How to write engaging articles (and content)
Monday, July 13, 2020
There’s no doubt written articles are essential for any B2B marketing strategy. In fact, the Content Marketing Institute suggests 75% of B2B marketers have a content strategy in place, even if it’s not written down.
And yet, so many businesses struggle to create engaging articles. And 65% know it (according to the CMI).
So, what on earth does an engaging article look like?
I’m talking about something your target audience would want to read.
Here’s the bad news…
There’s no quick hack. Writing decent articles takes time, thought, and practice. Fail to plan, plan to fail, and all that. It certainly rings true here.
I recommend you use a proven method to shape your articles: who, why, what, where, when.
Bear with me and I’ll make sense of that for you.
WHO are you writing your article for?
Whether it’s a blog or an e-book, who do you want to read your article? This must be clear in your head before you start.
Lack of clarity on this point will kill your article before you’ve started.
- Are you writing for customers or prospects?
- Where are they at in terms of buying or using?
- What level of understanding do they have?
Some of this will be obvious. If you’re writing to engage prospects, you’re looking to move them closer to a sale. But where are they at? AIDA can be useful here:
If your reader is at the research stage, their information needs will be different from someone who already knows lots about your business.
Once you’ve established your reader, I recommend you write to them, and only them, in your article. Like I am to you. None of this third-party nonsense (the company this and the customer that). A first and second person approach is always more engaging.
WHY are you writing the article?
“Because I need to tick it off my list of jobs” isn’t a suitable answer.
“Because I need to create more content.” Nope, still no good.
Again, consideration of your reader and AIDA comes into play here. It also helps to understand what you want them to gain from reading your article.
For example, I’m writing this post to help you, my dear prospect, understand the importance of shaping a jolly decent article; be it a blog, a download, or something else entirely. In part, I’m giving you some practical help to improve your own methods, should you choose to do this yourself. But in doing so, you’ll understand I’ve been here before, and when you’re ready, I’d be a great person to ask for help.
You’ll most likely want your article to achieve one or more of the following:
- Inform and educate your reader
- Demonstrate your expertise on a topic
- Build trust with your reader
- Move your reader further down the sales funnel
- Encourage action (an enquiry or a sale)
Let one of these reasons lead your article, even if you have a secondary objective.
WHAT are you writing about?
This one needs a plan within the plan! Even if it’s just half an hour and a piece of A4. Commit to always writing a plan before you write anything remotely like the article itself.
Of course, longer pieces, such as white papers, command this anyway. But even an 800-word blog needs a plan and a structure.
- Will you cover a particular subject?
- Are there specific points to cover?
- Is there a clear core message to take away?
Beware trying to say too much. Beware starting from a muddled viewpoint. And beware not knowing your stuff; that’s what research is for.
Opening sentences are important. The same goes for headlines and sub-headings. From these, people decide whether to read on. The decision will be instantaneous, split-second. There’s plenty more they could be reading.
Have you clearly shown what’s in it for the reader? You might even consider creating a summary at the start, so they see your takeaway message at first glance.
Write with a cynical eye. Why should they bother to spend two, five, 20 minutes reading your article?
WHERE will you publish your article?
Different mediums require a different approach. How I write my blogs (aka this) can vary greatly to how I’d write an editorial article or an informative download.
If you’re publishing online, it’s going to be read on a screen. What’s the likelihood of this being a (smaller) mobile screen? For shorter pieces, highly likely.
There’s no place for waffle and long words online. Actually, there’s no place for waffle anywhere in my book.
Break up your copy, use shorter sentences where you can. Bullet points and break-out sections are great tools too.
If you’re creating a lengthy educational download, you have more scope for dense copy areas if you want. Personally, I prefer to keep things lighter wherever possible. We’re all human and will be happier reading articles that don’t twist our brains or leave our eyes getting lost on the page.
Nobody ever complains that something is too easy to understand!
These days, one article might be used in many ways. This allows you to adapt the content for the end-use. You might even make an infographic, webinar, or video script. Always focus on making it a positive experience for your reader.
WHEN will you publish your article?
There are some obvious questions to be clear on. Pre-purchase or post-purchase? During a trend, or ahead of it (your prediction, perhaps)? During your key buying season?
Taking the recent lockdown period as an example, timing became everything. Knowing how your reader felt at any time mattered more than ever.
During the initial phase, many businesses wanted to explain how they were working remotely and safely (or still working at all!) As I write this, many business sectors are opening up again. The timing feels different again and that initial message might not stick.
Always check your timing. What’s going on in your sector and what’s happening in the world? These factors can make your message resonate with your reader or repel them.
Article (and content) writing isn’t easy. And yet, so many businesses want to have a raft of engaging articles up their sleeve. Given the potential rewards from such content (more leads, more sales, more trust), it’s a wise place to invest.
Need a hand? Just let me know and we can arrange a time to chat.