What separates one company from another in any line of work? There are a lot of different answers to that question. Of course, funding is extremely important. Proper planning for growth and having an exceptional product are imperative to success. All too often, the quality of the written words used to market the business are overlooked. However, successful businesses use professional writers when building a business plan, creating new marketing material and especially when writing blogs and webpages. These are critical aspects to putting a business’ best foot forward.
Professional writing is a great differentiator in business. How many times have you browsed a website and immediately been struck by the number of typos on the home page? How did that make you feel when you landed there and your hopes of finding information were dashed by a poorly written website? Did you assume the information was not credible or did it make you think it was meant to deceive you? Or was the poorly written content a reflection of the company’s quality overall? Chances are you jumped off that site as quickly as you could and cleared your cookies.
Professional Writing to Guide Prospects through the Buyer’s Journey
Companies today have access to digital marketing that can help them reach their prospects through multiple platforms and gain insights from their customers faster than ever. What do people learn when they read your marketing material? When they read your blogs are they given good information written in a professional manner or do they find a hodgepodge of ideas that are loosely strung together and overly sales-y? Do you know the areas of your website that are the most important to keep current? Professional writing will help you capture prospects, guiding them through the Awareness --> Consideration --> Decision stages of the Buyer’s Journey. (NOTE: The Buyer's Journey image below is courtesy of Hubspot.) Later, it can even help them become an advocate for your products and services. Now, that’s a winning situation.
So how does professional writing help you drive awareness and attract new prospects? It can happen lots of ways. An example of a traditional method would be through press releases. A good press release with compelling information is often reprinted word-for-word in magazines and business journals that often are short-staffed. Today’s reporters are covering more stories and working more topics than reporters in the past. A well-presented press release is a great way for them to cover meaningful stories without having to write an article from scratch. In the very least, your well-written press release gives reporters clear sound bites to copy and paste into their articles. Professional writing makes it easier for reporters to cover your business.
Another way that professional writing helps bring in new prospects is through consistent and targeted blogging, websites and social media. According to Adweek1, 81% of shoppers conduct online research before making a purchase. This statistic emphasizes the need to have quality writing on your website, blog and social media. Also remember that a message that is going out on a blog will reach one target, while a webpage and social media posts will be read by others. Today’s professional writer must be comfortable with different styles of writing for digital marketing and know best practices for each. A business’ subject matter expert (SME) often does not have those writing skill sets.
Now that you have prospects’ attention, how can professional writing help people in the Consideration stage of the Buyer’s Journey? The Consideration stage is when your business should show why your product/service is the best fit. This is an ideal time to share case studies or whitepapers that compare your features and benefits with that of your competitors. Those definitely should be well written. This communication medium provides actual examples of how your product/service solved a problem for a real customer. It’s helpful if the case study or white paper also shares how clients went about choosing your solution over others. Again, in the Consideration stage, the professional writing should help prospects understand why your product/service is the best fit.
Next, prospects move into the Decision stage of the Buyer’s Journey, also considered the bottom of the sales funnel. When prospects are at this final stage, are you delivering well-written brochures, case studies and free demos to help close the deal? Even when a face-to-face meeting is needed to close the deal, a professionally written and designed presentation is essential. (Imagine presenting to a hot lead who’s ready to select the final product/service, only to see your presentation materials have typos and/or don’t flow in a logical, presentable manner.) A professional writer developing materials for the Decision stage includes information that can’t easily be found online because prospects have already done their online research at this point. They want more. Don’t use less-than-stellar writing for your Decision stage and risk driving your buyers out the door and on to your competition.
Lastly, how can professional writing help turn a customer into an advocate? This is where social media can really provide benefits to your business. Customers become advocates by interacting with you on social channels, telling the world about how your product or service has helped them. People trust online reviews as much as they trust referrals from friends. In the digital age, your best sales people are often your customers. Referrals have always been powerful, but now that they are available to anyone 24/7, they are a critical part of every business. Professional writers can help your business by creating compelling messages that encourage customers to post reviews and share their appreciation for your business.
