Designed for Success II: Crafting Content for Effective Marketing

Posted on September 06, 2011 in Design process by Brendan McCrain
Tags: Content strategy, Copywriting, Questionnaire

In the last part of our Designed for Success series, we talked about setting goals as the foundation for an awesome website. Once you know what you need the site to do, it's time to start crafting a unique message that compels visitors to become buyers, and customers to become brand loyalists.

When asked in the past how we create such effective and engaging site, our typical response is that we're geniuses (seriously at least one person on the Sofionik team has a certifiably genius-level IQ).

For a limited time – until the internet goes down for good – we're offering you a glimpse into the minds and madness behind Sofionik's creative team. Take a look:

The Genius Process

The true source of our brilliance is collaboration and hard work. We are all naturally talented people who worked hard at learning the technique behind the craft to harness and refine our creativity. Inspiration finds you working, someone once said and I've always found it to be true. You want your writers and designers to be wacky and inspired, but you also need goals and accountability, two of the most important keys to marketing success.

Step 1: The Questionnaire

All of our clients fill out a multi-part questionnaire with lots of detail. This aint no brief contact form folks, we get to the heart of what makes our clients' businesses great. We use the questionnaire to collect information and ideas that will form the company's mission statement, the tone of their content and the primary benefits we'll promote to their prospects. Every designer/copywriter/agency should be using something like this as the first step in the process. If you're working with a designer who isn't asking these kinds of questions, find out why not.

Step 2: The Content Laboratory

Geniuses, like good haggis, have a bit of mystery to them and sometimes we don't even know where the best ideas come from. The content lab might be a living room, the front seat of an old Ford or the local banya. It's wherever we let the research and the inspiration mingle until those wondrous headlines and mission statements are born.

After collecting some great ideas (and a few bad ones) we start drafting content. At this point I'm not too worried if it doesn't sound exactly like I know it's going to. The two hardest things to do as a writer are to start and to stop. Once you've mastered these – with appropriate timing- the rest is easy-ish.

Step 3: Revision, Revision, Results

It's unrealistic to expect content to be perfect the first time around but if everything in the content lab went well, we should have some outstanding drafts to begin revising.

Now is the time to get nit-picky about every sentence and strike a balance between comprehensive information and brevity so the site reads fast and compels action.

A good copywriter will have seamlessly integrated key words and search phrases into your content naturally. If you find that you're working hard to stuff keywords, you should reevaluate and make sure that your message matches your product. Search terms aren't arbitrary phrases, they are what people use to find what they need and come straight from the brain. If your website content is written properly it speaks to people with the same words they use with their friends, colleagues and clients. Written poorly, website content is confusing and un-compelling. Yes, I just made up a word.

(Uncompelling: The absolute opposite of compelling. Uncompelling content will make people leave your site quicker than anything else.)

I can't count how many doctor's websites I've seen with huge blocks of text describing surgical procedures, diseases and medications using the same boring language they use among themselves or in academia. You want to demonstrate you authority on toenail fungus? Publish a report on onychomycosis and contraindications of topical and oral medications. You want to convince me to come to your clinic? Tell me that by using advanced lasers you can painlessly eliminate my condition in one visit.

Note for designers/copywriters/etc.: This is one of the most important times to be vocal about your opinions. The client has hired you because you're an expert at what you do. Too often, people get hung up on ideas, pictures, phrases or colors that you know aren't going to work. Don't be afraid to give good advice and always remember that great marketers are open to new ideas and fresh perspectives. Geniuses like us know how to integrate these various sources to make a website that satisfies clients and performs well online.

Organize the Content

Now that we have some truly compelling content and we've defined a style and tone to maintain across a client's brand, it's time to start housekeeping. Take a good look at the content and you may discover the beginnings of a video script or a newsletter topic. Content isn't limited to copy and depending on your target market you may find that a YouTube video, blog post or slick e-newsletter is the best way to reach prospects.

This is also the time to check for consistency. It's always been my experience that content evolves constantly and occasionally the latest drafts don't match up stylistically with the first. This especially seems to happen when clients submit new information or ideas after the initial research stage or project timelines get extended for one reason or another.

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