Before his execution, double-murderer, Gary Gilmore, uttered the following last words, “Let’s do it.”
And, thus was born Nike’s ever-famous slogan, “Just do it.”
Thanks to Dan Wielden co-founder of the advertising agency, Wieden & Kennedy, and the creative person Nike worked with to beat Reebok.
Wielden ended up creating Nike’s prominent slogan within 20 minutes, taking inspiration from Gilmore’s last words.
But what made and still makes this slogan tick with a such a broad audience?
It’s the connection that the words spark. Nike connects with its consumers at a deeper level with “Just do it,” upping its sales and market share that were once dominated by Reebok.
The slogan told people that it was cool to wear Nike even if they weren’t fitness enthusiasts. And it continues to motivate folks.
“Just do it” has also enabled Nike to develop a strong relationship with its fans.
That’s connection. And it’s exactly what you need to do with your content – develop a connection with your audience, at a deeper, more personal level.
To address this how, I’ve put together this post in collaboration with the tweets made over at the #SoloBizChat Twitter chat community, where I was kindly invited as a guest on the topic: ‘How To Write Content That Connects.’
- Why is it important your copy connects with your audience?
- What should someone do before they try to write copy that connects?
- What are the elements of content that connects?
- What should the content creation process include?
- How can you measure if your copy is connecting with your audience?
Let’s get to the meat of the matter:
But first – you’ll need a mindset detox
A lot of us think marketing is all about making money. It sure is. But that’s not the right way to approach things. And this is where you need to shake things up.
When writing content, your aim shouldn’t be to shove your services in your prospect’s face.
That’s the #ultimatefail.
Selling in the first meeting can be annoying. No one buys from you considering there are so many options folks have at their fingertips.
No wonder, you need a different approach. And it’s the need to nurture strong relationships. Why? Because people would rather buy from friends than strangers.
This is the exact opportunity that content offers you.
It allows you to solve your audience’s problems. And by doing so, end up in their good books.
Having said this, let’s talk about what you need to do to create content that connects:
Decide who your audience is
Anyone would ask you to start with understanding what disturbs your audience. But before you do that, it’s crucial you understand who you’re targeting.
It’s the same as this commonly-asked riddle that kids throw at each other,
“There’s someone on the door. The bell rings and the house owner is asleep. What does he open first?”
My answer (and the majority’s answer): The door.
After all, how else would anyone come in?
Wrong. The correct answer is the house owner opens his eyes first of all.
Look back at the riddle – he was fast asleep and he can’t open the door unless he opens his eyes.
Well duh! Isn’t it?
Knowing your audience, therefore, comes first. Even before you know their problems.
Toggl knows its target market. It includes remote workers, software developers, and web designers so it creates content that is addressed to them:
Alright so you get it. Know your audience. But would that happen magically?
You’ll have to create a reader persona. It’s a rough character sketch of your readers covering things like their age, reading preferences, where they consumer their content (mobile, for instance), and so on.
Your web analytics are great sources to gather raw material for a reader persona. Ask your readers directly too. Learn from competitor analysis as well.
And tools like Buzzsumo can help understand which type of content is most loved so you can add that to your readers’ content preferences. QuickSprout has a good step-by-step guide to creating reader personas that you might want to check.
Remember that such a sketch is a rough outline, and it keeps changing over time. Don’t let is limit you in anyway. But keeping its details around is always wise.
I think that's a good point and maybe why some people say don't use personas. I think you can't get boxed in. you need to keep that research and conversation going! #solobizchat
— MeetEdgar (@MeetEdgar) November 6, 2019
Sit with your audience and chat with them
You only know if an orange is sour or sweet after you peel and taste it. There’s no way you can tell otherwise.
Writing content that connects is a similar process.
It requires you to peel your audience’s layers to understand what annoys them. What pain points they face in their real life. Once you know the sour flavors in their life, you can start planning content around it to solve the concerns.
Let’s circle back to the earlier example here and see how it applies here.
Toggl’s target market comprises of individuals who need to track and manage their time adequately. So the team over at the productivity tool creates content to solve their pain point. Here’s one:
But how do you do that?
Your options are a dime a dozen. Some of them are:
i. Ask your readers
I recently saw Katy Cowan, the founder of Creative Boom, tweet this:
I’m starting a podcast for Creative Boom in 2020. (I used to read the news on the radio years ago, so I’m pretty excited!) My first interview will be with @ianTDR of @disinfoTDR. I’d love to start collecting some “questions from our audience”. What should I ask him? 🎙
— Katy Cowan (@katylcowan) November 8, 2019
Do you know what she did here? She asked her audience what they wanted to hear.
