I know that you know it’s really important to have an attention-grabbing headline. It attracts traffic and readers. However, traffic just for traffic’s sake won’t deliver your target audience. And in the few seconds it takes a reader to scan your blog post or web page, they’ll decide whether to stick around and read it in detail or move on.
So how do you boost the likelihood of attracting and keeping your target audience on the page? It’s simple.
- Choose language your audience is familiar with.
- Tell stories your reader connects with.
- Describe (and solve) problems your potential customers deal with.
Now you know what you need to do to attract your target audience, but HOW do you do it?
Read on to find out.
Stalk Your Prey…I Mean, Really Get to Know Your Reader
To really connect with your reader, you need to speak their language. You should also know everything you can about them, including their age, sex, income, demographics – the basics of a standard customer profile. In addition to your customer profile, you also want to know what your reader worries about, what they look forward to, and what they most want from your service or product. While you’ve probably heard this before, it’s time to pay attention to how your reader describes their needs, wants, concerns, and to take a closer look at the language these customers use so you can communicate using the same words and phrases.
Clues in the Complaints
Learn the language of your readers by visiting the social media networks they frequent. Look at the comments, questions, and the complaints. Pay particular attention to how your target reader phrases their concerns. What words are they using to describe their anxieties? Start listing commonly used words, and often-repeated phrases. Look at the comments and content being shared and/or upvoted. This will give you an idea of the language and terminology that resonates with them.
Zendesk has an awesome source of info about their customer’s language – user groups, a customer community and developer community that they host.
Mimic their language
Why invest such energy in getting to know your reader? So you can talk about what’s important to them using their language style. To attract and engage your reader, they must believe you understand their world. Do this by communicating in words and phrases they’ll understand. “Talking their talk”, or, to be more accurate, “writing” their talk identifies you as one of their pack, but the one with the solutions to their problems. Your words need to strike a chord with them. What better way to do that than to use their own words?
As Tommy Walker says in the article Guaranteed Success: How to Find Your Target Market So Content Sticks on Crazy Egg, “The best way to resonate with a market is to become a reflection of its ideal self.” To become a reflection, you need to stalk your reader/prey.
Find Common Ground and Plant Familiar Phrases
Tatiana Mejia’s word choice helps establish a quick connection with readers of Adobe’s Digital Marketing Blog.
Here’s an example from a blog post aimed at the digital marketing crowd. Tatiana Mejia of Adobe’s Digital Marketing blog knows her readers will connect with the title of this post – ’50 First Impressions’. They’ve either seen the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore movie 50 First Dates, or else the title sounds familiar enough that they read on to learn more.
Mejia quickly draws the parallel between Sandler’s character who’s trying to make a memorable first impression on a girl suffering from short-term memory loss, with the common dilemma facing digital marketers. How can I be compelling in the few seconds it takes to grab my potential customer’s attention?
Scan the post. As a writer focused on digital marketing, I see words and phrases like ‘conversion’, ‘social media’, and ‘customer interaction’. Which words do you see immediately? Think about the words and phrases most likely to capture your ideal reader’s attention and sprinkle them into your next blog post.
Writing Tricks: Turn Questions into Titles and Subheadings
No matter who your readers are, they have problems and questions. He has arrived at your page looking for an answer to a question; she needs a solution to her problem and you have approximately eight seconds to convince these readers that you can help them. One easy way to do this is to show them their question in either your title or subheadings, using the language and phrases your reader is familiar with. A second option is to give them a short answer in your subheadings.
Where Are All the Questions?
If you’re wondering just what it is your readers are having problems with or want to know, here are a few places to start looking.
- Your customer complaints or customer service department.
- Your competitors’ customer complaints (check out their Facebook pages and FAQs on their website, for starters)
- Reddit and relevant Subreddits
- Twitter search
Once you’ve identified a question to answer, catch your reader’s attention with the promise of more than just answer – and then deliver. Use a story to explain how someone just like them solved a problem. Provide a “unique” or “simple” or “best” or “complete guide” to answer the question and solve the problem better than anyone else out there.
In this GetElastic.com blog post, Linda Bustos not only answers the reader’s question ‘How can we use geographic personalization?’ she provides three “untypical” solutions.
Answering questions can keep you in blog content indefinitely – just take a look at Richard Branson’s Virgin blog. As of mid-June, 2014, six of his last twenty post titles were in a question format.
Attract your reader with their own question, and then keep their attention by giving them three to five action items that will help “answer” their question.
First, Second, and Active Voice
Choosing the voice to share the story in the language of your reader is key to setting the tone of your message. Whether you’re working on a blog post, landing page copy, a case study or an ‘About’ page, the voice you use in business writing says a lot about what you offer your reader in that particular piece. Are you providing advice as a respected and experienced industry leader? Are you sharing the story of how your services helped a customer overcome an obstacle? Or are you explaining how to install software?
Here’s what you need to remember about your voice when writing for business:
The first person says “I did this.”
Second person says “You do that.”
And the active voice says “Do this. Do that.”
So how do you choose which voice to use? It depends on the format and the purpose of the piece.
