Writing engaging content for businesses that encourages commitment from customers relies on a few key elements. Business-related copy comes in many guises. From blog writing to social media posts and adverts, and on to white papers and reports — each has their own idiosyncrasies but all are used to engage, motivate and build a relationship with the target audience. Thanks to the growth of digital marketing, writing great business copy now incorporates the use of SEO tactics, as well as understanding the brand tone and texture, speaking to the audience’s desires and pain-points, telling a story, and all the while, adhering to the specific needs of the particular type of content being written — blog vs report, social post vs website content, print vs digital.

Brand tone and texture

Maintaining a consistent ‘voice’ when you speak to your audience through your content helps to build loyalty along with your brand presence. If it all sounds a bit ‘fluffy’ that’s because there are no hard and fast rules on how to do this. However, there are some good guides to point you in the right direction. Your tone may change a little depending on the type of copy you require. A white paper maybe a little more serious (not to mention longer) that a social post or tweet. But the important thing to remember is that it will still sound like it’s coming from the same place or person.

Your brand’s tone of voice includes how you say things, what you say, the cadence of your sentences and the kind of words you use — and definitely don’t use.

A good way to understand your brand voice is to look to your company values and mission statement. Ask yourself (and key employees if you’re a small or larger business) why the business was started — what was the drive behind it other than creating an income for yourself?

Secondly, think about the benefits your business brings people. Put yourself in the shoes of an outsider looking in at what your business does and how they might articulate that. Brilliant business copy connects with target audiences because it uses similar language to them.

Finally, what makes you stand apart from other businesses similar to yours? Once you’re clear on that, your brand’s tone and texture become a little easier to define. Try to distil your answers to the above questions into a few keywords or terms and refer to them when you create any type of content for your business.

I worked for a charity — International HIV/AIDS Alliance — a while back and their core value was along the lines of creating a world where people didn’t die from AIDS. This informed all of their communications — it was hopeful, honest, supportive and positive. This went through all of their content and imagery. Some of the big-name brands got to where they are because they were clear on their tone and stuck with it every single time they communicated with their customers.

Think about household names like Whirlpool — Every home, everywhere, with pride, passion and performance. Or Apple’s innovation, imagination and passion values. These values are evident in their communications, even when they’re not explicitly writing those words into their content.

Pain points and desires

Your customer needs to be front and centre of your business copy. Forget about why you’re doing what you do, think about why it matters to them. Understand why they’re even looking at your widgets and what the problem is that they’re trying to solve with them.

Think about the benefits — not features — your widgets will bring to their life. If you have a large target audience, break it down into smaller groups — each will have their own different reasons they need your product or service.

If you’re a toy shop, your target includes children and their parents. These two groups have different reasons they want your products — children want to be entertained. The parents want to please, educate or entertain their children. The benefits they derive from your products vary also — the child will stave off boredom, look cool in front of their peers, and have hours of enjoyment. The parent will get some free time, they’ll facilitate the child’s learning/entertainment/play and get a buzz from pleasing their child.

Same goes for a target audience of 25 to 40-year-old men and women. A 25-year-old woman will have very different problems and drives to use your service or buy your product than a 40-year-old man. Consider your audience’s pain points and the benefits they want to get from engaging with your business in smaller groups and create content that speaks directly to each of them in your individual brand voice.

If you’re not clear on what the problems your audience is facing, or the benefits they want to get from your business, try brainstorming as many ideas about this as you can. Alternatively, ask customers or test your best ideas to see which get the most play. Feedback is always useful and can help guide what you create as well as what you say. Or try asking a professional writer to work with you.

Tell a story

People love stories. In fact, our brains are wired to respond and remember great stories even better than cold hard facts and data. Stories that we can relate to kick-off chemical and hormonal responses within our brains and bodies. Great storytelling builds trust, motivates people, and builds empathy.

You need to have a strong human element in your story that people can relate to. Include struggle and ultimately triumph — whether that be the beginnings of your business or how your product or service will change someone’s life. If you can make the customer the hero of your story; all the better.

Keep on track with your narrative — don’t try to cover too much or go off on tangents. Stick to the point for clarity, connection and consistency.

Try to view your story — whichever story it is that you’re telling (about your products, about your business beginnings, about how your service helps others) – from your customer’s eyes. ALWAYS bring the story back to them. Don’t create content that you love, but know your customers will find boring or doesn’t in some way cater to their interests, desires and problems.

Testimonials, case studies and your about us page are all obvious places to have a strong narrative of struggle and triumph running through them, but you should also do this for your wider website content, blog posts, brochure copy and social media posts.

Content types and SEO

Finally, the above three cornerstones won’t matter a bit if you don’t consider the parameters of what you are writing. Keywords, topics, word counts and resources such as references and links all matter to varying degrees depending on what type of business content you are creating.

Short copy like social media posts and product descriptions have different requirements to long-form blog posts and web content. All can benefit from keywords, but the word count and the way you tell your story with each format will slightly differ while remaining true to your brand tone and texture and detailing — even briefly — pain points and benefits.

Basic SEO for writers goes beyond keyword searches and including relevant terms in your writing. Meta descriptions (the little bit of blurb under your search result links) matter, as do internal, external and backlinks for web pages and blogs. Hashtags should be used in your social posts and so on. The technical parts of creating a brilliant piece of copy for your business are just as important as the softer, harder to define elements of tone and voice.

There’s no point getting technical or using business jargon in a blog, but there is sometimes a need for this in white papers and reports. Mix them up and you’ll totally miss your mark when it comes to engaging with your intended audience. Get it right, along with the other three cornerstones — tone and texture, pain-points and desires, telling a story — and you’ll have created a brilliant piece of business copy.