Why you doesn’t mean me: The importance of writing for your customer and not yourself
Creating engaging, informative copy is essential if you want to keep your audience interested, and ultimately guide them down the sales funnel with your content. However, in the process of sticking to a finely-crafted marketing plan, with specific messages and objectives to deliver, it can be all too easy to make a critical copywriting mistake and start writing for yourself.
For your content to be interesting and useful, it needs to be relevant to your audience. This means predicting and answering their questions in a way that also conveys your overarching marketing message. Don’t let your message overshadow the need for meaningful content — a needy, salesy tone will ultimately disengage your brand from the needs of the reader. Here’s how to do better with your branded copy.
Be Persuasive, Not Commanding
Informative copy is naturally persuasive, as it offers intrinsic value to the reader. By providing useful, well-structured written content, you demonstrate that you are in touch with your audience’s needs, and keen to answer their questions.
This is an effective means of increasing familiarity with your content, and by extension your brand, building trust and boosting the chance of future conversions. Quality written content is, in effect, an invitation to explore further, and see what else your business has to offer.
In contrast, copy that simply tells customers what you want them to know lacks that same sense of reciprocal connection. So even if your writing is well-written enough to keep people reading, it will be much harder to engage with your audience, and your writing runs the risk of feeling imperious, or even condescending.
MailChimp have a very clear brand — they speak to their audience in language that’s crisp and direct, but never OTT. They steer clear of too much jargon and make automation seem like something that’s a no-brainer.
Find Common Ground
Writing for your customers does not mean discarding your own interests. Rather, you should embrace opportunities to write targeted copy about subjects that you are both passionate about. This enables you to form powerful connections with readers who share those same interests.
Similarly, selecting highly specific audiences for your copy allows you to focus in on particular needs or concerns and address them directly. This emotionally-charged, highly personal approach to content writing allows readers to feel that you understand their situation, and can be trusted to provide the right kind of product or service for their needs.
HubSpot does a great job of reaching out to a relevant target audience on Facebook, and getting them to engage with their content. A fun quiz can be a great way to gamify your content marketing — you could create a whole series of them.
Not everything you write will concern something you have strong feelings about. However, by thinking about the questions someone with strong feelings would ask, you can create more emotive, empathetic content that tackles the fundamental issues at the heart of any given topic. It could be the secret to setting your inbound content alight.
Make It About Them
So many businesses talk about their customer-centered approach, yet continue to produce copy that talks about themselves, not their readers. For example, you could tell your audience “We put our customers first”, or greet them with the similar, but more engaging “You come first”.
Whenever you complete a paragraph, scan back through it for any instances where you or your company is the subject. Consider whether you can restructure the sentence to focus on the customer instead.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you can never talk about yourself. In fact, part of successful engagement can be relating personal anecdotes in relation to the topic in question. However, even here the aim is to inform and relate to the reader, not big up the brand.
Shopify’s online store page does a great job of interrogating the user directly. It’s all about what “you need”, and emphasizing the ease and speed of their ecommerce tool. The tone of voice is personable, but not too ‘edgy’ so as not to alienate less digitally agile customers.
Another advantage of writing to address the reader’s questions is that it naturally creates a more conversational style. Of course, it is possible to take things too far in the other direction, so be careful not to sacrifice the readability of your copy for the sake of forcing a customer-centric perspective.
Instead, when you or your business needs to be the subject of a sentence, make your customer or their needs the object. Phrases like “We promise… for you” and “Our products can… for you” are helpful for keeping your copy varied and natural, without falling too far back into a business-centric style.
Consider What Your Reader Wants To Know
It is particularly easy to fall foul of this bad habit when writing ecommerce copy. After all, what you want to say to the customer is “Buy this awesome product.” However, your audience already knows you want to sell the product. What they want to learn from your copy is why they should want this particular product, what it can offer them, and how it outperforms similar items. They also want to know more about where the product has come from, its journey, and how it will impact the world around it.
You don’t need to pack the page with details expounding the virtues of every little item you stock. However, a brief, clear description, or a few informative bullet points, can do a lot more to sell a product than an inflated sales piece telling readers that their life is incomplete without this item. You can engage interested customers with a story or punchy narrative — but don’t overdo your sales pitch.
A simple rule to follow when writing ecommerce copy is that your focus should not be on what you offer, but instead on what the customer will receive. This creates a better value proposition for the reader, and makes them the focus of your copy.
Cards Against Humanity are known for their quirky brand voice. On their product page, they don’t mess about — just a few lines of clear copy and a funny little on-brand joke. It’s a great example of product copy that’s direct, informative, and delivers for the brand.
Reread and Review
Proofreading is always important, so you should already be reviewing your content. When you do so, be sure to think about whether you would feel comfortable speaking to a customer in the way you have written your copy.
Naturally, your writing will vary from your day-to-day conversational style, but there is a big difference between conversational writing and wooden content that would feel unnatural off-page. Remember, when you write for customers, you are speaking to them, albeit indirectly. Think about how you want to come across, and what sort of personality is being conveyed by your writing.
It seems fairly straightforward when taken at face value, but learning to write for your customers, rather than for yourself, takes time and practice. It may help to draft a list of points you want to cover in your content, alongside a list of questions that your audience will want answers to.
This will give you a framework upon which to build your content, allowing you to meet the expectations of your readership, while still accomplishing your initial objective. Remember, you do not need to discard your message; simply determine how you can present it in a way that informs, engages, inspires, and ultimately, converts.
Image Credit: Engin_Akyurt via Pixabay
Victoria Greene works as a writer and branding consultant, and she runs a blog called Victoria Ecommerce. She loves to write product copy and brand stories, as well get to the heart of what makes customers truly tick.
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