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Writing Educational Copy People Will Actually Want to Read

By Cedric Jackson, December 19, 2017
Writing Educational Copy People Will Actually Want to Read

“It's all about engagement.” If you are a marketer or business owner who is attempting to grow and nurture an online audience, you have probably heard that phrase enough times to hate it by now. It's not easy – not by a long shot – to keep people entertained, and it can be even more difficult if your business is less than exciting in the first place.

If you are a high-end luxury travel agent, it isn't hard to develop content that is entertaining enough to motivate people to call and book a trip. When you're dealing in HVAC supplies, that's an entirely other story. How do you get people excited about duct maintenance?

Excitement vs. Engagement

First, let's draw the line clearly between these two terms. Any competent web content writer will tell you that engaging content doesn't necessarily need to be exciting – it just needs to be given the right voice in the context of its audience. The next time you go to a convention, fair, or some other event where there are a large number of vendors in a small space, you should notice what I mean.

In the sea of vendor booths, kiosks, and food trucks, everyone competes to deliver the most exciting message and sell their product. How do you get people excited about a product they can find anywhere? You don't. You get them excited about your version of the product. That, right there, is the key difference. Excitement is propagated through engagement. You can't skip over one and only focus on the other, and you can't manage those two things out of order.

So, how does a food truck vendor, for example, get you to buy his corndog? He does it by showing more enthusiasm about his product than the vendor 50 feet away selling the same thing. He demonstrates a desire to serve. He makes sure the product is hot and ready when the customer wants it. The flashy neon and bright colors might attract attention for a few seconds, but the attitude behind the product is what is going to sell it.

That vendor has a good bit to teach us about the concept of engagement. Let's look at the three elements I alluded to a minute ago: a desire to serve, the ability to meet or exceed customer or client expectations, and the right attitude toward your product or service. They are the three key pieces of the engagement puzzle when attempting to educate rather than entertain with your content.

Service Over Sales

When developing content that is more educational and informative, you need to posture yourself (and your brand) in a way that immediately communicates the right level of enthusiasm and knowledge about the product. Steer clear of purporting to be “the best.” People hear that all the time. They need a better reason to do business with you than that.

Instead, lead in with the problem your product or service exists to solve and convey your confidence in your company's ability to solve it:

“Having trouble getting rid of stink bugs? A-1 Pest control feels your pain! We've done battle with a few of them ourselves over the years. The good news is, the solution to this problem doesn't need to be costly. Here are five effective solutions you can try on your own. Many of our customers have confirmed to have rid their homes of stink bugs for good using one or more of these methods...”

Now, come on – who gets “excited” about stink bugs? That's right: no one. Now tell me how many people would be happy to learn how to get rid of them. That accounts for nearly everybody, right?

This is why it is so important to promise a solution within the first few sentences and then follow through on that promise with meaningful advice. Establish yourself as a point of help. Make it perfectly clear that your goal is to serve customer needs. You're offering free advice on how to get rid of these pests instead of immediately suggesting a service visit. That demonstrates a desire to serve.

Building Customer Confidence

The meat of your message needs to build on the promises you make in the beginning. Do not waste the reader's time with too much preamble. You promised five possible solutions to the stink bug conundrum. Now is not the time to communicate how wonderful your company is or how you offer an on-time guarantee. Now is the time to give up those solutions.

Numbered lists work well here, but just a segment heading that lays out the solution in five words or less each will suffice. People will start skipping around to the solutions they find to be most appealing at this point, so help them quickly find the information they want.

At this point, it is important that you shy away from industry language and terminology. You can't use military language with civilians and expect them to understand (or even care) what you're saying. Meet your audience members on their level. There is no better way to build trust and confidence in your brand.

Propagating Excitement Through Engagement

Once you lay out the solutions, it is time to make sure that the customer knows who to call if they lack the confidence or ability to do these things themselves. Even if you can get them to try all five solutions and all of them fail, you can still posture yourself as the final authority and get them to book a service call. If all else fails, the customer can call you and be confident that you will fix the problem.

Seeing solutions on the horizon is often enough for the reader to get excited about working with you, even if the free solutions don't work. Maybe they lack the expertise needed to do these things right. Maybe they found the solutions too complicated (even when the steps are very simple) and just want the pros to deal with it. People come up with all sorts of reasons to spend money on things they can have for free.

That only happens, though, if they get excited about working with you. The right presentation coupled with the safety net of, “You can always call us...” is the perfect formula for getting them to read your article to the end and, subsequently, call you or fill out an online form to request service (or just more information).

Final Takeaway

How you present information in an educational setting matters. You need to give people reasons to keep reading and make the pathway to solutions clear. Remember that every product and service out there exists to solve a problem. Stay focused on solutions, not sales. Build anticipation by promising those solutions, and show a little confidence in your delivery of those solutions. It's the best way there is to keep your audience engaged. 


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