Yesterday Andy White interviewed me for SiteVisibility‘s weekly Internet Marketing Podcast. We talked about ‘Bringing your brand to life with words’. Our chat ended with a fascinating question about good writing. Andy asked:
‘What’s the one bit of advice you’d give to to help anyone write more effectively?’
I had to stop and think for a moment. Writing’s a very personal thing, so any advice or training I give tends to be very personally tailored. But there is one thing that’s absolutely central to all good writing. And it’ll help you build stronger, deeper relationships with your customers and clients too.
Revealing the Golden Secret
‘Write what your audience needs to hear, not what you need to tell them.’
It’s a very important point. It means building your communication around the person you’re reaching out to. It means thinking about who they are, why they need to hear from you, what you need to tell them and how you’re going to talk with them – all the essentials of good writing.
It also makes the process of writing much easier. It helps you work out what you need to put into your communication, what you can leave out (usually, quite a lot!) and how you’re going to structure it all. And it gives you a very useful yardstick to edit against.
The worst ever question
Most importantly, it makes your writing much more effective. It will help you avoid the single worst response any communication can spark:
If you build your writing around what your audience needs to hear, they’ll never have to ask that question. That’s because every single one of your communications will solve a specific problem for them, or give them a vital piece of information, or make life easier for them in some other way.
Testing out the Golden Secret
It’s very easy to test it out. Just think about all the written communications you’ve received in the last few days. I’m sure some of them have been fantastic and some of them – well, not so much.
Pick out a really good communication and a really awful one. Read them again with the Golden Secret in mind. My bet is that the really good one will feel like it’s written for and talking to you personally. And the terrible one will feel at best completely generic and at worst totally irrelevant.
Better writing builds stronger relationships
Think about how each one makes you feel. I’m sure the good one will leave you with a lovely glow of good feelings about whoever’s written to you. And the bad one will probably make you feel a bit fed up, if not actively annoyed.
And that’s the final point about the Golden Secret. It’s not just about good writing. It’ll help you build stronger relationships with your clients or your customers, because it helps you show them that you put them at the heart of everything you do.