Content is King. It is the key to good marketing. So good writing is essential to the success of your business. But it’s not just about good grammar, word choice and typo-free text. You need to connect with your audience through your unique business voice, a quality that makes your marketing materials and social media posts distinctive and even unique.
Content marketing is defined by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) as: “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action”. Because marketing has been transforming into publishing, content marketing essentially involves custom media, sometimes called custom publishing, custom content or branded content. But how successful is content marketing?
The facts about (un)successful content marketing
According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2018 B2B content marketing report (https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/2018-b2b-research-final.pdf):
- 91% of respondents use content marketing.
- The average percentage of total marketing budget spent on content marketing is 26% to establish their company in the marketplace and grow their business. The most successful spend 40%, while the least successful spend 14%.
- 38% of all respondents expect their content marketing budget to increase in the next 12 months.
- Although 9 in 10 organizations market with content, regardless of size or industry, 53% have a small or one-person content marketing team that serves the entire organization.
- Only 9% of all respondents reported having a sophisticated level of use of content marketing and only 4% are very successful in using it.
Success in content marketing is defined as “achieving your organization’s desired/targeted results”. It is overwhelmingly attributed to higher quality, more efficient content creation and production focused on building audiences (building one or more subscriber bases) through creativity and craft. Yet approximately 75% of respondents do not have a strategy plan to develop one within 12 months.
What does all this mean?
It means that companies big and small are finding it harder to differentiate their product and service features. While marketing teams and content media professionals discuss “what worked and what didn’t work”, B2B digital marketing is getting harder and harder.
Everyone is producing more content (a lot of it awful) but there’s enormous uncertainty about the best tactics to use. In fact, 94% of content is produced through social media, but it is the least successful type of content! Why? Because there’s increasing noise on social media platforms. Ad blindness is on the rise in channels like Facebook and Linkedin, and more competitors are bidding on the same keywords and targeting the same organic keywords as your business is.
Find your voice in the crowd
To make your social media content stand out, you need to find your distinctive business voice! It is the lens through which your readers see your company. And it is what makes every word count. Your distinctive voice is what helps you grab the reader’s attention and establish a relationship with them by being consistent across your written business communication.
So how do you find your personal business voice? It’s all about finding the right mix of tone and style.
Tone refers to the personality and mood of your business writing, the way you express your attitude towards your audience and the subject of your message. Your tone is conveyed with the verbs, adverbs and adjectives you choose to use and can be conversational, snarky, comic, sarcastic, sad, cheerful, or any other existing attitude.
Style refers to the way you write, the technique you use to make your readers “listen”. You can do this by explaining a concept or imparting information (expository style), describing a person, place or thing by painting a picture in words (descriptive style), trying to convince the audience of a position or belief (persuasive style), or telling a story (narrative style).
Your choice of tone and style combine to give your business a voice. The goal of developing your voice is to produce a reaction from the reader that will be beneficial to your clients and your business. To make sure that reaction is positive, here are some tips:
- Before you start writing, have a clear understanding of:
- Who you want to address. Who is your target audience and what is the best style to use? Writing a blog for professional investors is very different from writing one for teenagers.
- What you want to communicate about your business and/or your brand. Which three words would you want your readers to use to describe it?
- Why you are writing. What is the purpose of your blog or letter or comment? Do you want to inform, convince or motivate the reader to take action?
These three factors will define your writing mechanics: word choice, sentence structure, style, and even punctuation. Writing for a tween audience has to be trendy, upbeat, fun, and easy to understand, so you’ll use basic vocabulary, casual language, some slang, and a moderate amount of exclamation points. It you’re writing for investors, you’ll use professional language, a moderate amount of specialized language, and strategically placed exclamation points, if any. So, it would be a good idea to create some writing do’s and don’ts specific to your business/brand voice and a complementary list for each of your targeted audiences.
- When you write, keep the following in mind:
- To connect with your reader, use natural language, sensory details, and action verbs. To make your tone lively, vary sentence length and avoid using verbs as nouns (e.g. instead of recommendation, recommend).
- To make your business voice distinctive from that of your competitors, make a list of the adjectives that describe the qualities of your business and brand and those that you don’t want to convey. Then boil your list down to three or four core descriptors of each and prioritize them.
- To sound authentic and sincere, avoid using passive voice and overly complex sentences. It makes you sound superficial.
- To spark the reader’s interest, be original. Add variety and personality by using figurative language (i.e., metaphors, similes, analogies, personification) to make the ordinary seem extraordinary and the complex simple. Avoid clichés and use unlikely comparisons.
- To reveal the human side of your business, use intelligent humor. Long narrative jokes won’t cut it. Use puns, wit and irony to be playful without insulting your reader’s intelligence.
Everyone today is a writer, but few are heard
You don’t have to be a “professional writer” to produce successful social media content. But you do need to find a distinctive voice and use it to build a bridge between your business and your audience.
Writing with a distinctive voice is a balancing act of juggling audience, style, and tone in relation to your company’s identity and brand. It’s about what your business stands for and where it’s going. Deciding how it is presented to the public has everything to do with defining your unique business voice.
There is nothing more important for successfully marketing your product or service today than developing a strong, well-defined voice for your business. It is what helps your targeted audience understand who you are and keeps them engaged and coming back for more. So, if you want to be heard in the crowded social media space, put your money where your voice is.