Originally published at hipb2b.com on December 14, 2017. Authored by Gerry Nason (loyal HIP staffer who has since passed) and updated in February 2020.
There isn’t nearly as much content directed at small business (SMB) content writers out there. It is high time we reach out to this underserved segment.
According to Microsoft’s US Small & Midsized Business Blog, 96% of the executives surveyed agreed that the quality and structure of their marketing content is essential to achieving their growth goals.
With that statistic in mind, we have put together this information to assist you in improving the quality and structure of your marketing content as a small business writer or owner. After all, business is all about reaching those growth goals. Isn’t it?
Know Your Goal
What are you hoping your content will accomplish? Is the purpose of your piece generating high-quality leads, brand development, or building your reputation as a thought leader? Whatever you choose, it’s your focus and should be in the front part of your mind as you plan and create.
Disconnect Before Creating
Try to schedule your writing duties to a time when you have peace and quiet or, at least, when you’ll have minimal interruptions. Distraction is my personal nemesis, so I disconnect from social media, turn the cell phone off, and do whatever else I can to eliminate threats to my focus.
Temper Your Work with Popular Trends
Think about the TV shows, movies, etc that rule pop culture. Are there any similarities or situations that could be used as an analogy in your writing? Draw inspiration and similarities. Obviously, this doesn’t have to be limited to popular TV shows. The possibilities are endless – current events, sci-fi, music, movies, sports, even a personal experience.
Never Edit as You Write
No matter how tempted you are re-read your work and delete it – be strong and wait! You’ll save time and your work will be more cohesive. Conducting your editing after the first draft has been completed will allow you to see the context and flow of the piece. It will also make it that much easier to catch spelling and grammatical errors.
Keep Content Clear
The majority of content, regardless of how it is delivered, is scanned. So, you need to keep your sentences short and easy to understand. Make your piece scannable by using creative spacing. White space in between your thoughts makes it easier to visually scan it.
Put Your Soul Into It
Put yourself into your content. Write like the topic means something to you. Too many people forget their primary objective. Express an opinion, personalize it by writing from the heart. Put yourself into your work. You can do this while you adhere to a brand voice by following your brand’s style guidelines.
First impressions are lasting ones. We try so hard in this business to win new readers, so you must proofread your work several times before publishing it. You certainly want to leave an impression on your new readers, but you don’t want it to be a bad one. Keep these things in mind on the pathway to posting:
- Even though you are chomping at the bit, as I said above, wait until you finish the first draft before you start editing and deleting. On your first edit, you can make a cohesive story out of what’s on the paper.
- Look for ways you can improve the piece by making it clearer, using soft humor to your advantage, spicing up how the content is presented, or use a thesaurus to find more interesting (but still correct) words.
- Read the final piece over twice. If you can’t find anything else to change, you are ready for the digital age to give you a big lift. Did you know there’s a tool to make your work forever be grammatically correct? (And best of all, there’s a free version!) Sound too good to be true? Grammarly is a free online editing tool where you can paste your work into it, and it will automatically highlight mistakes and explain why it was wrong so you can learn from the experience. There is also a spectacular, paid version.
- Once you’ve run your content through Grammarly, you may also want to put it through the Hemingway Editor. It evaluates your work and points out lengthy/complex sentences, suggests shorter words, highlights adverbs, weak phrases, and passive voice. Each proposed change is highlighted in different colors. These two tools can make anyone a better writer instantly.
- If possible, have someone else reread your work. No one can edit themselves as well as someone else can. It’s more difficult to see errors and confusing phrasing when you are the one who created them. If you can’t get a second pair of eyes, try putting down your work for a few hours, then returning to it with a fresh set of eyes.
You are now ready to publish. Best of luck to you, my fellow copywriters.
Famous Last Words
The golden rule for every business man is this: put yourself in your customer’s place. – Orison Swett Marden