About a month ago I was hired by a digital marketing agency.
Just like that, I had to take a deep look inward and figure out the value I could bring to my new employer. Up to that point, I'd written a lot of content about rock climbing...what else did I have?
Well, I do know I can write decently well. And I had learned a thing or two about digital marketing strategy over the years. So, hell, why not combine the two?
From experience, I think all of us marketers could benefit from blending a little creativity into the content we create. Want to know how?
1. Watch out for boring marketing language pitfalls
Read on to learn about...
Learn more about...
FREE (insert random offer here)...
Please stop. Please no. Readers, yourself included, have seen these cliched one-liners a thousand times. They never get any more interesting (nor persuasive, for that matter). Yes, your writing should be clear and provide direction to the reader. But you also have an opportunity to weave creativity into content that's often bland.
I should probably show you an example, right? Take a look at the following (made up) paragraphs, taken from (fake) email workflows pitching an e-book.
So, you want to learn how to longboard? Well, there is no better time than now! Learning how to longboard takes hard work, dedication, and lots of time. But don't worry -- we have you covered!
Our new e-book,"The Perks of Being a Longboarder," shows you exactly what you need to stop thinking about it and start doing it. Download it below for FREE!"
There's a better way to pick up longboarding than bombing the local hill. But if you decide to go that route, please have a buddy film it.
We made you an e-book that covers the basics of longboarding. Maybe give it a quick read before you go all-out savage and shred that gnar. Download "The Perks of Being a Longboarder" right here."
Longboarding jargon aside, which example would more effectively convince the reader (a potential longboard enthusiast, in this case) to download the offer? This question could certainly be answered with an A/B test, but it's relatively safe to assume that the reader would appreciate a more personal, non-robotic message.
And trust me, you don't want your writing voice to sound anything other than human.
2. Avoid sounding like a robot
But I do not write like a robot. A robot I am not. Does not compute...does not compute...
At this point, any content marketer worth her salary is a human being. (Sadly, however, the bots are slowly conquering our Sales Enablement department)
You probably know a guy who falls into the "homo sapiens sapiens" category, but doesn't quite cut it when it comes to harnessing the written language of his ancestors. And that's okay. Don't tell him, just hand him a book by Cormac McCarthy. And please let him know Alexa doesn't count as a roommate (nor as a friend).
Before we go any further, stop and read this article by Chris Middleton, titled "Marketing Automation – Why you could soon be replaced by a robot." Yes, the headline may induce anxiety. Remain calm.
Middleton notes that the machines are already here, and they're here to stay -- we'll soon be drinking cocktails mixed by bartender droids and flying trans-Atlantic on pilot-free airlines. But there is hope for us mortals. As long as we have a right brain hemisphere and uninterrupted access to coffee, creative content marketers can beat the machines with a simple toolset: writing style.
- Use contractions. This isn't something enough writers think about (probably because it seems so minor). But the point of any piece of content is to achieve user comprehension -- and most people understand written language that reads more like speech. The easiest way to evaluate your own writing is to read it back to yourself. Does it flow like water? If not, you might benefit from some contractions.
- Inject some damn humor. Readers don't always want bland, joyless information. People enjoy laughing from time to time. Also, can you imagine an AI trying to tell a joke?
- Use analogies. One of the best things about being human is our ability to compare two seemingly dissimilar topics and find patterns between them. If you know how to relate email workflow content to the joys of eating fruit snacks, do it (as long as it makes sense).
One of the most effective ways to relate to your readers is to tell them a story. And that segues nicely into our next section...
3. Tell your readers a relevant story
Think back to the last time your friend told you a story. Were you captivated? Did you stop paying attention almost immediately? Do you even remember what she was telling you?
Stories are essential for conveying meaning between minds. Human brains have never been good at easily deciphering massive data dumps, whether they come in the form of words or numbers. What eases up the process of comprehension is context -- we're better at understanding the links between the data points than the data itself.
Stories provide the context we need to make sense of the world. But telling a good one is hard -- especially when you're trying to inject it into your marketing content. So what goes into a relevant story?
- Story structure = beginning + middle + end. This is obvious. Everyone knows this. But it's not that simple to implement. Think about each part of the story structure and how it applies to your content. If you're creating your company's website content, understand how to guide your customers through the story of your brand. If you're writing a blog post (this is about to get meta), ask yourself if you're leading the reader on a clear path.
- Stories convey emotion through overcoming conflict. Why do we care about what happens in a story? Usually, it's because the main character, the hero, is thrust into a situation he or she must overcome. Remember, the reader of your content is the hero. She'll understand the message you're trying to convey if she feels viscerally connected to it and if you provide a solution to her problem.
- Every story has a purpose. Speaking of solutions...why are you including a story anyway? You should have a clear motive in mind before you start writing any content. For example, I'm writing this article with the hope that you can learn how to write creative content and undermine the machines (and maybe subscribe to our blog). Set your goals before you write.
Simply put, if you tell the reader a creative story through your content, said reader is more likely to convert into a customer. So think it through!
Mastering your content
It's 2018. The sea of digital marketing continues to churn and evolve -- and you need a well-crafted ship to navigate. At this point, taking control of your content is more crucial than ever. To truly stand out in this vast digital world, you'll need to craft truly memorable content that appeals to your human readers. If you don't, you (or I) may be fired and replaced by Mike the Marketing Bot.
Don't settle for boring. Get creative.