Marketing Means Content: How to Write a Great Story

People love good stories. We love to watch good stories come to life at the movies, we love to listen to stories on the radio and via podcasts, and we really love to read good stories. That’s why the best marketing campaigns are the ones that tell a good story. And a big part of a successful story is good writing.

Any marketing material, whether it’s inbound, outbound, video, radio, billboard, packaging, or something completely different, is going to need to be well written. You might have the best idea in the history of ideas, but if you can’t describe it in a way that gets people excited, that idea isn’t going to leave your office.

In today’s digital world, people are reading more than ever. They read on their phones, on their laptops, while they wait for the bus, while they eat lunch, and as a time killer whenever the threat of boredom looms. Though we might hear dire warnings of the death of the printed word, people are still reading plenty.

That means there’s lots of competition for eye time. Your content not only has to educate, entertain, and reassure, it also has to be authentic, easy to digest, and free of grammatical errors. Your copy has to rise above the crowded landscape of content and attract attention with its accuracy, its unique metaphors, and its ability to answer questions your customers didn’t even know they had! Easy, right?

It might be tempting to whip up all of your own content for your advertising campaigns—after all, who better to tell your story than, well, you—but just like you want to hire a professional photographer to catch those iconic visual moments, you’ll want a professional writer to ensure your message is inspiring and enlightening.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t do some of the written work required for a marketing campaign. The more great content you put out there, the more likely people will find your pages through keyword searches, and if your writing is engaging and fun to read, they’ll come back for more. And more, and more, and more.

Writing isn’t magic, but it is hard work. Follow these few simple guidelines to produce copy that attracts readers and keeps their attention.

  • Think about your audience. Writing advertising copy is different from writing on your personal blog. Your readers are busy people. They want to get the nugget of information early, and they want to find it easily. Don’t waste your first couple of paragraphs on jokes and personal anecdotes—let them know within the first two sentences what they’re going to learn.
  • When in doubt, make a list. Human brains love lists! We love the organizational factor, we love the way they look on the page or screen, and we love the sense of accomplishment that comes when we can check something off. Including a list will help you write an organized piece of content that looks great and provides a service.
  • Use an editor (a human editor, not a dancing paperclip). No matter how many times you read over your own work, you’re going to miss a comma, misspell a word, and leave a participle dangling in the wind. Have someone who is good at grammar and large-picture fixes read everything you write.
  • Don’t be afraid of the thesaurus. Yes, you want your writing to be easily understood, simple, and elegant, but if you use the same word five times in your piece, not only will your human readers get frustrated, but Google’s search algorithms might tag you as a no-go. While writing for human readers is your goal, you want to keep in mind that most of your work is going to be read first by a computer—you’ve got to impress those, too. We’ll talk more about writing for Google in another post.
  • Read it out loud. I know, I know, it’s embarrassing to talk to yourself, but you won’t believe the mistakes you’ll find. Reading your work out loud will also help you make sure you’ve created a good flow of information and ideas, and you’ll be better able to spot the points at which your copy gets boring.
  • Boring is bad. No one wants to be bored. If you’re not interested in the content you’re producing, your customers won’t be either. Be your own harshest critic and you’ll find that your final products are better for it!