I Can Help You
Using the first person “I” – is particularly effective when author has, well, authority in their field. The reader recognizes that the person writing the post knows what they’re talking about because they’ve dealt with the issues, solved the customer expectation problems, fixed the onboarding issue, solved the overnight shipping dilemma.
Using the first person voice in this guest post on Hootsuite makes sense for respected serial entrepreneur James Caan because it’s his experience and advice that attracts readers.
I’ve been there, I learned from it, I’ve studied it, here’s how I did it. I am now an authority in this field.
Using the first person is effective in blog posts, ‘About’ pages, LinkedIn posts, and some guest posts. It’s a great voice to use to tell a story from the perspective of someone who has been there, done that.
It’s all About “You”
If your business is serious about building a blog to attract readers, put the focus on them. As Marya Jan wrote in Problogger’s 23 Top Tips to Make Your Blog Posts More Conversational, “The most important word in blogging is “You.”
Britni Schwartz, Operations Director at Todaymade, (you know, the creators of editorial content and social media scheduling calendar app Coschedule?) wrote a great blog post that makes use of several clever language tricks for connecting with readers.
Now, it stands to reason that the people most likely to want to use Coschedule are busy and time-strapped – if you’ve ever tried to produce and schedule a business blog you understand. In It’s Your Fault Your Customers Expectations Are Ridiculous Schwartz immediately establishes that she, like her readers, is busy too. In fact, so busy that she “finally” got around to watching a movie, and she “finally took a trip to Red Box.” By using the first person “I” — she’s making her advice personal, and by using “you” she makes it intimate – she is talking directly to the reader. She talks about “we” and “our customers”, aligning herself with her readers. She and I are alike, you think, but she has information that I don’t…yet.
Use Your Bossy Voice
Sometimes it’s not only okay to be bossy, it’s preferred – especially when you’re trying to attract readers who are ready to sign up, take action, make a purchase. Also known as the “active” voice, this voice works well for email subscription landing pages, sales copy, DIY posts, tutorials, and how-to articles.
If, however, your research tells you your reader will respond better to a more gentle coaching voice than a direct teaching or advising tone, choose less forceful action words. But beware– this may make your writing less clear. For example, “Insert a call-to-action in the third line of your broadcast email” is an example of a clear direction given in an active voice. You can soften this to “Why not try a call-to-action in the third line of your broadcast email?”
The first example is a straight-up command – do this. It’s the voice to choose when the reader is on your page to get things done as quickly and simply as possible. The second example attracts a reader who is browsing or looking for suggestions on how to do something. She needs encouragement rather than commands, and isn’t as far along the sales funnel as the first reader.
Slanging with Style
Ever heard the advice to “write like you speak, but better?” Using slang and/or casual language appropriately can help you do this while attracting the reader you want.
Whether you should use slang or less-formal language in your blog posts and on your website depends on two things. Will your reader respond favorably to it? And does using slang undermine your business authority and credibility?
Using slang that your readers use themselves in conversation and will easily recognize can help them feel that your business and brand is one that “gets” them, but accomplishing this while maintaining your professionalism can be a bit of a balancing act.
I like to think of slang as the spice in the writing dish. Use it sparingly, to flavor the main ingredients of your blog post or web copy. Slang can work well in headlines and subheadings to catch the reader’s eye. It also has its place in storytelling and case studies as it may identify either the writer or the subjects as being peers of the reader.
The key to ‘slanging’ is to make sure you’re using words and phrases that your reader will immediately connect with, and that are appropriate to your product or service.
Good examples of effectively using slang and casual language in “Another awesome post” by Lincoln Murphy
Lincoln Murphy is a SaaS growth strategies consultant who runs the Sixteen Ventures blog. Not surprisingly, Murphy’s blog attracts SaaS owners and marketers. His blog post on 5 Steps to Improve Your SaaS Onboarding Process includes several examples of the effective and appropriate use of slang and casual language.
Take a look at heading number two.
The “slang” is short, sweet, and to the point. Ask ‘em what’s wrong. If Murphy was speaking to a room full of SaaS professionals about onboarding, these are probably exactly the words he’d say.
Here’s another example from the same post.
The language Murphy uses sounds natural and casual without making him sound less credible to his readers.
Pay attention to how you speak to customers on the phone. When you draft your next blog post or sales copy, copy your speaking pattern, then make it better by adding the words to flesh out your idea. It will make for a more naturally flowing post.
Wrap it Up
Using phrases and words your ideal reader recognizes and relates to makes your digital marketing materials more effective in attracting and engaging new readers. Research your target audience to discover not only what will catch their eye, but what will keep them reading.
Visit the social media networks and websites they frequent and make note of how they talk about the problems you can potentially help them with. Use this language to tell stories, describe problems and provide answers to situations and questions they relate to.
Talk about your service, app or product using your readers’ preferred words and phrases.
Above all, pay attention to their language! The more you know about their word and phrase choices, the better you’ll be able to tailor your writing and web content to connect with your reader, increasing the likelihood they’ll go from your ideal reader to your ideal customer.