By doing so, she can ask her podcast guest what her audience wants to know rather than what she wants to learn.
And that’s exactly where the connection comes in. The podcast content is going to answer the questions that Katy’s audience has. There’s no reason why they wouldn’t enjoy it!
ii. Conduct keyword research
How many times have you come across a thing that you don’t understand, and took out your phone to Google it?
Plenty of times, isn’t it? So it’s safe to say that your audience does too.
This is why it’s good to trace their search patterns to learn what’s worrying them and prepare content around it.
iii. Ask your sales team
I’ve talked about this on another post covering tips for writing for your audience instead of yourself. But, to give you a gist – your CS team is in a constant conversation with your customers.
Answering their problems is what they do all. day. long.
So wouldn’t it be great if you ask them for a list of the most common problems customers discuss with them and create content around it?
Learn your target audience’s language
When you gleaned information for your reader persona, you’ll have learned your audience’s age and demographics.
If you’re only just started with your blog, you may have little to nothing to learn from your web analytics. In that case, you wouldn’t know your audience’s age, interests, and demographics.
What now? Look at your buyer’s persona. You can’t sell a product or service without knowing who you are selling it to.
Take your buyer’s qualities from there to sketch a rough reader persona. For instance, I’m selling a productivity software to freelancers in their middle age.
You got that from your buyer’s persona. This age is a good indicator of the language you should use for your audience.
These are some places where your audience could be. Make friends with your targets and notice the language they use.
When you look something from an analytical lens, you’re sure to find out points that will help write content that connects. Moving on…
Research. Research. Research
Okay so you know your audience, what keeps them up at night, and the language they use. You’re almost all set for creating content that connects.
With these basics, you can easily identify topics that your audience will find useful. But there’s still some more research left to do.
Here’s what’s pending:
i. Research and finalize your topic
Knowing pain points doesn’t mean you can simply lay them out in a blog post. Alas, that’s not how it works.
You’ll need to solve a problem that the majority of your audience faces. Helps saves resources while meeting the bullseye. 🎯
To this end, ask your audience, sales team, and Google as we’ve shared above. You can also try other sources. Here are 20 tried and true source for finding in-demand topics to cover.
ii. Research on the topic you’ve finalized
Once you’ve picked a topic, research on it. Look at what’s covered by leading publications and your competitors.
But don’t just plain read. Read and analyze. Explore any gaps in the content covered. And see how you can add your unique twist to it.
iii. Gather relevant studies, stats, and more
The best way to add an air of trustworthiness to your work is supporting your claims with relevant data and research.
You could conduct original research too. Or you could source data from research conducted by others. Either way, you’ll note that numbers and findings from study can improve your content’s quality significantly.
That’s a lot of research. I know.
But the more you research, the better your final piece of content will look. And the more it’s chances of connecting with its target audience. Plus, there’s one other, noteworthy benefit that Michelle, PR consultant and writer states:
And, the more I research/interview ahead of writing, the easier/faster the actual writing process is. #SoloBizChat
— Michelle Garrett (@PRisUs) November 6, 2019
Start writing content that resonate with your audience
Alright, on to the writing part. As you plan an outline for your post, be sure to keep in mind these three characteristic of content that connects:
Tell a story or share a personal experience. Or, start with a mind-blowing stat as Blake Throne does so in this post:
Aim to get your reader’s attention. And make sure you continue doing so throughout the post.
There’s no way you can expect readers to relate to content that doesn’t hold their attention. Three simple ways to write engaging content are:
- Be unpredictable. In the post above, Blake talks about writing but starts with Tupac’s 700 songs. In any other post, you’d hear the same thing but Blake’s approach is different
- Don’t drone on and on: The right way to go is by using short sentences, not repeating your points, and getting rid of all the meaningless fluff
- Hold attention with visuals: Don’t just insert visuals left, right, and center because you heard that posts with visuals get 94% more views times more views than those without them. Instead, ensure your visuals reinforce your message, supplementing it rather than distracting readers
Half of this is accomplished when you pick a topic that answers your audience’s question. For the rest, make sure you:
- Offer solid takeaways: By the end of your post, your reader should take home interesting facts with a smile. Don’t leave him with an eye roll. In short, deliver what you promise
- Lay out an actionable solution: Make sure you share some practical steps or insights so that the reader can take a few steps himself
- Explain it all in simple language: Even if your reader understands technical terms, he’d much appreciate it if you used simple language so he could use his brain to practically apply the info you share rather than decoding what you’re saying
— Maiko Sakai (@MaikoSakaiBiz) November 6, 2019
Although we’ve been advised to think before we leap, we’re emotional creatures. We feel first, think second. The same holds true in case of people you’re trying to connect with via content.
