Category: Author: Heather
When it comes to marketing, one of the fastest ways to lose your audience is copy that sounds stuffy and formal. This applies to all forms of marketing content—social media updates, blog posts, emails, websites, whitepapers, infographics, videos, podcasts, et cetera, et cetera.
Readers pay more attention to conversational copy.
Dentists and dental marketers, when I say “readers,” I mean current and potential patients.
Why? Conversational copy allows the reader to believe he or she is involved. Conversational content engages your reader.
The more conversational your tone, the more your reader believes you’re talking to her.
Don’t marketers know this?
The inspiration for this blog post came from a radio commercial I heard while driving to work Monday.
It seems, a casino in Tucson, Arizona, offers active duty military members, retired military members, and veterans a military tribute card with a number of so-called VIP benefits.
Pause to mention that it seems disingenuous and self-serving to encourage veterans and military members–many of whom are experiencing a number of psychological challenges leading to impulse control–to engage in activities that ultimately risk their retirement benefits and the salaries that they earned by standing between us and bullets. But, I digress.
The commercial so obviously missed the mark. With phrases like “we should thank them” and “we’re offering active duty military members, retired military members, and veterans.”
You should thank them? Or you are thanking them? Darn right you should. But did you?
And, the whole time, I felt as if the announcer was speaking directly to me. Not to those who deserve the thank you, and to whom the casino is offering the card. Yes, statistics show that people spend more with brands that support the military and charitable endeavors, but this commercial was so obviously telling me that the casino is benevolent that it was a turn off. Soap box moment over.
So, how do you write authoritative, engaging, informative, AND conversational copy?
I’ve got ten ideas to get you started.
1. Don’t think about it.
According to Hemingway, “the first draft of anything is shit.”
You’re going to edit. Then probably edit again. Oh! And, did I mention edit?
Stream of consciousness writing provides an outlet for the multitudes of thoughts cluttering your brain, thus facilitating conversation by forcing you to not over think.
It’s okay if your first draft isn’t error free. It’s more important that you’ve got something to work with, whether it’s an outline or a working draft.
2. Read it out loud.
Pick an email you recently sent to a business colleague. Does it contain the words “per our conversation…”?
Have you ever successfully struck up a conversation with your smoking hot barista starting with “as you requested…”?
Normal humans, doing normal human things, don’t talk like that.
Reading your work out loud feels strange, no matter how many times you do it. Especially if you sit in a cubical farm surrounded by judgy co-workers. Or, if you’re taking advantage of your morning commute by working on the “L.”
Do it anyway.
More often than not, you’ll find typos, awkward sentences, gobbledygook, and content that flat out doesn’t sound like you. Change what you don’t like. Then read it—out loud—again. It’s takes time, but in the end it’s worth it.
3. Write to one person.
Your ideal patient.
She has a husband and a family. She works in real estate, and on Tuesdays she prepares a make-your-own-sandwich bar for dinner. Her sons–ages nine and seven–play baseball and flag football. They ask for a puppy every morning. She religiously books her family’s dental appointments every six months and, comes prepared with updated insurance information and the family’s medical history.
Or, what about Liam?
Liam manages to get to your office every 18 months or so. He originally came to your practice because he chipped a tooth playing softball on his company team. He’s a single banker with dreams of owning an Audi R8—which are slowly fading as his girlfriend shows him engagement rings on Pinterest.
Technology is important to Liam. He’s a first-mover. He stood in line for an iPhone 6. So when he chipped his tooth, he narrowed his emergency dental options down to practices. Liam choose you because your website explained that you’re trained on the Solea hard tissue laser and offer 3-D x-rays.
Okay, so Constance and Liam aren’t real. They’re patient personas.
Personas are a marketing tool used to identify the demographics, desires, and pain points of a key segment of your audience.
When you sit down to compose a social media update, marketing email, or a blog post, write to a single persona. Not everyone in your database. Writing to everyone dilutes your message.
By hyper-targeting your message, you’re meeting the needs of your reader. While Constance would appreciate if you share advice on fun ways to encourage your kids to brush their teeth, Liam wants to read a blog post about your latest lecture at Boston University.
4. Keep sentences short.
If you’re a child of the 80’s or 90’s, you probably remember Micro Machines.
