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Anyone who owns, operates, or works at a direct-to-consumer (D2C) business has had their ears ringing with one of the hottest marketing buzzwords at the moment: content. Everyone from Gary Vee to industry giants, HubSpot, has preached about the importance of writing content and how doing so helps grow the bottom line. Despite all this talk about writing content, there still is a lot of confusion on how to do it well. That being said, writing content well should be pretty straightforward.
Before you start punching the keys on your laptop, remember to tell yourself that writing, in the simplest terms, is a form of communication. The rest, the pageantry of it, is presenting whatever needs to be said in the best possible light. The heart of what you want to say is what makes whatever you write worth reading. One thing that surprises many first-time content producers is how little writing actually goes into writing content. You’re following, right? Most of the work is done behind the scenes — researching, building an outline, creating a plan of action, and so on.
Before I go on and on, let me take a step back. Here are five tips for writing content that wins readers.
Any marketing activity should always be tied to a key performance indicator (KPI) or metric; writing content isn't any different. Identifying the primary purpose of a piece of content — whether that's generating sales, boosting brand awareness, building relationships with customers, or adding SEO value — will make it easier to create content that reaches specific marketing goals. Additionally, tracking the performance of content over time can help uncover trends that could inform future content goals and decisions.
For example, if a D2C brand is introducing a new product to market and wants to build awareness for it, they could focus on writing content (e.g., blog post) that talks about the product. If the blog post doesn't perform well (this could mean a low average time on page), the D2C brand can use that information to create different forms of content. This can include everything from case studies, video testimonials, and so on.
Before you start writing, you’ll need to identify what you’re trying to communicate. What’s the main idea that you want people to walk away with? Establishing this is vital to writing content that is focused, tight, and has no wasted text. A great piece of content should be metaphorically similar to a Jenga tower, where removing one block (or section) can bring the entire structure crumbling to the ground.
For example, the subject of this blog is about how to write quality content, so that idea should be supported by every section, paragraph, sentence, and word. The main idea impacts everything that is written. Figure out what you want to say, and the rest is as simple as 1-2-3.
Many of the things that I learned about writing came from my US history class in high school. Every Monday, the class was required to handwrite a two-page essay in 20 minutes that covered the reading that was assigned over the weekend. No matter how talented a student was, if they didn’t complete the reading, they’d be toast.
The thing that always stuck with me from that experience was that research makes writing content possible. Researching the subject at hand will help you uncover little nuggets of information that would have otherwise been missed and help you avoid writing content that's too "fluffy" and general. Also, supporting content with facts — whether that’s with stats or quotes — will help make your case. For example, according to a report from Heinz Marketing, 50.5% of marketing decision-makers stated that the biggest issue with the content they receive is that it's too "fluffy."
We live in a world of data, so having something to back up your argument will give you ample ammunition to keep you detractors at bay.
It’s all about structure. Knowing how to frame an idea is as essential as having an idea in the first place. In my opinion, creating an outline is the most crucial step when it comes to writing content. So, how do you create a quality outline that makes writing content easier? Well, depending on the type of content (whitepaper vs. blog post), the way an outline looks can vary. However, most written content should follow a traditional outline. As an example, let's go over the outline structure I use when writing content:
Once you’ve done that, you can start doing the real work — actually writing content.
Writing content is a solitary exercise; it's just you and the glow of the computer screen. But, it doesn't have to be that way. Speaking from personal experience, I understand how challenging it can be to be objective of your own work — especially after reworking a sentence for what feels like an eternity. When you've hit that wall, that's when it's time to call in for reinforcements.
Getting a second pair of eyes that you trust to review your work will always make your content better. Obvious grammatical mistakes can often be overlooked due to the fact that a writer is too close to their work. If you don't have anyone that can review your work, writing tools, such as Grammarly, can be a huge help. Grammarly offers a freemium version that helps spot errors, grades for readability, and does so much more. I'm a big fan of the tool and use it almost every day.
One of the most important lessons that I've ever learned came from my teacher in my first screenwriting class in film school. When a student was struggling to discuss a scene they were working on, agonizing over every single detail, my teacher stopped them in mid-sentence and said, "Perfect is the enemy of good." Dumbfounded, the student had no idea what he meant. What my teacher went on to explain was that the journey of a writer is long, and getting stuck on a single piece can limit the amount of quality work produced over a lifetime. The critical thing for a writer to do is to keep improving — mastering the craft through one writing project after another. I'm relaying that lesson over to you.
Writing content isn't easy, and that's okay. Your first few blog posts, eBooks, and case studies may not be your best work, but if you're diligent and focused, the work will continue to improve over time. And you won't need a screenwriting teacher to remind you of that.
Originally published on November 28th, 2019, last updated on June 16th, 2022.