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What Goes Wrong When Business Owners Create Their Own Marketing Content

I often get inquiries from business owners who don’t have the time, expertise or marketing staff to write their own marketing content. And sometimes, after talking to a professional content writer, business owners will ultimately decide to go it alone and either write the content themselves or assign it to a staff member.

While I wish these business owners well (truly, I do), I also cringe—because when I circle back to their sites weeks, months and even years later, here’s what I often find:

1. The Content Remains Unwritten

Most often, the content (whether a website/blog/white paper/case study) remains unwritten. The business owners’ first instincts were right: Neither the owners nor their staff have the time or expertise to do the work.

Frequently, it’s a question of priorities, and there’s nothing like putting money down to solidify commitment to a project.

2. The Content is Written Like a University Term Paper

Many of us developed our writing chops in university. So we figure we know how to write, right? Well, while you might get full marks for your white paper as a term paper, it scores a failing grade as marketing copy.

Marketing copy, especially copy displayed on a screen, has to be short, punchy and “chunk-ified” for easier absorption. Typical university paper format (long sentences, with even longer paragraphs) don’t work on the web or in marketing.

These two styles of writing aren’t interchangeable because they serve different purposes: a university paper should inform or argue. Marketing copy should persuade.

3. The Content Has Errors

Unfortunately, the bad writing habits we picked up in high school—small errors in spelling, punctuation, word usage, etc.—tend to stay with us unless we make a concerted effort to uncover and route them out.

“Homebrew” content can make businesses look unprofessional.

4. The Content is Too Technical

Because business owners are experts on their products and services, it’s easy for them to dive too deep and create content that leaves prospects unmoved—even though their product development and service delivery people love it. A good marketing writer knows how to highlight the best of a business and leave more detailed discussions for person-to-person interactions.

When we create marketing content, we have to remember our audience. Even if our product or service is technical, the people and businesses that buy those products or services may not be.

5. The Content Loses Its Purpose

Presumably, if business owners wanted to write for fun, they’d start a journal. But when it comes to their business, they’re writing for a specific reason: to show expertise, to develop relationships, to improve conversions, etc.

When business owners opt to create their own content, it’s easy to lose sight of WHY they’re creating content in the first place. Non-professional writers tend to end up writing content they LIKE to write, not content that helps their business. (It’s the “writer-ly” equivalent of searching for lost keys under a lamppost—they look where the light is.)

When business owners involve a professional marketing writer, they’re more likely to have content that supports their marketing and business strategy.

What Business Owners CAN Do

If business owners really can’t engage a freelance marketing writer to write their marketing content, and don’t have an in house marketing team, what can they do?

First, set priorities. They may not be able to hire someone to write ALL their marketing content, but perhaps they could hire someone to write part of it. They should figure out which marketing pieces are of the highest priority and start there.

Second, talk to a freelance marketing writer. Can the writer scale back his/her services? If a business owner writes a decent draft, would the writer charge less to edit it? (For the record, my editing rates are typically half what I charge to take a topic from initial development to publication.) Could the business owner bring someone in to do the final proofing? (Careful though. Proofing can’t transform poor content into great content. It can only make it poor content error-free, in a sense.)

Third, ask a friend, colleague or staff member to read the content. A second set of eyes can really help.

Fourth, take a break (preferably overnight) between the tasks of writing, editing and proofreading. Separating these tasks enhances creativity during the writing process and reduces errors in editing and proofing.

At Copperplate Communications, my client work runs the gamut, from editing rough drafts to sourcing content topics to final proofing. I can even upload and publish content via WordPress and other content management software.

If you’d like to talk about your content creation needs, feel free to contact me.


Posted: September 22, 2014 in: Marketing Strategy

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