Who are you really talking to?
- by Urszula Richards
- 25 May 2017
All new learning, especially in its initial stages, can be awkward and a bit embarrassing. Blogging and online content writing is no exception, especially when it is instantly up there for all to see.
I wanted to address one common problem which I see cropping up with professionals.
It's a trap I have fallen into myself. Instead of writing to my actual potential client, I am thinking about my colleagues & peers.
This wasn't conscious decision I had made, but a result of being acutely aware that others would be reading what I had written. I did not want to feel embarrassed by not being ‘comprehensive’ or thorough enough in blog posts and articles.
So should I adopt sloppy writing habits?
Of course not. I just needed to remember who I was talking to. A conversation to colleagues is very different to those people who are potentially my clients.
Here are three ways in which this can play out.
Being meticulous and comprehensive
As a professional, you obviously have a great depth of knowledge. That's why you're the expert.
Your job with marketing though, is to engage potential clients and to take them on a journey with you. You can’t do this in a single ‘brain download’.
Your message needs to reach people at the exact stage of the journey they are in right now. It is also the reason why content strategy and planning is so very important.
Less is More.
Showing how much you know, is rarely appropriate in one hit. Sure, you need to fill out this full picture over time, but you don’t need to do this in a single blog post or article.
In fact, doing this will alienate your audience.
Don’t worry about that nagging feeling about your colleague reading your work and feeling you are being simplistic or incomplete. You are not writing for them.
Industry Jargon & Terminology
You may be so deeply involved in your area of expertise, that you don't notice that you are using words and terminology which your prospects don’t even understand.
Your goal over time, will be to educate your clients in some of these terms, as they become relevant. But start by using the exact words your clients are using, and use those words to connect with new prospects.
This leads on to another common mistake.
Given you are an expert in your field, you may think that certain things are totally obvious - to everyone.
In my field for example, I may assume that everyone knows what SEO (search engine optimisation) means. Even if you have heard of this (likely), the level of really understanding what this means varies incredibly from one person to the next. Sometimes clients have a minimal or incorrect understanding while others' understanding may be very advanced.
So when you are introducing concepts, add a sentence or two to put this into its proper context, as it relates to the actual point you’re making.
For example - if I was talking about SEO and images I could say “one of the many factors which impact search engine optimisation (a series of best practice activities to help you show up online), is naming images with relevant keywords”.
You can see in this example, I give a relevant (but not comprehensive) explanation of SEO in this context, and then make my point. Effective, persuasive, marketing writing needs to be simple.
In fact, it is commonly recommended that online copywriting be targeted to the 6th-7th grade.
You may really recoil at this, but if you don’t take this advice, you may impress your colleagues but by-pass your clients altogether, and I don’t think that is what you want.
Want to test your writing level for yourself? There is a great online app called Hemmingway which will test the readability level of your posts and make suggestions.
Don't confuse complexity of content with your reading/writing level. Putting something complex into simple language is in itself an important skill. According to Hemmingway, this blog post is rated at Grade 7 reading level. You can see how I used this free online app in the video below.
I hope you also give it a go - I'd be interested to see what Hemmingway has to tell you :)