If you are anything like me, you’ve had a time where you’re just sitting there with a pen and paper or an empty computer screen thinking, “How do I write the content for my website and what does my customer even want to know?”
It can be incredibly hard to get started and then once you do, how do you know if what you are saying is what your customers want to know, what they need to know or is going to inspire them to run out and spend their money with you?
Well, that thought takes me back to 7th grade English class (which for some of you, might be a scary place, I know :).
I had to do a presentation on a historical figure and mine was the racy, rough and tumble cowgirl (and family member), Belle Star. I was unsure if my essay and attempt at an accurate portrayal of her would get me a standing ovation from my fellow students or a teacher standing and pointing me to the principal’s office.
When I asked my teacher how I should write my presentation, she said, “Always think of your audience when you write. Who are you presenting to and what do you think they would want to see, know and experience?”
That was an easy one for me in 7th grade, the students were my main audience. Teenagers like a presenter to be animated and a little bit edgy, especially when they are bored from watching tons of presentations that day.
They want you to say something unexpected to keep their attention and keep them interested but I also had to tell the facts and need-to-know information so my teacher would give me an “A” for my presentation.
This approach is no different than how you should write to your customers today, after all, they are your audience. I will teach you how taking 5 basic principals I learned in junior high school will help you write with your customers in mind.
Step #1 Who is your customer?
0k so first, we need to figure out who is your website audience aka. your customer and your potential customer. Let’s start first by focusing on who your customer is today. We need to get a bit of information together on who this is.
Gathering this information depends a bit upon what kind of business you are running and how you are running it. And remember, this is the 101 version, so for those with advanced customer analytics, take those and move to Step #2 or 3 and, look for a 102 blog version in the future.
If you are running a store or customer-facing business, or a business where you get to meet you, customers, start recording information about who you are seeing.
Depending upon your customer flow, it is easy for a cashier, administrative assistant or front clerk to grab a pad of paper and a pen and make a few marks next to some predetermined categories as customers come in:
- Male or female?
- What age range 13-18, 19-25. 26-36, 37-50, 51+?
- Are they alone, shopping with kids, in couples, with friends, with parents?
- What day of the week are they coming in and what time of day?
- How are they paying for the product/services? Cash, credit card, check, debit?
- What are they buying?
The additional information you can use by talking to your customer and get your staff to talk to them too:
- Why are they buying your product/services?
- What do they think about your business?
- What do they think about your competitors?
- What do they expect from you?
P.S. If you are not talking to your customer, you should be and start making time NOW to do this. It can make or break your business and could do things like catching a staffing issue that you may not be aware of or give you information about your competition.
Also, unless you are asking people these detailed questions, you will have to make some guesses or generalities around age, acquaintances of your customers, etc. so please don’t publish this information or keep it within sight of the customer.
If you have a business where you don’t get to see your customer face-to-face or based on traffic flow, it makes it hard to collect information visually. Some other options are:
- Starting a customer newsletter or sign up sheet in your business or on your website, so you can collect customer contact information and open up an opportunity to present a survey to them later. Doing this on your website is a little backward but as we will address in Step #5, it is necessary in many cases and will help shape your information.
- If you utilize a call center or operator, try to integrate some questions that your staff can ask that will help get more information. This works in cases like service repairmen where you don’t visit a shop but call to schedule appointments.
Asking a few questions in addition to your basic info can help (Don’t under any circumstance ask people their ages or if they are single!
This can be a very scary line of questioning for single women and can turn them off of your business. Also, you can also ask your repairmen to talk to your customers too, getting the information that way as well).
Lastly, once you get this basic information, you will want to take the different categories of people and group them together – in marketing we call this segmentation.
In some businesses, you may only have one or two types of customers. For example, a baby boutique store may only have 2 types of customers – mainly 20-35-year-old moms looking for baby stuff for their own children and women 20-70yrs old looking for baby items for a baby shower.
You can break those people down further but for a basic level segmentation, these are the basic groups you are looking at.
Now, in our example of the service repair industry, you may be getting calls from males and females, ages 25-95, in all types of living situations (homes, apartments, trailers), all types of relational status (single, married, roommates, with and without kids) and their needs vary.
This would give you multiple types of segmented customers. That being said though, in your review, you may find that you receive more plumbing issue calls from couples with young kids and more remodel calls from people over the age of 60.
These would be examples of segments and would help you target your content to those groups. This information helps you know who your audience is and will help us know how to talk to them.
Step #2 What is going on with them and what do they need right now?
Your customer has a reason for shopping with your small business and you need to know what that reason is (if you don’t already). I am not talking about the very basic “my customer buys milk from me because their teenagers drank it all”.
Rather, I am talking about the fact that they buy milk from you because they know that milk “does a body good” or you are the only store on their way home from work.
Here’s where it helps you. Say for example, if you run a real estate company, everyone is buying and selling homes but some are buying homes because they have relocated from another state for business.
Some may be buying vacation homes or investing in rental homes or, some may just need something bigger to accommodate an expanding family.
Based on these types of customers, you may market or write your content in a way that might catch the attention of one or more of these groups.
If your customers are relocating due to a business move, you may want to specifically talk about corporate relocations and possibly have a website page just for businesses that want to use you for all of their relocations.
If you are talking to the growing family, you may want to talk more about larger homes, budget-friendly areas to live in or feature homes close to schools, playgrounds or kid activity centers.
Families like to relocate in the summer when school is out so maybe you focus some of your summer content on this section of your customer.
You may also talk about how your staff is kid-friendly and when they come to your office, you have toys for each child who enters in order to make them feel more comfortable and to stay busy while the parents are busy discussing their home needs.
