By: Lisa Slagle
I've noticed a common theme with small business owners. They care immensely about their companies. They LOVE their companies. I do, too, and I see what makes them special and unique and exciting. But a lot of small business owners struggle at writing content that reflects who they are as a company and why they do what they do. They want punchy or cute copy, but they struggle with writing content that is authentic to their voice while also motivating their customers.
Before you sit down to write any content, do the following two things:
1. KNOW YOUR "WHY."
I talk about this a lot. If you run a business, you have to know WHY you bother. Running a business is hard, and it takes a lot of work. My friends accuse me of being a workaholic sometimes, but I'm not. I'm just building, growing, and putting a lot of thought and love into my business and the businesses of my clients, and it's a ton of work. I do it because I know my WHY. I know that it's hard to start a business. There's not a handbook with all the answers. There's no easy way to make a logo. You weren't born knowing the difference between a PDF and a JPEG and a PNG. And what the hell is a cascading style sheet? Does your website have one of those? Does it need one? Does Google hate it if it doesn't? I know what it is like to start a business from scratch and feel overwhelmed and stoked and horrified all at once. My personal WHY-- the reason I stay up late, work long hours, and have learned way too much about thread count vs. repair techniques this week is because I find value in making your life easier. I like growing brands. I like explaining nerdstuff. I like taking a company that is just an idea and helping you grow it into a little graphic design baby, then shove it out into the world to evolve into a strong, confident, brand.
Or something weird like that. Sometimes you have to get weird. But the point is, I have spent a LOT of time analyzing and understanding WHY I do what I do.
Why do you make snowboards in a shop on your property in small town Montana? Why do you help people relax with flotation therapy? Why do you photograph weddings, that one special day that is loaded with stress and importance? Why do you sling coffee, buy footwear for a large outdoor store, defend people in a courtroom or repair broken gear?
Why? What are you doing, and why are you doing it? What's your reason? What is your why?
There's no right answer. Just your answer.
Ask yourself this before you try to write anything.
Think about it, and get this answer dialed.
Then move on to question numero dos:
2. KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER'S "WHY."
This is tricky. This requires removing yourself from your business, taking away that emotional attachment we just talked about, and removing your own experiences from your company. Pretend you are your customer. Pick someone really specific and real, maybe a person you enjoy working with. Imagine your customer has clicked on your website.
1. Why are they there? Do they need help? Do they want to buy something? Did they break something? Are they planning for a big event?
2. How are they feeling? Are they stressed out? Are they happy? Are they buying something they need or want? Are they worried? Are they excited?
3. What are they thinking? This is super specific and takes some brain power on your part. Try to consider what is going through your customer's brain as they click through your site. (This is based on their emotions and needs, as considered above.) Remove your own ideas and knowledge and try to figure out what they are thinking.
4. Why is your business/product going to help them? Be honest with yourself. This is where YOUR why comes through. This is where you explain features and benefits of working with YOU specifically, or why your product can make their lives easier or better. (Example coming up in a second.) Be genuine.
Example: Let's pretend you sell a service, like a law firm. If someone goes to your website, they need legal advice. They're probably a little stressed out. They're probably intimidated. They probably think they are going to have to sell half their stuff on Craigslist just to afford your services, but they figure it would be better than going to jail or paying gigantic fines. They pretty much feel like shit. Your web content needs to acknowledge these fears and feelings of stress, and your words should come across as approachable, calm, and solid. Don't sound pretentious and intimidating. Don't use a bunch of lawyer mumbo jumbo. Sound like the real person that you are talking to another person who needs some help and guidance. (That's probably Your Why, anyway--helping people in need.)
Example: Let's say you're an online store selling products. Your customer wants something special and representative of their style and experiences. They may not need new shirt, but they want one. If you explain a feature, explain a benefit.
Feature: This is the softest shirt in the world, made of crazy nice cotton that we harvested ourselves.
Benefit: Your skin will feel like it's being cradled by puppies and clouds all day long.
Who doesn't want to feel that good all day?!
I would buy that shirt. I want to feel cradled by both puppies and clouds.
But seriously, in any scenario, without writing for your customers, you are writing for yourself, and you won't sell much or book many clients. Make sure you acknowledge your customers' needs and feelings.
This isn't some cheeseball marketing scumbag technique to make people buy more. This is called running your business with empathy, and it's something I believe in to my core.
Know your why.
Know their why.
Now you're ready to write your content.
"DAMN. That blew my mind. I want to TALK TO LISA."
Wheelie Deep Thoughts
This is where we showcase fun stuff-- new work, case studies, weekly updates, job openings, and general awesomeness from members of the Wheelie Crew.
Read Posts About:
Glacier Park Conservancy
Spencer Trail Signs
Glacier Park Inc.
Whitefish Trail Signs
The North Fork
The Montana Scene
Logos We've Made