So how does the process of working with a professional writer get started?
We recommend first learning a client’s key messages and values and then evaluating the writing on their website and marketing materials. Often clients have lost familiarity with the material. (For instance, many organizations go through the process of writing, designing and launching a website and then do not update the content on the site.) In our own experience, executives are often shocked at the errors and omissions in their marketing collateral. The exercise of writing can quickly get a team that’s going in different directions back on track with clear messages that will help drive engagement and sales. Fresh writing can reinvigorate your teams.
How involved does the business owner need to be?
Business owners don’t usually have the time to write the narrative for the company. They are the person with the ideas; they need a professional writer to get the ideas written. A professional writer will be able to conduct an interview, conduct any needed online research and craft messages that clearly present the needed information in a proper format for the media being delivered. Yes, the business owner needs to be involved to share input, but usually a 30-45 minute interview jumpstarts the effort.
Writing is not an easy task. Writing is time-consuming. It takes research to understand the topic and extreme focus to complete a project on deadline. Having another person review and edit the writing can be a sensitive process for those not accustomed to writing for a living. However, the professional writer incorporates the feedback, crafts the right message to capture your prospects’ attention to drive them through the sales funnel.
When should you call on a professional writer?
Professional writers should draft all formal communication for businesses such as key messaging, digital marketing, brochures, presentations, blog posts, case studies and press releases. Also consider involving a business writer on websites dedicated to a specific product, video scripting, a series of Tweets coupled with Facebook and LinkedIn messages and of course email marketing (which still works, by the way).
It may not make sense to have a full-time writer on your staff, but partnering with a marketing agency that has business writers on staff can be a powerful solution. When choosing copywriters to help you, here are five tips:
- Choose a company that has more than one writer. While an individual freelance writer may cost less up front, when that writer goes on maternity leave, finds a full-time gig or is over-whelmed with the current workload, it leaves your business in a vulnerable place. A marketing firm or agency has a team of people to use as resources. Just make sure the marketing agency has writers on staff since not all firms specialize in the writing aspect.
- Select a local copywriter. The local aspect is important because some challenging topics are best addressed at in-person interviews. Marketing writers in your area should be able to visit your office for such meetings without incurring travel costs. In other instances, the interviews can be conducted by phone. Still, it’s nice to have a local contact.
- Find professional writers with experience writing across platforms. Some marketers are good at writing content for printed pieces while others specialize in writing for digital content that needs to be optimized for search. Social media channels have various character or word constraints so writers must work within those parameters. Also explore whether the writer you’re considering is more of a technical writer (think how-to manuals and computer specifications) or is more of a marketing expert. Match your needs with the writers’ expertise.
- Work with professional writers with a portfolio of business clients that you can see. Ensure the writing was done recently. Dated writing may indicate that the copywriter isn’t committed to the profession. Don’t let someone sell you on the fact that they made good grades in English in school. Experience in business matters as it’s a different type of writing. Look at the writers’ website and blog to see if it features recently published content, too.
- Partner with writers who are committed to deadlines. This sounds like an obvious requirement but is important to address upfront. Freelancers and small writing companies can easily get inundated with workloads and few team members.
- Make sure your marketing firm has staff writers. Many marketing firms don’t actually have writers on staff so they outsource the writing part of their work. This creates another layer of reviews and follow-ups, and usually results in higher fees being passed onto clients. In sharp contrast, finding a marketing agency with writers on staff can save you time and money. Your business can develop a strong relationship with their writers, building their knowledge of your business to best reflect your company. Firms that focus on professional writing also recognize that quality writing coupled with met deadlines equals happy, returning clients.
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Morrison, K. (November 28, 2014) “81% of Shoppers Conduct Online Research Before Buying [Infographic]” on http://www.adweek.com/digital/81-shoppers-conduct-online-research-making-purchase-infographic/
Written by Megan F. Salch and Trent Salch