Studies also confirm that eliciting emotional response is a great way to gain attention.
Here are some ways to tug at your reader’s emotional chord or two:
- Show you are human: This also means you recall the times you’ve failed and share your vulnerabilities with your readers
- Tap into storytelling: Stories are known for provoking emotions. In fact, emotional articles are shared often because they’re relatable
- Use power words: These are words that are can help evoke emotions. Add them to your titles, call to action text, and more
— TimeContinuumApp (@timecontapp) November 6, 2019
Track your progress
Your web analytics are a great place to learn how well your content is connecting with your audience.
When your readers like what they read, you’ll note:
- A drop in your bounce rate
- An uptick in the time they spend on your page (increased avg. time spend on page)
- Better engagement. For instance, more people will share it on social
Related resource: How To Make Your Content Shareable – 8 Key Characteristics
You said it! Check your traffic source + new & returning visitors. Though even the best content fails to deliver, so rejacket it into other formats. Effort that went to create the original piece won't go wasted + it might work with a different set of audience. #solobizchat
— Sharanya (@sharanyamanola) November 7, 2019
There’s also a simple way to this tracking progress though:
A5: If you get one engagement you can be assured your copy is connecting. Most people won't respond, but if someone takes the time then it says a lot about the content.#SoloBizChat https://t.co/6xaZ2NidQR
— Kathryn Lang (@Kathrynclang) November 6, 2019
Bonus – 3 more factors for writing content that connects
We’ve covered a lot of ground here. We discussed identifying your audience, unearthing their pain points, learning their language, and picking an in-demand topic that resonates with your audience.
Then we went on to talk about thoroughly researching the topic you’ve picked. And ensuring your content is engaging, educating, and emotional as you write.
There are just three more things that need your attention now:
i. Content’s tone of voice
You’ve probably heard this, “it’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it.” This pretty much sums up the role that your content’s tone plays.
Aim for a warm, welcoming tone. And a friendly one too.
At the start of this post, we talked about making friends with content. Tone can help you with that.
Some ways to adopt a warm tone include:
- Make your content personal by using pronouns like, ‘you’ and ‘we.’
- Share your experiences or personal stories
- Keep your message positive. Don’t pass on negative vibes, they aren’t very memorable
ii. Write to one person
A great way to ensure that you’re writing in a way that it connects with your readers is writing to one person.
It was: "Does your writing sound like it's written by an actual person with an actual beating heart having an open, honest conversation with one single human being? And not a "segment" or a "persona" or an "audience." ONE. PERSON." -Ann Handley
— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) November 6, 2019
When you do that, you’ll be sure to add in the right details. Plus, your content is far more likely to be conversational than robotic or lifeless.
iii. Make your content easy to read
Since we’re writing for the web, we need to make sure that we’re taking all the right steps to get and hold audience’s attention.
There are two main reasons behind this.
One, reading online can be hard on the eye. Subsequently, your audience is likely to scan your content. Make that easy for them.
And, two, there’s a lot of variety for readers to choose their content from. So it’s essential that your content bears all the important characteristics that hold readers’ attention.
One such key element is readability, the effort to make your work easy to read.
Here’s what you can do to make content scannable and easy to digest:
- Use short sentences and paragraphs
- Break and supplement your content with useful visuals
- Use bullet points and avoid fluff
Related resource: How To Improve Your Content’s Readability.
Wrapping it up
Creating content that connects with your audience isn’t easy. A lot of times you may think you’ve done it all right. But you hear nothing but crickets after hitting publish. In times like these, don’t worry.
It’s a process of trial and error. Just stick with the following:
A3. Straight off the bat, it has to be useful to the folks you're writing it for. It doesn't matter content is ToFu, MoFu, or BoFu, stay focused on doling out actionable pieces of advice. #solobizchat
— Sharanya (@sharanyamanola) November 7, 2019
P.S. Here’s a recap of the wonderful chat we had.
P.P.S. If you need a hand with creating content that connects with your audience, feel free to connect with me. I look forward to hearing from you. 🙂