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Writing Better Content

Fri, Feb 18th 2011 10:25 am

"Your company's story, product descriptions, history, personality -- these are the things that go to battle for you every day. Your words are your frontline. Are they strong enough?"

This question was posed by Jason Fried, co-founder of 37signals, in a recent article regarding the generally underwhelming state of business writing and website copy that exists in today's marketplace.

What about your frontline? Take a minute and think about your current website. If you had to answer Fried's question today, what would your response be? Are your words going to battle for you, defending your brand, or are they losing ground to the competition? Chances are, unless you've really taken the time (or already hired the Content Services team at 360) to develop outstanding marketing copy, the content of your website is probably a little weak and exhausted.

However, strengthening and improving the quality of your website copy is easier than you probably think and the following pointers will help get you started:

Determine your Audience

Yes, the internet has the ability to reach millions of people across the world, but have you thought about exactly who it is that you're trying to connect with? Just as with any other form of marketing, you need to decide who your target audience is, so that you may tailor your communication style to appeal that crowd.

"One of my favorite phrases in the business world is full-service solutions provider," Fried noted.  "A quick search on Google finds at least 47,000 companies using that one. That's full-service generic."

Fried cites Woot as a company that does an excellent job of targeting (and filtering) it's audience through its words.

"With just a few sentences, Woot instantly set itself apart from the liquidation crowd," Fried said.

Have a Point of View

A company doesn't have to be outlandish or hip to engage its audience, it just needs to care enough to have its own voice and not be afraid to use it. Assuming that you've already determined your desired audience and the tone in which you're communicating your message, all that's left is to articulate that message. This is your chance to tell your story - be sure to tell it in your own words, not the same words as everyone else.

Make an Impression

The words that you choose to tell your story with can make you sound boring, or they can make you interesting - so choose to be interesting. Buzzwords, jargon, and other forms of "filler" can immediately dilute the power of your message and undermine the credibility that you're trying to establish.

"The quality of the writing on sites like Woot's, Saddleback Leather's, and Polyface's gives me the chills," Fried said.  "It's not how they look; it's how they read. These are businesses that care about what they say and how they say it. They don't write to fill up space on a page. They write to fill up your head."

When it comes to your website, focus on the benefits of your product or service, and how they will benefit the potential customer. Keep in mind, "a snappy design might catch their attention, but it's the words that make the real connection."