Have you ever tried to make sense of the instructions for something you’ve bought? You know — those instructions. The ones that appear to have been translated through half a dozen languages by a machine that doesn’t really understand how language works.
You were probably furious about it at the time. With a bit of distance, though, maybe you just find it funny now.
Imagine if that were how one of your target customers felt when trying to make sense of what you offer. Would they persist as long as you did with the instructions? No way — because they’d have the option of trying someone else whose offering is clear and compelling.
Here are three top tips to make sure you’re not the one they move on from.
1. Make Sure You Know What You’re Aiming For
It’s easy to lose your way if you don’t know in advance what your aims are in writing the piece, whether it’s a blog, a social media post or your website content. Before you start to write, you need to make sure you can answer several questions:
- What’s the subject? You may or may not know the title in advance, but you should certainly know what the piece is about.
- Who are you writing for? Ideally, imagine one ideal reader and write to that person.
- What do you want them to do when they’ve finished reading? Contact you? Sign up for a mailing list? Follow you on social media?
- How long is the piece going to be? If you start writing without an approximate word count in mind, the pacing will be all over the place.
2. You’re Talking to People — So Write Like It
If you’re marketing your business, it’s almost certain your ideal reader will be an ordinary person who knows very little about what you’re telling them. They might be a business owner, if you’re B2B — but business owners are “ordinary people” when they’re out of their area of expertise.
Filling your writing with technical gobbledygook and acronyms is the easiest way to lose people. If you need to use a technical term, explain it, unless it’s something you could expect your typical target reader to be familiar with. If you’re writing for business owners, for instance, you can assume they know what HMRC means.
Don’t try to be overformal, either. I’m not suggesting you write in street slang (unless that’s appropriate for your audience, of course) but write similarly to how you’d talk, such as using contractions — don’t rather than do not, etc. Then just turn it up one notch.
3. Try It Out on Someone First
You know what you mean — at least, I hope you do. But that makes it harder to work out whether what you’re saying actually succeeds in getting your meaning over. Or any meaning, for that matter.
That’s just one of many reasons to get another pair of eyes on whatever you’ve written. Or another pair of ears, of course, if it’s something to be heard, rather than read. It’s always useful for someone to check it out, but if possible try to have a guinea pig who’s as close as possible to that target reader you identified. If it makes sense to them, it probably will to your actual audience.
Following these three simple tips will help avoid producing something like an incomprehensible instruction booklet — but drop me a line if you need more help.