The Do’s & Don’ts of Marketing Writing
Story by: Dee Allomong
I never imagined that someday I would write website copy, blog posts, direct mail pieces, marketing emails, customer service emails, training guides, product documentation, and occasionally a little poetry. I did not major in English. I did not work for the school newspaper. I did not spend hours journaling. In fact, I avoided writing as much as possible.
Why am I telling you this? Because, if I can write all of these things (and have fun doing it!), you can too. And I’d like to help you. Here are a few Dos and Don’ts I’ve learned along my path to becoming a marketing writer. They come from a mixture of experience, research, and marketing training.
DO your research. DON’T assume you know everything about your “target audience” already.
I know, I know. This sounds like the beginning of one of those dreadful aforementioned research papers. But this kind of research is more like psychological exploration. Your goal is to find out what your clients really think about and want when it comes to property management. It does not require a trip to the library or spending hours with Google. It simply involves having conversations; collecting survey responses; reading past emails and letters; and sifting through online reviews.
This research time will yield:
- Perspective about what you actually do for clients – understanding their “why” will help you form solid benefit statements
- A collection of words and emotions that you can weave into your marketing copy
- A list of common objections that you can address proactively
- A realistic picture of your company “brand” (how others perceive you) to keep your writing balanced
DO focus on simplicity. DON’T weave a tangled tale with your words.
Antoine de Saint Exupery, a well-known author, once said,
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add,
but when there is nothing left to take away.
Writing can often take on a life of its own. Part of that has to do with the way we were trained to write. Our instructors generally told us what to write about and how long a composition must be. We learned to fake and fluff our writing and use creative redundancies to meet requirements. We wanted to impress our instructors so we used the biggest, most impressive words possible. Sound familiar?
However, when you are writing marketing materials, simplicity is crucial. You are combating short attention spans, limited vocabulary, frequent interruptions, multitasking, eye fatigue, and more. It’s critical that your writing be easy to read.
Are you breathing a sigh of relief? You should; the job of writing just got a whole lot easier.
Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:
- Brainstorm words you might use in your marketing piece, then chose the simplest, most relevant ones to convey specific thoughts. Say as much as possible, with the fewest words required. Use easy (but descriptive) words, short sentences, and short paragraphs.
- Use natural language – don’t “talk” like an infomercial or a college professor. Write conversationally, as if you are talking with one person face-to-face. You can use thesaurus.com to choose words, but your readers shouldn’t need to use dictionary.com to figure out what they mean.
- Be straight forward, not overly clever. You are not writing a classic novel that requires creative allusions, allegories, flowery comparisons, or parables. Your prospective readers don’t want to work hard to figure out what you really mean. Just say what you need to say.
- If you get writer’s block, record yourself having real or role-played conversations, then use the recording as a basis for writing your marketing copy.
(DO) Be purposeful. DON’T create “all-inclusive” marketing content.
There are three basic purposes for marketing copy: to educate, to build relationship, and to sell. It is pretty impossible to create an “all-in-one” marketing piece that does a good job of addressing all three goals. You want each marketing piece to lead the reader straight to a desired action: sign up for an email list, watch a video, contact us for a free consultation, “buy” now…
Here are some ways you can become more purposeful:
- Define your intended “audience” before writing.
- Map an ideal chain of events that lead that person from point “A” (where they first find out about you) to point “Z” (where they are a satisfied client).
- Now focus on getting that person to take one step in that journey with this marketing piece. What action do you want them to take in response to it?
- Use headlines, sub-headers, and subject lines to draw your reader into the conversation. They should be capture attention, be clear, and connect with the reader emotionally.
- Use compelling action words in your copy because you want the reader to DO something. Then make it easy for them to do it (use conveniently placed links, buttons, phone numbers, forms).
DO write well. DON’T be pedantic.
Don’t feel bad if you had to look up the word pedantic, I used it to make a point. Good basic writing skills (grammar, punctuation, and spelling) are important. However, you don’t want your writing to be stiff. Sometimes it’s OK to Break. The. Rules. Even professional writers do. Bending rules (when done sparingly) can help you emphasize a specific point or draw attention to a particular word, phrase, or idea.
Proofread your writing more than once. Read it aloud. Have someone else proofread it. Evaluate what you’ve written to make sure it meets your stated goal. You don’t want to appear uneducated, you just want to take creative license every now and then.
DO your research. DON’T be afraid to mimic others.
We’ve come full circle. Research is a key part of writing effectively. In addition to researching the psychology of your reader, you should look for strong marketing copy examples. Collect website URLs, direct mail pieces, flyers, brochures, etc. that appeal to you. This will make it easier when you are ready to create your own marketing piece. I’m not suggesting you plagiarize (a big NO NO), I am simply suggesting you compile a storehouse of marketing creativity to inspire you and prime the pump for your own imagination.
No one is as passionate about your company as you are; your personality and enthusiasm cannot be replicated. That’s why I encourage you to write your own marketing copy when possible. Schedule a couple of hours during a slow time of your week to work through the process I’ve suggested above. When you are done writing, if needed, ask someone else to help you “clean up” and “wordsmith” the content to make it even better.