Adjusting your writing style for your audience
Who are you talking to when you’re putting together your marketing brochure or writing a piece for your website? Have you got a clear idea of who your target audience is for your business?
Before you start any piece of writing, think: “Who do I want to read this and what do I want them to do afterwards?”
It may be obvious, but it’s very easy to plunge straight into the detail of what you want to say when you have a great idea you want to put across, without doing this basic but essential check.
Thinking like your customers is the first step to writing copy that appeals and talks directly to them. There’s a world of difference between the audience for Vogue and Fish Fryer’s Monthly – a stark example of the need to get your tone of voice and style right.
Having a customer persona can really help you write content with them in mind, rather than writing for a nameless, faceless audience. You need to spend time conjuring up your perfect customer and then put yourself in their shoes and think about their wants and needs.
Once you’ve got that ideal customer in mind, think about what impression you want to make? Is your writing to be discursive, intellectual, highbrow? Or populist, punchy and witty? Will you be looking for words that convey elegance, sophistication and luxury, or speed and efficiency?
If what you’ve written sounds too formal and wooden, try to imagine how you’d express your message to someone you’d just met down the pub, or at a networking meeting.
Stuck for ideas? Here’s a recent example of using the right language in a website we put together for Dylan’s Ice Cream. The challenge was to evoke mouthwatering and tastebud-tickling flavours and textures in fresh, lively language. We defy anyone to tell us they don’t feel like an ice cream after visiting this website!
In another example, one of our long-standing clients, a national childcare group, asked us to write website profiles for 81 nurseries across the country. The telltale point was that the nursery managers saw what they offer in terms of jargon about meeting Early Years goals and achieving regulatory standards.
But parents see things differently. Although they want reassurance that the nursery is safe and secure, they will also respond to some colourful examples of what their child will be doing there. While mum and dad are slaving away at work, they like to think of their child being happy, busy, learning, laughing and enjoying a whirl of activity.
So in thinking like the customer (in this case mums and dads), rather than nursery managers, we wrote persuasive copy that reflected their interests and concerns. What resulted was a demanding but fun project writing about the joys of baking biscuits, splodging paint, marching about the garden in wellies and snuggling down with books.
All businesses, we’d suggest, should think in the same way. Think like your customer – tap into their problems, aspirations and needs – before you draw up the words for your website, brochures or newsletters.
It’s the best way to get your message bang on target.