. More often than not they will create 2 or 3 versions and test which one works best with the target audience. I’m not suggesting you do this with your blog but it shows the importance of getting the headline right. For direct mail marketing the headline will probably take as much time to write as the rest of the copy.
If you want to get really creative about this, look at the tabloids or magazines like Hello, OK or Cosmopolitan. Be honest – although we never read these things ourselves, you can’t help but be intrigued when you catch the headlines when queuing at the supermarket. Other variations on the heading for this post could have been: ‘5 secrets your marketer won’t tell you'; Try the High Five Approach to Killer Content; or Revealed – The Five Things Every Copywriter Should Know. Questions can work well – but at all costs avoid any question where the reader could simply answer ‘No’. ‘ List’ headings and ‘How to’ are the staple approaches and there’s nothing wrong with using things that have been shown to work.
2. Aim for Empathy in the Intro
OK you’ve got my attention with the headline, why should I read on? If I don’t find something in the first couple of lines that relates to me, or a problem that I need to be solved, I’m probably not going to read any more. Intro paragraphs can be the hardest bits to write yet often they appear like a throwaway – something to introduce the ‘important’ stuff that comes later. Adopt the throwaway approach only if you’re happy to throw away your audience at the same time. Again, think about the words you use – will they appeal to your target and can you use simpler, shorter alternatives?
3. Unleash the Power of the Sub-heading
We love to think that readers will be so spell-bound with our prose that they will read and treasure every word. Forget it! After reading as much of your intro as they need to confirm that it’s worth continuing, your readers’ eyes are going to be up and down the page like a hyperactive kangaroo. Sub-headings break up the content and confirm that there is going to be other interesting stuff to come. Make it easy for people to find the things that are going to be most useful for them. Oh, and try to make them interesting or entertaining; I could just have written ‘Use Sub-headings’ for this section – but didn’t.
4. Remember – It’s All About Your Reader
Any bit of marketing or advertising copy that didn’t start out with an image in the mind of the copywriter of who they were writing for, is bound to fail. If your content is all about you and doesn’t consider what your reader will be concerned about or interested in… well – would you bother to read it? Never underestimate the importance of customer research and split-testing if you want to get this bit right.
5. Know What It’s For
What do you want people to do as a result of reading your content? If you’re not sure, don’t expect them to know. Sometimes content doesn’t need a response – it’s there to provide information, build relationships or reinforce credibility. But often you are developing content to persuade people to buy something or contact you. Make sure you know what you expect and that there is a clear and easily found call to action.
Before you launch your new web content of marketing literature, try the applying these five simple principles. If you haven’t thought about your content in this way before it should make a big difference.
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