I’ve been reading lately that the 1,000+ word blog post is returning as a marketing tool, and I have to confess that as a writer, I welcome that trend, but am a bit skeptical. Most of my clients are trying to squeeze big stories into small bites of content – and that’s not always easy.
Here are some suggestions to help create effective marketing with limited words.
I always start by writing out everything I know about the product or service or idea I’m marketing. It’s a brain dump of everything I know or have researched, combined with info from the client. This free-flowing writing covers who the target audience is, the goal for the copy, the features (and those all-important benefits), what makes the product/service unique in the marketplace – in other words, all the traditional tools of Marketing 101!
In addition, I like to do some competitive research to see how others are describing a similar product or service in the marketplace, just to get a feel for what else is out there.
The next step is to think in terms of the context of where the content is to be used. Does it need to grab attention on a grocery shelf? Stand out amidst a thousand tweets? Work with images in a video?
The “venue” for the content can affect your choice for word placement as well as length. You may be restricted just by where the content is placed – Twitter or AdWords, for example – or you may be constrained by the real estate of a physical package, flyer, or brochure.
Something else to consider: Is the copy supporting other content that is nearby? So for example, if you’re writing product copy for the front of a package, is there a back panel that you can use to expand the main idea? A website you’re sending folks to that can tell the story more fully?
After I get everything I can think of on the page, I’ll go through and look for common themes to determine what the most important points are.
I always look for the one main idea in the content, which is usually the biggest problem we’re solving for our audience. Especially in short content, it’s important to keep your eye on this prize – the power of one main idea.
From there, I’ll start writing much shorter variations, probably two to three paragraphs each; I’m starting to distill the information into more manageable chunks with fewer distractions from my main idea.
As I edit and edit and edit, I ask myself if the words that I’m choosing are essential, if they’re communicating the message, and if they’re encouraging action. (Bonus points if call-to-action is stated in the tone or style of the piece or includes keywords!)
This can be a time-consuming process but it’s so important. It’s not enough to edit for only word length, change a paragraph to a sentence, or even a semi-sentence. These few precious words must still accomplish the goals before I send draft off to client.
If not, well, I keep fiddling with the words until it’s right. Keep in mind: one main idea and clear CTA can go a long way to achieving the best outcome. Sometimes I get down to more than one “best” option and then send to the client for a final decision.
These “short” content projects sometimes feel like walking on a tightrope! My vote is to always be thankful when you have lots of words to tell your story, and be extra judicious when words are short.