While not everyone is born a great writer, we can all become better ones by avoiding these common mistakes
Content is an excellent and cost-effective way to build brand awareness and generate leads, while showcasing a startup’s unique attributes and expertise. Startups, however, tend to underestimate the unique requirements involved in developing content that resonates. The result is often that it detracts from, rather than enhances, their product story. By simply avoiding these six sins, content producers can radically improve the impact of their work.
Sin 1: Not telling a story people want to hear
Developing an idea to become a MVP is an all-encompassing challenge for hi-tech startups. It takes time, commitment and focus. But when going to market that focus needs to switch from internal to external. Too many startups produce content that takes a deep dive into the technology, rather than focusing on its benefits. End-users are not particularly interested in what’s under the hood, as many solutions will make indistinguishable claims about their tech prowess. What they are interested in, however, is how this solution will make their business better — whether that is more efficient, more cost-effective, more competitive, more scalable, and so on. While the technology may have wowed the founders and investors, when going to market it is the benefits that will wow potential customers.
So, stop producing unnecessarily complex whitepapers or blogs on your technology and tell a story that lets customers understand the problems your solution solves. Tell them a story they want to hear, a story that explains to them what your solution will do to benefit their business.
Sin 2: Jumping in without a plan
Sometimes the biggest barrier to creating successful content is having founders (or employees) that can write. It sounds counter-intuitive, but having the gift to be able to open a laptop and start pounding keys to produce coherent content often means the temptation to dive in without a plan is overwhelming. Startups are intense and a drain on everyone’s time, so producing content without a publishing plan usually ends up with people not sticking with the process. Blogs suddenly stop, email marketing becomes hap-hazard and social media posts infrequent — this is especially when immediate results are not seen and the content producer(s) become quickly demotivated and frustrated. Such lack of consistency reflects badly on the commitment of a startup when prospective customers, investors or journalists visit its website. So, avoid the temptation to post without a plan regarding the types of posts and their frequency. This will keep you focused, ensure your audience knows when to expect content and builds a solid foundation of regular content that can be built upon as you scale.
Sin 3: Not thinking like a journalist
As a former journalist for Ireland’s biggest-selling broadsheet newspaper, of course I would say that! But there is a process that every (good) journalist brings to the table before they start writing — the 5 Ws (and a H). This stands for the Who, What, When, Where, Why (and How). It provides a structured way of thinking about an idea and developing it into a structured piece of content. The result should be a piece that communicates all the various elements that are of interest to readers. If more blog writers followed this simple formula, pointless, meandering blog posts lacking focus and information could finally become a thing of the past (but don’t hold your breath).
Sin 4: Writing five words when two will do
Brevity is a blessing in writing. Just like people hate a gas bag (a person who talks far too much about unimportant things) in real life, they also cannot stand reading bloated prose that takes an age before getting to the point. Take note from George Orwell and you won’t go too far wrong: “If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out.” So, always focus on cutting out unnecessary words.
Sin 5: Being your own editor
The ability to write something and self publish online in seconds is the biggest enemy of good content. Writers simply cannot satisfactorily review their own content. Forget about egos and bias, even the best writers, when reviewing their own work, will be too fixated on the overall flow, style and structure to focus on catching every small typo or formatting mistake. Having another set of eyeballs review your content is good, having several sets is best.
Sin 6: Thinking amplification is only for electric guitars
You’ve heard the phrase, if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? The same can be said of content that is published but not promoted. Creating content for your audience is pointless if they are not around to read it. So, you need to increase the chances relevant people can find your content. Content amplification uses online platforms or channels to promote your content to boost ROI and brand awareness. This can easily be done for free using social media, email newsletters and working with partners. If you fail to amplify your content, why bother writing it in the first place?
Lessons to be learned
Writing a blog or other marketing content is not rocket science. It does, however, take preplanning, a structured approach and a focus on resonating with your audience. There are lots of resources online that can help but a good starting point for guidance on how to write perfect prose is George Orwell’s Six Rules.
Writing is a skill that can be perfected over time, so use feedback and experience to constantly reevaluate and improve the content you produce. The simple rule that trumps all others is to remember to persevere and write. And if you are procrastinating just think of the words of American novelist Jodi Picoult — “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”
If your content marketing is failing to make an impact or needs a kickstart, click here to let Forabilis make it happen for you.