A blank piece of paper can the scariest thing in the world, particularly if you’re under a tight deadline or writing isn’t natural for you. I write emails, whitepapers, webinar decks, presentations and blogs all the time – there are days where it’s all I do. But even with a lot of experience, it’s not always easy.
I’ve recently taught some workshops on writing for Demand Generation and thought I’d share my tips:
- Know your objective. If you don’t know what you want to do, you won’t know where to start. Have an objective of something measurable that ties into ROI like downloads, leads, demos or meetings. Then lead the reader to do just that.
- Don’t try to write without your tools. Having a story arc, prospect personas and approved product descriptions handy makes writing much, much easier.
- Create a checklist to expedite copy approval. Document punctuation styles, how the company and product names are spelled and anything else you hear from the approval team like “too much marketing speak” or “we want lots of humor”. It also helps to have a couple of emails that have performed well to compare to.
- Edit, don’t write. I’m pretty sure J.K. Rowling didn’t pound out Harry Potter in one sitting, so get something going and come back to refine it. I start with what I call my “dirty draft” where I just throw everything into a document – the link to the call to action, the name of the whitepaper or webinar, the speaker bios and all the descriptions and copy I can find. For an email, I cut and paste the landing page copy and the intro and conclusion of the asset. If I’m writing a whitepaper, I outline all the points I want to make. Once it’s all in one spot, then I edit. (Bonus – doing this early gives you a chance to know if you’re missing pertinent information to ask for it right away and not be scrambling on deadline).
- If you don’t feel you have enough to work with, get inspired by googling the topic or offer, particularly if you don’t have a lot of experience in what you’re writing about. I’m able to sound expert about construction, life sciences and automotive because I spend a few minutes seeing how others write about them. Obviously, never plagiarize someone else’s work, but save yourself some time in getting up to speed.
- Set focused time to write. If you’re fresh in the morning, write then and use the afternoon for research and dirty drafts. Swap if mornings are not your thing. If you’re on a tight deadline and can’t work solely during your most creative time, try working in 15 minute spurts. I find if I force myself to focus for 15 minutes, take a break for another project or even other writing, then write again, I’m able to get fresh perspective.
- Procrastination is real, so set a deadline. As soon as I have my dirty draft, I schedule a review meeting with my client or let them know when to expect the first draft. The deadline makes me get very serious!
- Break things down to maximize your time. If you have four versions of an email to complete, write the first one and route it for approval before you work on the rest. If you’re writing a blog, whitepaper or presentation, route an outline for feedback first. That way you’ve got consensus before you finalize it.
- If you find you’re stuck, take a proprioceptive break. (Trick I learned when my kids were stuck on homework in elementary school.) These are physical breaks that get you moving. Get up and walk around the block, do a few squats or jumping jacks, even do a little yoga. If you work from home, fold a load of laundry or empty the dishwasher. You’ll come back fresh to your writing. Note – be careful not to make these snack breaks – the downfall of almost everyone I know!
- Do the hardest thing last. For an email, that’s probably the subject line. For whitepapers and blogs, it can be the title or the conclusion. If you write the rest of the copy first, often these just write themselves.
- Don’t aim for perfection. The most effective emails and assets are those that get out on time so shoot for 90%. If you’ve carefully proofread your work, it meets the objective and makes your company look good, you’re there!
Do you or your team need some coaching? Do you need a story arc or prospect personas? Contact me and let’s set up a workshop.