Knowing what is going on with your customers will help you know them and meet their needs even more.
Step #3 How does your customer shop/engage your business or services?
Now that we know who we are talking to and what their situation is, how do they interact with you? What information are you providing to them where and how are they currently getting it?
Depending upon the business, you may have one or many points of engagement for your customer like an office, phone call, internet and maybe you work with a local chamber of commerce to get most of your customers.
How can you use your website to complement and support the other ways your customer interacts with you? How can you communicate the need-to-know information but also capture their attention with something new and different?
Let’s start with how many ways your customer shops or engages with you? Are they choosing one option over another or is there only one way they engage with you?
When you have a face to face interaction with customers, you have a location other than a website, to communicate with them. You can see how they shop your merchandise, what services they are most interested in and you can ask questions about how they heard about your business.
Your walls, receipts, and counter space also can communicate to your customer and there are multiple ways they may engage your business.
Your employees can be one of your greatest assets and are your most important marketing for your business. How your customers are engaging with your employees is something to take note of.
If they are the reason your customers come back for more, you could use some of your website space to talk about your great employees, what they love about what they do and their favorite part of your business.
This is an opportunity to let your people be recognized and your customers to see that you care about your people.
If you interact with your customers in other ways like via phone calls or a third party, you may interact with them through an operator or a phone line only.
You have limited ways for your customers to engage you and limited ways to communicate with them. You can determine how long they are staying on hold, are they leaving messages on the answering machine, are they expecting a callback or does the information just go one way.
This is good information to have when you are trying to understand the experience of your customer.
Step #4 What do they want to know from you?
When you complete step #1, you are talking to your customer, or at least surveying them. With this, you should also ask them what they want to know from you. “What can I do to make your experience better or easier?”, is an easy question that can provide valuable information on your customer’s needs. Sometimes you may get comments or suggestions about products or services and sometimes it’s about marketing/advertising and operations of your business. Let’s start with the latter first…
Operations and communications
I think this one can be the hardest of all to write about. At times, we are too close to our business, meaning – we know everything there is about how it operates and we sometimes forget that everyone else doesn’t know these things.
For example, people want to know where you are at, your hours of operation and the best way to get in touch with you for questions.
If you do not have your business hours listed on your website and you are further than 10 minutes away from my house, I will not shop with you unless I am in the neighborhood and it is on my way to another destination.
AND if you are not open (with no sign in the window) and your website says you are, I may not come back again. I don’t’ like to be inconvenienced and my time is money – so is your customer’s.
I want to know your address, your phone number, your hours and if possible, directions to your business. Also, if you like to close early on Fridays, it would be great if you would add that in as a possibility.
They also want to know if the best way to get in touch with you is by phone, store drop-in or via email.
Especially if you are a service provider, they need to know if they need to request your services in an online application, via email, via phone or do they need to fill out paperwork in the office to get a signature?
These are important points that tend to drive us crazy when we go to places like the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and forget a document or when I go to a consignment shop to consign some clothes only to find out that they only take in clothes on certain days of the week. It is the same with your business.
Your customers and potential customers want to know when you have something big going on – a sale, a stock up event, a new product line or even a celebration of an employee.
As we stated in our Facebook vs. blog post, use your website with your social medial through blogs, social posts and you could even make a page on your website or build a calendar just for information like this. Your customers can be aware, plan and in some cases, save up their money to come to see you.
Products and Services
This one can be a little bit easier to write about because who knows what you have to offer better than you? But when you are writing, don’t forget that your customers may think about your products differently than you do and you may need you to talk about them in a different way to catch their attention.
Let’s take for example a carpet cleaning business. You, the business owner are so excited to offer the first service in town that uses phosphate-free detergent.
This is a new innovation in floor care and you are excited to launch it in your local town.
Your customer, however glad you are in their town, are not so excited to call you as it means their teenagers have had a wrestling match in the living room and spilled their grape soda on your cream-colored carpet.
It means that they have to spend money that they did not want to spend this month and they want to quickly get it fixed and get back to their lives.
When they look up your business, they want to know how soon you can come, how expensive you are and anything else that will help them quickly make their decision to call you.
This means they don’t want to look up the word ‘phosphates’ to see what that means.
You may need to describe this using terms that are easier to understand like “environmentally friendly or good/less harmful for the planet” in order to help them see what sets you apart from your competition.
In some cases, you will have to change the order of how you include the other information that they are thinking about like price, area of coverage and speed of service, in order to capture their attention.
Think about everything that your customer needs to know in order to do business with you and make sure you have at least the basics covered on your website.
Step #5 Check to see if you’re right
And finally, the most important part and possibly the easiest of them all….ask people if you did what they wanted you to do.
Ask questions of your customers to see if the information you provided was what they were wanting to know and where they needed to know it.
In cases where you can respond to a customer that gave you direct feedback, thank them again for their comment and check and see if the changes that you made were helpful and fixed the issue.
One of the mistakes we make is to change something and just assume that it fixed the problem without double-checking our work.
Just like in math class in school (I know, another scary school reference), they made us work our equations and then work them backward to make sure that we did it correctly.
This is the same thing and sometimes we need to work the problem a few times to get it right.
Other than asking them, here are a couple of proof points to prove that your writing is targeting your customer:
- If through survey information, more are engaging with you because of your website or social media, it’s working
- If traffic is up or sales are up with your target customer
- If you have more people on your distribution list (if applicable)
- If more people are on your social media channels
- If your SEO is up
- If you are getting fewer questions about your services or products but more sales, you have probably provided the needed information
I hope this was helpful to you. We would love your feedback on this and other blogs. Please feel free to leave a comment or email me at [email protected].