BEFORE You Sit Down at Your Computer
Smart tips for putting your ideas into writing
By Andrea MacDonald owner of Word House Communications. Andrea is a writer, editor and PR consultant with nearly 20 years of experience. She is a former business journalist and communications advisor to one of the nation's top cabinet ministers. She is the author of two children's books.
Congratulations! You’ve taken the plunge and started your own business. Now it’s time to spread the word about your fabulous new enterprise. Or perhaps you’ve already made your mark and you’re looking to market your product or service more aggressively.
So you sit down at your computer, prepare to begin creating…and promptly freeze.
If the thought of putting your ideas into writing makes you break out in a cold sweat, you’re not alone. Selling our wares through words ranks right up there with root canals for some entrepreneurs.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
So take a deep breath and review the following pointers to put your mind at ease. Some come from experience, some from formal training and a few I’ve learned the hard way. No matter which industry you represent, you’re sure to find a few nuggets that help you communicate more effectively with your prospects.
- Get your website up and running right away, even if it’s just a landing page. You need that online presence to establish credibility and help others find you before they find your competitors. Your site doesn’t have to be fancy, animated or jazzy. It just has to be clear, accurate and easy to navigate. Master that and your website will do the talking for you because it tells the world I’m real, I’m here, and I’m a professional.
- Writing for the web is fundamentally different from writing for print. With only seconds to capture a user’s attention, every word counts. Don’t get bogged down by extraneous detail that adds nothing to the narrative.
- Be conversational! Pretend you’re talking to one ideal client instead of a sea of nameless people.
- Turn your features into benefits that spell out exactly how your product or service will help others. If the user can’t figure out what’s in it for her within the first few seconds, she’s outta there. A bakery offering three dozen types of affordable pastries is nice. A bakery that allows you to indulge your cravings, reward yourself for a hard day’s work AND save you precious time to focus on other tasks by offering three dozen types of affordable pastries -- now that’s a winner. (Pssst, it’s the same bakery but with better marketing.)
- Write for the user, not the search engine. Google changes its algorithms on a semi-regular basis so it’s impossible to stay ahead of the curve anyway. That’s not to say SEO is bad but you’ll see greater rewards for quality content, especially if it’s updated frequently. That’s good news for blogs.
- Got your site up already? Great! Now rewrite your home page. Forget what you learned in grade school about writing in complete sentences. Keep it short and sweet. Like this. Include a few hyperlinks if you like but ease up on the links to external content. You want the user to stay on your page, not head to someone else’s.
- Be yourself and find your own voice to reflect your brand. Humour is great, but you must tread carefully. Sarcasm doesn’t translate well into print!
- Are you a writer already? Yes, even writers freeze up when it comes to selling their own services. Some would even say it brings about a particular kind of pressure. After all, if you’re holding yourself out as a web writer, how can your own website be anything less than stellar? Don’t be shy about tapping fellow writers for feedback. There’s room for everyone, and you’d be surprised how much you can teach one another.
- There are lots of good website templates out there to showcase your writing samples. But even if you’re just starting out, you can use your website as a great example of your work. In fact, I’ve even heard of a few writers getting hired based on their website alone!
- Think about how your words could appear in different contexts and formats. You may even have to test this out on different devices. My company is Word House Communications, but it’s too long to display properly on incoming emails. Shortening it to just Word House sent my emails flying into some people’s spam folders. I finally settled on my name, followed by Word House, and tested it out on my smart phone. Imagine my horror when it appeared on the other end as ‘Andrea MacDonald, Word Ho’. Not exactly the image I was looking to project!
- The ‘About’ section on your website is a great spot to tell the story behind your business and talk about your values. People want to read about your passion and how it put you on the path you’re on today. Good business is all about making an emotional connection with your customers and building relationships.
- Spell check is your friend!