You probably also remember the commercials. Fast talking actor John Moschitta, Jr. touted the attributes of the vehicles, always ending with the slogan “remember if it doesn’t say Micro Machines, it’s not the real thing!” (Which frankly is the only part of the commercial I understand).
Unless you’re Twista, normal speech requires you to take breaks to breathe. Conversational writing requires breaks.
Shorter sentences—less than 35 words—mimic natural conversation and increase scannability.
5. Don’t just bend the rules, break ’em.
Forget everything your teachers ever taught you.
Okay, don’t go that far.
But, keep in mind that conversational writing isn’t technically perfect. When we speak, we fragment our sentences, use contractions, and end sentences with prepositions.
As long as you’re communicating effectively, starting a sentence with “and” or “but” isn’t going to get you sent to the principal’s office, but it will get you noticed by your readers.
6. Oh, what a tangled web you weave.
A few weeks ago, my fiancé and I were watching Disney’s “Aladdin” with his kids. The movie opens on a peddler from the bazaar in Agrabah singing “Arabian Nights.” As he steps down from his camel, he attempts to sell us—his worthy friends—his wares. A Hookah slash coffee-maker that also juliennes fries. Tupperware from the Dead Sea. And, his most famous merchandise, an extraordinary lamp that changes lives.
Essentially the entire movie is a tale spun by the peddler, though the opening monologue is his only appearance in the film.
Disney uses this peddler—and his legends—as a way to engage the audience. We’re immediately enthralled by his account of the boy who was a diamond in the rough.
Stories—examples, similes, and metaphors—make communicating interesting and engaging. They make complex ideas easier to understand. They give your audience something to relate to.
When you’re telling a story, you have a clear purpose in mind. A desired reaction.
You want your audience to be outraged. You want them to be sympathetic—or empathetic. You might need advice, or simply be seeking an outlet. Frame your story in a way that elicits this desired emotion.
For compelling, and conversational, copy, write like you’re telling the story to your best friend. What would you tell him about your practice?
7. What are you asking?
Similar to telling a story, a hypothetical question draws your reader in.
Much like the peddler in “Aladdin” asked if perhaps we “want to hear the tale?” Of course we do!
A hypothetical question helps your reader to feel like you’re speaking directly to them. And, that you trust them to figure out the information on their own.
Of course, don’t actually blindly trust our readers. We want to give the appearance of trust, not whole-hearted trust. After all, your reader may answer the question incorrectly. Try something like:
How many teeth would you be comfortable with losing from a lack of care? None, of course!”
The conclusion you want your reader to arrive at immediately follows the hypothetical situation in the copy.
8. Common words.
Do you know someone who uses SAT words in normal, everyday conversation? Do you think he sounds like a pompous douche? Yeah, me too.
We tend to use words with less than three syllables when we speak. When writing conversationally, avoid highly-technical or industry-specific jargon. Instead, use common vocab and expressions.
In some cases, consider the use of slang—or even a well-placed curse word, if it fits your brand or personality. And, if you’re a person who can appreciate a good pun or who embraces a well-placed cliché, go ahead and throw ’em in.
9. Speak to your reader in the first person.
Every paper you wrote in college, high school, and grade school. The news. Government reports.
These are formal methods of communication. They are through, complex, and objective. Which often means they’re cold and impersonal. And, they’re always written in the third person.
Conversational writing speaks directly to the reader. Pronouns like you, your, and yours engage your audience, creating a scenario in which she feels like you’re speaking directly to her.
Equally as important, conversational writing makes use of first person to reference the author. Unless your brand is truly a sole proprietor, when referencing your brand, use first person plural. You know, the royal we—and, our, ours, and us. For example, “we loved this advice!”
10. Get active.
Readers prefer we use active voice.
Active voice creates clarity and allows us to communicate effectively. In active voice, the subject of your sentence performs a specific action. This helps to eliminate ambiguity and creates an authoritative tone.
If at any time, you’re struggling to use active voice, try putting the subject first, changing the verb to eliminate any helping verbs, or completely rethink your sentence.
Can you think of any other tips for writing conversational social media posts or marketing copy? Leave your favorites in the comments.