Hiring a copywriter to help you with your content marketing is a popular solution, especially when you don’t have the time to write everything yourself.
For many of us, getting something written is the first step we need to keep going. Much better than a white screen. But…
Unless they’re a pro, copywriters have no idea who you really are, or how to write for your business staying on brand, within your niche, and with your tone.
This article walks you through 4 upgrades you can bring your content, to take it from blah to brilliant. Or from good to great:
- Include Stories
- Answer Specific Objections
- Make it Personal
- Get a Second Opinion
The Problem with Outsourcing Your Content Writing
A year ago, I left working at a correspondence school to join a startup for small business marketing. While there, I managing three school magazines; one published daily for parents, one posted quarterly for the kids, and an occasional achievements or awards notice board.
One of the constant challenges my team and I worked on was how to help our authors personalize their content. And stay on brand with the magazine’s vision. For the most part, they did really well, and the columns bustled with personality.
Then in leaving that to focus on my new startup team, we had to laser-focus on particular areas. And one of the areas that we were trying to figure out was content marketing for a range of clients in small businesses, such as home services, health care, and law firms.
So we turned to outsourcing. We hired competent writers who could make our clients look good, and speak with clarity on the topics we paid for.
But what kept happening was this. The content was formulaic. It was standard. It sounded like an article on About.com.
So we had to keep going back over it, making tweaks, and touching it up. We knew it needed to be personalized, even just a little. We just didn’t know how.
Pretty quickly, we stopped outsourcing, and pulled everything back inhouse. We knew our clients best, and we needed to bring them the best we could.
But we needed to figure out a standardized way to do that. Without practically rewriting everything from scratch.
Hiring a Copywriter for your Content Marketing
So none of it is the writer’s fault; they aren’t you. They can’t possibly know the details about your business the way you do.
When you commission them, they have to rely on the first three pages of Google searches, recent answers in Quora, reviews on Amazon books, and Reddit threads. That’s a lot of information to sift through, from all over the world.
Whereas if you’re a service-based business, then you’re grounded in a particular area, and you have experiences that no one else can share. Not to mention that you yourself are a unique person with a different attitude and viewpoint to most.
Regular content boosts your SEO, improves inbound leads, and in general, provides a sense of life and communication with current and potential customers.
So here’s what these four filters will do for you:
- improve the length of your articles
- make them stickier, or more memorable
- infuse them with greater personality
- make them distinct from other articles.
That last point is key: you never want to sound like someone else. Or you’ll lose to someone else. Cultivating your own voice and style of articles is what makes you unique.
“But we’re just an Lawn Care company. How unique do we need to be?”
If you want to stand out and be remembered, then you need to communicate how interesting you are. And if you’re going to share and communicate, then you need to share stuff that only you know about.
Remember, that copywriter you hired likely wrote a similar article on the same topic for your competition. That means potential visitors are looking for information online. And they have a bunch of beige content to sift through.
But you’re reading this article, and your competition isn’t.
Let’s blow your audience away, shall we?
1. Include Stories
No two companies have had the exact same experiences. They’re made up of different people, working in different places.
The stories that you can tell about the clients you’ve worked with, and the problems you’ve solved, are as important as your testimonials. They’re proof that you can deliver on your promises.
And they’re also usually the most interesting part of your conversation.
- “Hey did you know that down on 5th street, a main blew, and, the whole time the lady was baking cookies…”
- “Why just the other day, I was prepping a used cylinder head fir installation, and guess what happened…”
- “I was on call last week, and then this crazy guy calls in…”
Stories take everything you’re talking about and ground it in reality.
If your article is the Top 5 Ways to Keep Your Roof Leak-Proof This Rainy Season, add in some stories about clients you helped who’s roofs were nightmares. And then what you needed to do to fix them.
No one else can tell your stories. They make it easier for your visitors to believe that you’re a credible source of help.
Try to share one story per idea, and at least one per article.
2. Answer Specific Objections
What are the top questions and objections that your clients have for you about that topic?
Usually, questions are tied to location, the services you offer, and your particular promises your brand makes.
If you can anticipate the problems that arise in your reader’s mind, you’ll look like you’re ‘reading their mind,’ and knowing what they’re thinking.
This is another way to make it local, and individual to your experience.
Try to add at least one objection to your article. Ideally, answer one question per idea you bring up.
If you’re talking about HVAC in Hobbiton County, then perhaps someone has asked about how the water table in the valley affects homes.
No one else can answer that question. That kind of objection-answer instantly sets you up as a credible authority in your area, on this topic.
3. Make it Personal
As you read through the copy you’ve paid for, make notes about words and phrases you would never use. And put in the kinds of things you would say.
Don’t get stuck in the trap of needing to sound erudite and professional on paper.
