Writing for marketing purposes is a little different from other types of writing. You can forget some of the rules you were taught at school, but that’s not to say grammar and fact-checking should go out the window. Longer pieces such as feature articles and business blogs might be a bit daunting for those new to marketing, or even those who are suffering from writer’s block, so here are a few top tips that might not only help get you started but also keep the words flowing.
- Have a plan – For longer pieces it’s helpful to start with bullet points. Map out what you want to say to make sure there’s a sensible flow to the whole piece. You may be perfectly confident in everything you want to say but pouring out what’s in your head onto the page, without planning the structure first can be a costly mistake. Bullet points don’t need to be massively detailed, and don’t need to take hours of your time, but they might save you hours of editing, so they’re a worthwhile investment.
- Just write – Once you have your broad structure, start writing. I have worked with many copywriters in the past and some feel the need to agonise over every sentence to make them word perfect as they write. But when you have finished the whole piece, sentences will get cut and you will find better ways to phrase the points you’ve made. So, the important thing is to make a start. An empty page is so much more intimidating than a page full of copy. You can and indeed should always edit when you’ve finished anyway, to make sure the piece works as a whole and flows as you intended, so you don’t need to aim for perfection on your first draft. I’m not suggesting you should produce substandard work, but if you spend an inordinate amount of time trying to perfect every sentence as you go, you will leave yourself no time for the all-important editing process. I have witnessed deadlines being missed before because a writer was so determined to achieve perfection, which obviously isn’t going to meet anyone’s objectives!
- Get your facts straight – Whether you are writing a profile piece on your business, or a blog about an important issue in your industry, it’s often useful to include some facts and figures to provide context. To give you an example, when I write an article about blogging for business, I might start with a statistic about how many businesses blog. With some words wrapped around this figure, it shows readers why it’s important that they read on. Or why I am writing about that topic. It also demonstrates that you have done your research and what you say can be trusted, building authority for the brand you’re writing for.
- Be useful – It can be tempting to make your copy all about you, but the most interesting copy offers thoughts, opinions, advice, or market information that are useful to your target audience. It’s sometimes helpful to think about one person – someone you would really like to work with – and write for them. What would they like to know? What would make their lives easier? Don’t take your experience for granted – other people want to know what you know. If you identify who you’re writing for at the beginning of the process and keep them in mind throughout, it will also help you ensure you stay on message for the entirety of the piece.
- Edit. I read any piece of written work I create multiple times once I’ve finished it, making sure I have a break in between readings too. It is possible to stop seeing what’s right in front of you when you are constantly looking at the same piece of work. Sometimes you get so caught up trying to get just the right phrase and then fall in love with the way you’ve said something that you lose sight of the fact it doesn’t fit in that spot or isn’t relevant to the overall argument of the piece at all. This is less likely to happen if you have written your bullet points up front, but we all veer off course sometimes. Read your copy through on completion by all means – I always find reading it out loud helps identify any glaring errors – but then move onto something else, go for a walk, have your lunch, or ideally come back to it the next day. Take a break from the copy before completing your final one or two edits. The more changes you make, the more likely you are to need to take a break before reading it through again.
Writing longer copy can be a daunting task, especially if you have to do it consistently with regular marketing features or business blog posts. But if you take it one step at a time, plan it carefully, remember who you’re writing for and why you’re writing it, and edit it at the end, you will soon have the pages of copy you want.
And of course, if you haven’t got time to do this for yourself, you can always palm off the copywriting to someone who loves to write all day every day. If you have any copywriting requirements that you simply aren’t getting around to, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d love to see if I can help.