I was reading an article written by Denny Hatch (a long-time copywriting expert) discussing why professional copywriting is critical for marketing where he shared this story he recalled:
"What do you do?" a guy at a cocktail party was asked.
"I'm a brain surgeon," was the reply. "What do you do?"
"I'm a writer."
"Ah," said the brain surgeon. "I've often thought that when I retire I'd like to try some writing."
"And when I retire," said the writer, "I plan try a little brain surgery."
The story resonated with me for a lot of reasons, but one of them is because I see a lot of B2B marketers without the passion or skill for developing content. I'm not talking about branding or corporate positioning as such. I'm talking about content creation and development that keeps pace with the demands of prospects and customers across their buying process or lifetime relationship with the company.
Writing is a skill. It's a skill that gets rusty if you don't practice it...a lot. The last few years, the role of marketing has changed from that of a conductor to the need to become an active participant. Instead of coordinating external sources for short-term campaign execution, marketers need to take real-time action. That means writing.
Things like blog posts, commenting in discussion groups, sharing on social media, creating articles for nurturing programs, email messaging and more. Sure, you can still outsource writing projects, but some of these arenas for participation require real-time content development with a personalized touch.
For example, if an immediate informational need arises and your agency says - sure, I can have that for you in two weeks - you've just missed an opportunity if you can't step up to the plate and write engaging content that can be published now.
[If you don't believe me, David Meerman Scott just published a book about Real-Time Marketing. Ann Handley's book Content Rules has also just been released making it a bit difficult to ignore the momentum heading in this direction.]
The other consideration is that there are certain mediums that require you to paricipate directly, without the help of a writer. LinkedIn is a case in point. Although not formal, the way you write is still a reflection on both you and your company.
All of this said, here are 4 things I think may be stopping marketers from improving their writing skills:
- Thinking every content asset must be a masterpiece of formatting and graphic design.
- Lack of understanding that short article formats work well if the content provides meaty, useful insights. An 800 word, tightly-focused article is more than ample for engagement and asks for less time than a bigger piece. Your prospects and customers are crazy-busy. You know that, right?
- Not knowing buyers and customers well enough to write for them - being unsure how to flip focus from company and products to address their needs can be a huge obstacle marketers need to overcome.
- Unsure of where to start. Think of this as blank-page syndrome that results from a lack of content strategy.
- Being crazy-busy yourselves.
Yes, that last one will likely rise to the top. But here's the thing. Writing isn't optional. If marketers are going to succeed with content marketing and marketing on the Internet, we're going to have to close the writing gap and step up.
Marketing is driven by content. The Internet, publishing technology and social media will only demand more fuel (content) to feed the beast. Your best plan of action is to start tuning up your keyboards and flex those writing muscles. You're going to need them in top form to create competitive advantage for your company.