Websites are awash in horrible copy that sounds like a robot wrote it. Write like the way you talk.
Try reading it aloud; would you ever say that kind of thing in person? If you were describing one of the ideas in your article to a client, how would you phrase it?
Your blog is a way to rank for searchable content, but it’s your content. It’s your approach to solutions, your viewpoint and credibility, that makes you stand out and be remembered.
One mental hack you can try: if you were a movie character, who would you be? Or if your brand was a movie character, who would it be? What would that character sound like?
Dirty Harry sounds very different to Dwight Schrute, Joe Dirt, or Jessica Pearson.
How would Captain America talk about fixing roofs? What are the words and phrases that pepper his conversation?
Usually, the character you like best in a movie is the one you identify with. It’s quite possible that your favorite movie is a reflection of you.
One approach you can take is to grab your smartphone, sit back, and talk out loud through your topic. Or tell your story to a friend. Then play it back later and listen to how you talk.
It’s usually a lot looser and less form than the way you write.
People are coming to you for facts. But they will be pleasantly surprised when they get to read the facts through your personality and voice.
And then when they meet you, they feel like they already know you. Because they do.
4. Get a Second Opinion
Every writer knows this; have someone else read it and give you feedback.
Now that you’ve layered on stories, objections, and tone, print it off for a family member, or coworker. Or send them the link to your blog post.
Ask them to read it through for clarity and voice.
You want to know:
- Does it sound like you?
- Is it clear?
- Was anything forgotten/missed?
Listen to all the feedback, and use the best advice. If you’ve ever labored over writing anything, the words and phrases start blurring into blocks, and we stop actually reading them.
This brings us to the last point.
Create a Checklist
Now that you’ve done all the heavy lifting, try to make it easier on yourself.
Put together your thoughts in a document that you can send to the next copywriter you hire. Ask them to include as much of this as they can.
- Create a list of things that you would never say. Things you would say. Certain words that you like using, or are common where you live.
- Decide on your movie character, or your Archetype (take a brand quiz here).
- Try to summarize your location, and what makes it different from other counties.
All of these are valuable things for your next copywriter to keep in the back of their mind as they research and write your content.
TL;DR: Key Takeaways
In hiring a copywriter, your blog can run the risk of sounding formulaic. Blah. The same as 500 other blogs.
When copywriters are creating the same content for multiple members of the same niche, it’s not their fault that they can’t capture your personality and distinction.
Use these four ideas to inject greater life, tone, and uniqueness into your content marketing plan.
1. Tell Stories: stories are the proof that you can deliver on your promises. And they’re also usually the most interesting part of your conversation. Try to provide at least one story per article.
2. Answer Specific Objections: What are the top questions and objections that your clients have for you about that topic? Anticipate the problems that arise in your reader’s mind. Try to add at least one objection to your article. Ideally, answer one question per idea.
3. Make it Personal: Make notes about words and phrases you would never use. And put in the kinds of things you would say. Write like the way you talk. Try reading it aloud; would you ever say that kind of thing in person? If you were a movie character, who would you sound like?
4. Get a Second Opinion: Now that you’ve layered on stories, objections, and tone, print it off for a family member, or coworker. Ask them to read it through for clarity and voice. You want to know if it sounds like you, communicates clearly, and didn’t forget/miss anything.
Once you’ve done this a couple of times, make a checklist of your key thoughts, and include it with your job brief to your next copywriter.
Remember, people engage with content that is interesting, important, timely, and funny.
So layer stories, objections and your personality into your content. Make it more memorable than a string of advice or facts.
Remember, the reason you’re working on your content marketing aspect of your strategy is because it can bring you leads.
Don’t run the risk of writing content that will send your visitors running to someone else.
Even if you use only one of these four approaches, you’ll be winning. Use all four, and your blog will transform into an online extension of your personality and ability.
Don’t settle for blah. Go for brilliant.
So, did I miss anything? What are your top questions right now? Have you been doing this already with your articles? How has it worked for you?
I’ll see you in the comments. :)
PS: one last idea.
Can you include a testimonial from a client that speaks directly to that particular article? What if you were to wrap up your article with a client describing what happened, what they were going through, and how you helped them?
You could publish the article, and then send it to your client, and ask them if they’d mind being featured in the article. I’m pretty sure most people are open to that kind of publicity – they’ll likely even share it with their friends and family.
Don’t use any old testimonial; you want something that speaks directly to what you wrote about in the article. What do you think?
Dominic is Enable’s design and brand specialist. He thoroughly enjoys helping businesses find meaning in their brands and define their distinction. Coffee, cooking and binge-researching are his hobbies. When not building websites, he is delving into projects to find the boundaries of his imagination. He hasn’t found them yet.