Content is queen… this we all know.
There is a vast chasm between content for content’s sake, and GOOD content that draws in your visitor, offers value, and eventually converts them to a customer.
Everyone is looking for information to help them make decisions about things, so if you’re in business, you need to provide your prospects with content.
Whether you write the content yourself or outsource it, here are a few things you should know before you begin that will help you capture the ‘picky reader.’
STEP 1: Start with Your Audience
Before I sit down to write content for a client, my first question isn’t about their product or service at all…it’s “Who is the audience?” This can be a bit challenging, because most people love to talk about their business, but few really have fleshed out their ideal reader. It takes a lot more thought to answer questions about your product from the customer’s standpoint, such as “What problems will this solve for me?”
It doesn’t matter what you’re writing…website content, a sales letter, brochure or a lead generating white paper…your audience doesn’t care that you’ve been in business for 50 years, or that you’ve won a zillion awards for product excellence. They want to know how you can help them make a decision or solve a problem RIGHT NOW, or they’ll move on.
STEP 2: Make Your Headlines Count
From news sound-bytes to social media, our attention spans have shortened considerably over the past decade, which is why headlines are extremely important. You only have a few seconds to capture attention, so don’t waste it with clichés or catchy phrases.
What’s the job of your headline? To get them to read the first paragraph!
If you capture the reader long enough for him to read your title and lead paragraph, you’ve got him hooked. Here again, knowing your audience and concentrating on his problems will help you focus on this objective. Years ago I learned a great method for creating headlines and leads that resonate with readers, using the “4 U’s.”
- URGENCY: Give the prospect a reason to desire the benefit of the product/service sooner rather than later
- UNIQUENESS: How is this different from other information out there?
- ULTRA-SPECIFICITY: Be as precise as possible, stating facts and figures
- USEFULNESS: Promise the prospect something that has value for him
For the best chance of getting (and keeping) your audience’s attention, you should have at least 3 of these 4 “U’s” in your title and lead paragraph. This method was taught by Michael Masterson at the American Artists and Writers Institute, and I keep it posted near my computer as a reminder.
STEP 3: Keep it Short & Simple (KISS)
While it’s a proven fact that a reader who is engaged will read longer copy, you’ll have more success if you make your content super-easy to absorb. Rather than creating content your audience must wade through, use elements that make it easy for the “skim-reader” to pick up your salient points, such as subheads, graphic elements, short paragraphs and bulleted lists.
For longer pieces such as white papers or e-books, make good use of tables of content and executive summaries as well to help readers “get the gist.” For videos, make sure your written description gives the reader enough information at a glance to decide it’s worth viewing.
Keeping your content as short and easy to absorb as possible goes a long way with time-challenged readers. If your audience thinks a document or a video looks like “work,” chances are they’ll abandon it.
More Ideas for Capturing Picky Readers?
These are just a few ideas for keeping your content engaging–let’s add to the list! Feel free to leave a comment or ask a question and keep the “buzz” going.