You wouldn’t write a text in the same format as you would a letter, and you probably use different language with friends socially than in a meeting with your boss. You naturally customize your language and tailor your discussions based on who you’re with and where you are. Businesses with strong communication habits apply this basic principle to all of their marketing and external communications.
Kara Blackburn, a lecturer at MIT who specializes in managerial communication told Harvard Business Review “you can have all the great ideas in the world and if you can’t communicate, nobody will hear them.” Communication is critical and correct communication is extremely important. In other words, “if you are a native English speaker and never learned the difference between it’s and its, then people may wonder what else you’ve failed to learn that might be useful,” Grammarly CEO Brad Hoover points out.
Although writing has been around for a long time (and is often thought of as old fashioned or irrelevant), the reality is that for business, writing is gaining in importance. Rather than make writing obsolete, the Internet has made written communication more important than ever, so important in fact that it is estimated that by 2020 consumers “will manage 85% of their relationships without talking to a human.”
Know your audience
With an increasing dependence on writing, businesses have to tailor content, tone, and format to their audience and medium. A whitepaper aimed at driving B2B leads is written very differently than an informational blog, email marketing campaign, or social media update.
Defining your audience is the first vital step. It ensures that you are able to deliver the right content for the right people, allows you to better understand how to create that content, and increases your conversion rate (whether you define conversions as clicks, leads, or sales). Writing without knowing your audience is like setting sail without a compass.
If your SME has a website, marketing team, or sales database then identifying your audience should be fairly straightforward. Use Google Analytics to gain insights into your website visitors or use your sales database to create client profiles. Even businesses averse to customer-data-collection should be able to build a rough audience profile based on existing data.
Simple steps to identify your audience:
- Use broad demographic data: income, age, gender, location (approximate location is fine).
- Utilize surveys, email lists, client interviews, social media research, third party sources, or other research and data collection methods to identify trends and build client personas.
- If you are in a B2B market then use your sales data, LinkedIn, and other research to identify the size, industry/sector, type, structure, location, and other relevant information about the businesses that you want to target.
- Identify the wants, needs, likes, concerns, and pain points of your prototypical customers.
Once you have identified your customers you can segment your marketing efforts allowing you to target groups within your customer base more effectively by directly appealing to their preferred mode of communication as well as their needs, interests, wants, and pain points.
Use this information to determine the subject matter of your content and the style in which you present it. Writing for a middle-aged male executive will be very different from writing for a teenager – even if you are looking to sell your products to both.
What should you write?
There are many types of content your business can use to engage consumers. Depending on your audience and the medium they prefer, your business writing could include:
According to an article from HubSpot, 55% of visitors spend under 15 seconds on a website, which means you need to ensure that your content is brief, precise, memorable and effective. This is especially true on landing pages, product listings, and home pages.
Blogs are vital components of any digital marketing strategy. Unlike website content, with blogs you generally have far greater creative freedom both in content and presentation. Determine your blog content by analyzing your customer personas, then write the content that is most in line with their likes, wants, interests and common customer questions.
Blogs are also a crucial component in search engine optimization (SEO) because they create relevant keywords and earn valuable backlinks. In fact, “companies who blog receive 97% more links to their website.”
Are blogs an effective writing tool for B2B businesses? Absolutely. All organizations are made up of individual people and when you target the right audience with customized content the payoff can be significant. According to HubSpot, “B2B marketers who use blogs receive 67% more leads than those who do not.”
Almost everyone these days is on social media, but that doesn’t make everyone an expert. Each social media platform has its own unique set of users and its own internal content restrictions. It’s important to keep the audiences using these platforms in mind when customizing your writing and choosing which channels to promote your content on. Popular social media channels include:
- LinkedIn – LinkedIn is perfect for B2B writing and even allows long form posts directly on the website. According to Pew, LinkedIn users are the wealthiest and oldest of any social media site.
- Facebook – According to Pew, 82% of adults 18-29 use Facebook. That’s a huge group of people and within that group you can further segment your content through targeted ad campaigns. Unlike Twitter, the maximum length of a Facebook post is 63,206 characters. However, studies show you don’t need to write that much. According to research from HubSpot, to maximize engagement on Facebook the ideal post length is just 40 characters.
- Twitter – According to Pew, Twitter is far more popular amongst younger demographics. Although the maximum characters on Twitter is just 140, HubSpot suggests that the ideal length is 120 characters (including a link).
- Photo and Video Based Social Media – Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Vine and other visual social media platforms shouldn’t be discounted when customizing your content. Embedding video and rich images into your writing will allow you to share your content, connecting you with a wider consumer market base.
In order to ensure that your writing is as effective as possible, it has to be customized based on medium and audience. Creating effective audience personas and targeting those customers with content that is created around their interests and shared on the platforms they prefer is a potent recipe for success.