Seven Building Blocks for Web and Print Content

You have a brand-new business, you are re-launching, or you need to publicise a new product, special event or major landmark. So, you’ll need two things: a vehicle to take your message to the world; and the message itself.

The choice of vehicle is simple. Who doesn’t have a website these days? But consider using other routes as well – Twitter and Facebook social networking sites come a close second. Then there are popular online channels such as Pinterest (an online noticeboard), Instagram (a photo and video-sharing social networking service) and Tumblr (a cross between social networking and a microblogging site).

Print outlets range from leaflets, catalogues and exhibition literature to brochures, company reports and tabloid-size supplements in national newspapers. It’s whatever suits your market – and your budget.

Good design does the initial hard work. Then your words have to work. You want readers to come back.

The tricky part is the message itself. Yes, it’s words, carefully chosen, sparingly used, and put together to interest, entertain and inform. You can reel off reams of “we offer this” and “tailored to your needs” items, but if you don’t grab your reader, you have a stark choice: rewrite, ask a professional copywriter – or give up (not a good option!). Otherwise, that potential client will either quickly click on another site or bin your banter.

Good design online or in print does the initial hard work of attracting your reader to your website or flyer. Then your words must work – and fast. You want readers to come back.

1. Write A Plan and Stick to It

OK, so you’re staring at a blank screen, wondering where to begin. First thing is to write out a plan and stick to it. You can get so side-tracked with peripheral ideas and information that your mind gets swamped and you panic. A clear head following a simple plan produces the best copy. Also, by trial and error, work out the best time in the day to write your creative material. Is it early morning, late at night or midmorning after the daily email trawl?

2. Say What’s in the Tin

Unlike print material, many websites don’t state what their owner does at the top of their first (home or landing) page. People seem to expect you to know! If you are a lawyer, an antique dealer or a jet-aircraft salesman, say so. And make sure your phone number contact details are equally up-front.

Next, though not obligatory, think up a slogan – not a cliché but something expressing the edge you think you have over your competition. But try it out on friends first to make sure it works. Don’t go there unless you have something that works.

This brings the reader onto your home page proper. The opening headline needs to draw them in. Let’s have an active verb in there. It must also include key words or phrases to please Google and other search engines.

3. Answer the Questions Your Customers Ask

Your main opening article must answer the questions a potential customer would ask. The killer query is why should I buy from you and not elsewhere? What makes you different? Summarise what you offer along with your unique selling points so customers will know immediately what to expect.

4. Biographies to Create Rapport with Customers

Your second page – “About us” – should back up your home page by talking about your background and the history of your business. Why should a customer rely on your product, advice, support? Write it as a profile of what makes you tick. What excites you about the business you are in? What got you into it? (A lawyer friend told me how he had gone through a tough bereavement when his mother died and so he set up his own wills and probate business with a special emphasis on supporting to help others going through a similar trauma.)

What about your previous experience? Or anecdotal stories about your progress? And don’t forget to add the personal touch – what about your outside interests, sport, hobbies? These can help form connections with customers.

People often find this autobiographical type of article is best written by an independent third party because they are too close to it themselves. Being interviewed by a professional can reveal qualities and episodes the interviewee might never have thought of.

5. Entertain With “Getting My Client Out of a Crisis” Stories

This leads on to a third page or section on your website or brochure answering the question: how have you made your customers happy? Case studies of clients you have helped, written in a newsy style, are just the sort of material to keep people on your site for longer than the average 10 seconds before they click on a rival site. Choose incidents with a “bad luck” element at the start. A customer comes to you desperate for advice, a product or service. You then offer a solution and help the customer escape from a tricky situation. These stories work best when told through a customer’s eyes – they entertain the reader who wants to know what happens and yet they also act as “soft” testimonials.

6. Testimonials and Portfolios That Show Your Business Works

On a separate page and, ideally, dotted about your site or print literature are straight testimonials, which work well on their own. Ask a satisfied client if they mind writing one out or giving you a testimonial verbally you can write up and get their approval on. A portfolio page of your past achievements – e.g. designs, products, awards, successful deals, significant sales, costs saved, disputes settled – should make up a fourth key page.

7. How to Contact Us and The Call to Action

Next comes the all-important “Contact us” web page with a brief invitation to contact you, phone numbers, email and postal address (if relevant) or a clearly designed panel on your printed leaflet.

And finally as a general “must do” on all your pages, include a call to action at the end of each main piece of content. It should be calling readers to ask, say, for more information or to arrange a free consultation, followed up by your company name, phone number and email address. This is designed to encourage any reader inspired by your content to take a step further towards finding out about buying from your business. If they do this, you know your content is working…

You may also like: Focus Strategy and How to Please Google

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