Organize and simplify your Web writing by asking 5 important questions:
- What is the problem (pain, predicament)?
- Why hasn't this problem been solved?
- What is possible?
- What is different now?
- What should you do now?
As you write your copy, you should cover each of the answers. This will keep you on task, and lead your readers through to action. I suppose it depends on what you're writing, but I can't think of many web pages, blog posts, newsletter articles where these 5 questions wouldn't be appropriate.
I've been re-reading Maria Velosa's Web Copy that Sells this week. Her blueprint for creating simple copy that works to market your products and services is clear. There's a reason it's organized this way.
Psychologically, we're hard wired to sit up and pay attention to problems. This is why it's a good idea to lead off with your headline and first paragraph addressing readers' pain. Negative emotions are strong enough to wake us up and get us to read the rest of the story.
There are two things you must realize about this seemingly obvious and simple question:
- People who are your target audience may not realize they have a problem (or how bad it can get)
- People need to know you fully understand their pain AND CARE before they will read anything you have to say about it
Write a few sentence out about the problem. A few sentences will do. You want your readers to say,
- "Oh how true, she really understands me."
- "She reads me like a book."
- "She must be following me around."
- "She's been there, done that too."
- "Oh yeah, that's true too, I hadn't thought about that…"
And this is why you really need to know your audience well. Know them and care about them. You've got to communicate understanding AND empathy. Not to be cliched, but it's really true:
"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."
Yesterday I wrote about how one of my clients hadn't realized all the benefits of selling her original art-work cards online: A Simple Blueprint for Writing Web Content that Gets Results. When we listed all the ways her cards benefited people, we came up with 4-5 problems she solved.
One way to explore question #1, What's the problem? is to make a list of all the benefits of your products and services to clients. Each benefit can be attached to a problem.
Here's another example of how this works.
Example: Imagine I'm writing copy designed to promote my new ebook, Content Marketing with Blogs. This 15 page report is free (a feature) and provides many benefits to small business owners how to blog successfully. Take just one benefit from reading this ebook as an example…
Feature: This report teaches you how to write great blog content.
Benefit: Writing and publishing great web content gets you found on the Internet
Problem: With so much information on the Web, how do you get found by the specific people who have the problems you solve?
Other manifestations of this problem are:
- how to stand out in a crowded niche
- how much to share
- how personal to get
- how technical and detailed to get
- how frequently to publish
- how to get read by more people
- how to publish using multi-media tools
- how to opitmize for search engines…
The list could go on, and as you build a list of problems, think of it as a list of content ideas. Publish a page or post or newsletter addressing every aspect of the problems your customers face. You won't run out of for content ideas for quite a while.