Have you noticed over the last few years the internet has become a sea of repetitive, generic, dull content?
Have a little Google of “How to write for the web”, and see how many results you get…
A GAZILLION. All peddling roughly the same advice.
Do you know why this is? It’s because everyone is looking at everyone else to work out what to write. I’ve written about the copywriting echo chamber before, and this is an example of it in action.
This problem isn’t just limited to copywriting though, it’s endemic to many industries.
Keeping up with the Joneses
By limiting yourself to writing about the same things as your competitors or by imitating their web copy, you are only ever keeping up the Joneses.
You’re adding to that sea of “samey” content rather than sticking your head above the parapet and saying something new.
If your website says pretty much the same things as your competition, how will your customers know who to pick?
What do you do when you have to choose between two near identical options?
You make a random choice OR you go with a third option that offers something different.
No business wants to be a random choice.
Every business wants (or should want) to be THE ONLY CHOICE. That third option that offers something different, catches people’s attention and keeps them coming back for more.
So, how do you go about doing this? (Hint – it’s not by hanging on to the coat tails of your competition).
Find your special sauce
You do this by working out what makes your business unique.
And I mean truly unique. Because “high customer satisfaction and a friendly, professional service” do not count as USPs, no matter how many times you try to tell me they do. They are just the fundamentals of running a good business.
You need to find your own brand of special sauce, that je ne sais quoi that only you can bring to the table, and flaunt it shamelessly.
“But my business isn’t in a creative field!”
I would argue there’s no such thing as an uncreative field, just uncreative business owners.
Take the humble garden shed as an example. Not a particularly sexy subject is it?
Reader Sheds’ “Shed of the Year” competition blows that assumption completely out of the water.
It’s funny, charming, inspiring, relatable and incredibly memorable. It also gets them a huge amount of press coverage each year and guarantees a healthy following on social media (search #shedoftheyear on Twitter).
That’s pretty much the dream for every brand, right?
Ok, ok, but where do I start?
Whether you’re looking to revamp your web copy or planning content for your blog, I’d recommend the following three-step approach to avoid the “conventional content” trap.
Step 1 – define your ideal client
First things first, close all those browser tabs linking to your competitors’ websites (and those “How to” guides while you’re at it, they won’t help you here).
Now put pen to paper and describe your ideal client. Who’s your product designed for? Who do you dream of working with?
This is who your content should be aimed at.
Step 2 – speak to your ideal client
This is the scary part – once you’ve defined your ideal client, you need to go out and (shock horror) SPEAK TO THEM.
Ask them questions like:
- What do you look for in a business like ours?
- How do you make decisions?
- What are your expectations?
- What are your interests?
- What would you like to know more about?
- Where do you find information?
- How do you keep in touch with friends?
- What’s your Gran’s name?
Ok, maybe not that last one, but you get the picture.
Step 3 – join the dots
After the scary part comes the tricky part – joining the dots between your business and your ideal client.
You know what they need and you know what makes them tick. So, how does your business meet these needs? How can you catch (and hold) their attention?
And I mean YOU and YOUR BUSINESS specifically, not how these things can be done in a general sense. It’s generalisations that got us into this mess in the first place.
The answers to these questions should form the basis of your content strategy.
Still stuck for content ideas?
If you’ve followed my three-step plan and are still stuck, here’s another trick for coming up with content ideas without copying your competition. This advice is most relevant to planning blog content.
Think back over the last month or so and ask yourself the following questions:
- What have people asked you about your business?
- What mistakes have you made and what have you learnt?
- What problems have you solved?
- Have you tried anything new, and how has it worked out?
If any answers to these questions jump out as being particularly interesting, these are the things you should write about.
Remeber to write from a personal perspective.
How did YOU solve the problem? Not what best practice dictates and not what ten other blogs say on the subject. This is all about your personal experience.
For bonus points, imagine you’re explaining the situation to that ideal client you defined earlier on.
This keeps your content relevant, engaging and unique – it’s your experience, nobody else’s.
I’m well aware the advice I’ve just given can induce a bout of “authority anxiety”.
The worry that to be an authority on a subject, you MUST write about the same things as other authorities on this subject.
I’m here to tell you this is nonsense.
Give me any subject and with a bit of time and research I could churn out blog posts and generic content about trends, best practices and industry standards.
This doesn’t mean I have any experience of the practical application of this knowledge, I’m just repeating what other people have already said.
It’s your personal experience that gives you the edge and proves that you know your stuff, rather than just giving the impression of knowing it.
If you spend too much time looking around at what other people do, you lose sight of what makes you and your business special.
Stop comparing yourself to others. Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses.
Focus instead on defining what makes you different and distilling this into unique content to attract the customers of your dreams.