Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are the author’s alone.
Entrepreneurs have to wear all sorts of hats — but what if one of those “hats” doesn’t fit so well? Can you just throw it into the dark depths of your closet?
Definitely not that “writing hat.” Writing your own website copy, tweets, sales funnels, and blogs just goes with the entrepreneurial game. But as I’ve presented to incubators and economic development centers across Kansas City, I’ve heard one thing over and over again from entrepreneurs both new and seasoned:
“Ugh! … I hate writing!”
And you know what? I totally get it. Writing is tough, doubly so if it’s writing that has to get people excited about a product or idea that you know inside and out.
Until you can hire your own Don Draper, you’re the best (and only) ad team you’ve got. But even the most copy-challenged person can amp up their persuasive powers with these five simple rules.
• Headlines & subject lines matter. Want to make ’em sing? Use the Advanced Marketing Institute Headline Analyzer to know exactly whether your headlines are falling flat or snazzy sharp. The goal is to get 40 percent or more for your headlines. Study lists of “emotionally powerful” words to bone up on your headline vocab.
• Keep it conversational. Remember all those “English teacher” rules? “Use complete sentences! Don’t use ‘I’! Paragraphs must have four to six sentences!” … Yeah, you can forget all that. Formality is out, but keeping people reading is in. Make sure your writing falls between a fourth and sixth grade reading level. I’ll say it again: fourth to sixth grade reading level. Use the Flesch-Kincaid Formula to make sure you’re keeping it there.
• Action, action, action. Your readers are lazy, selfish, and distracted. Never assume that they know what you want them to do. Tell them. Tell them three times. Whether it’s “buy, follow, share, or click,” getting that conversion rate up means you have to always have a solid Call to Action game going.
• Keep it short. Look at your latest blog or email. Do you have to scroll to see the bottom? Let me tell you something: Most of your readers never get there. If you see big paragraphs, chop them up. If you have to scroll, make it shorter. The less you ask of your readers’ attention span, the more likely it is that they’ll take in more of your message.
• Last but definitely not least: audience first. This is the most valuable tip I have for you: before you sit down to write, no matter what it is, ask yourself, “Who am I writing to, and what is the one thing I want them to remember?”
Who you are writing to is one person: get that person in your head — what’s their name, what do they look like, what do they know, what are their values, what’s interesting to them, what’s their life like.
Once you have a clear view of them, figure out the one thing that you want them to remember. Not two. Not three. Not a bullet list. One. Thing. Get that one thing figured out, and everything else you write should support that one thing.
Apply these five rules regularly, and watch out that you don’t open up your own ad agency!
Greta Perel, PhD, shows entrepreneurs, ad, and marketing professionals how to persuade and motivate critical audiences through the Mindful Copywriter Method. Find her on LinkedIn or email firstname.lastname@example.org