By Ann Meany published February 3, 2012

4 Critical Steps to Seducing Your Customer with Passionate Storytelling

Yes, chocolate is great, but central to the mystique of Valentine’s Day is the power and importance of the cleverly written word. No other holiday relies quite so heavily on the seductive spell of language. Whether it’s a poem, a greeting in a card, or even a short message — such as an email, a tweet, or a candy heart phrase — content reigns supreme when it comes to Valentine’s Day.

The same elements that make a Valentine’s Day message successful can work for content marketers, as well.  Even a message on a piece of candy could teach us something.

Keep it conversational, and from the heart

Authenticity is one of the most important aspects of communicating well. No one responds positively to an insincere Valentine’s Day message, and readers of a blog, website, or newsletter are no different. Being authentic means you really have to think about whom your audience members are, and then write about what’s important to them (here are some tips). Your focus should be on meeting your readers’ needs, solving a problem for them, providing information, or maybe just entertaining them for a few minutes, all while using conversational language and avoiding impersonal corporate speak.

For example, if you’re writing a post about new tax preparation software, show your human side:

  • Try not to weigh down the content with extensive technical descriptions that may be hard for the typical consumer to understand.
  • Avoid a self-serving sales pitch that merely promotes the item. Instead, write about an aspect of the product that could improve your readers’ lives; for example, how much time it can save them, how it can help cut costs, or how it will speed up their refund.
  • Start a conversation. Speak to your audience in a relatable way that shows you understand what their tax concerns are, and offer them something of value to help them find solutions.

Choose vivid, lively words that paint a picture of your value

Don’t be dull. If you want to capture a reader’s attention in a short time with limited space, make sure the words you use paint a spectacular picture. Allow readers to employ all their senses — they should be able to taste the sweetly bitter, dark chocolate you are writing about, feel the sharp pricks of the freezing rain you mention to set the mood, or hear the rapid-fire, staccato rhythm of popcorn popping that builds intrigue or tension in your story.

For instance, what if you’re writing about an innovative new showerhead? Do more than just rattle off the features of the product. Describe what it actually feels like to use it — “a refreshing summer rain,” or “a luxurious waterfall.” Help your audience imagine the benefits rather than just telling them what they are. Once you’ve created a picture for your readers, your content (and your brand) will be harder to forget.

Use an active voice to build excitement and impact

A Valentine’s Day card doesn’t usually say, “You are loved by me.” Changing it to “I love you” heightens the impact of the statement. An active voice — when the subject of the sentence is doing the acting — is clear, concise, and helps readers get right to the point. It also energizes your writing and eliminates ambiguity and wordiness. Active content is easier to read, and will engage your readers longer.

Think of it this way: Many of your visitors are hastily skimming, and won’t bother to plow through wordy, complicated text. An active sentence such as “The waiter dropped a whole tray of mojitos” captures attention more quickly than “A whole tray of mojitos was dropped by the waiter.”

Create potential for action

Almost every Valentine’s Day message has an underlying motive: to get the reader to take another action (“Say yes,” “Be mine,” etc.). Marketing copy has the same goal. What’s the next step you want your readers to take? Maybe you want them to think about what you’ve written and engage with your site by leaving a comment or question, find out more about your company or just talk to others about what they’ve read. Whatever your goal, make it clear to readers what the intended next step should be so that your carefully crafted content will lead to further action. (Here are some more helpful ideas for pulling prospects in.)

When wielded in the right way, words have tremendous power to influence and persuade. But a dozen roses never hurt, either.

Author: Ann Meany

Ann Meany is managing editor at Brandpoint, a content-based marketing solutions company that helps build exposure, credibility and awareness for brands. Ann has more than a decade of experience in digital media and marketing and leads a talented team of multi-channel content creators who produce engaging, relevant content for Brandpoint’s clients. You can follow Ann on Twitter @annkmeany or join the Brandpoint community @brandcontent and Facebook.

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  • http://twitter.com/bradshorr bradshorr

    Ann, This is very good advice. The content on most business sites is inward-focused and dry. That might be OK for people who are ready to take action right now, but most people are just browsing. You’ve got a much better chance of drawing in browsers by talking about them, not about you. I also love your point about existing/return customers. They already know about you — but it would make a big difference if they can see that you care about them. That’s something I never really thought about. Thanks for getting my wheels turning.

    • http://twitter.com/annkmeany Ann Meany

      Brad,

      You’re welcome and glad I could help. Thanks so much for your comments.

      Ann

  • http://www.qualitylogoproducts.com/ Amy Swanson

    Great stuff here, Ann!
    I especially love your tip, “Help your audience imagine the benefits rather than just telling them what they are.” When I write content for my company, I’m always trying to imagine how a particular product could make their lives or their customer’s lives better. It sounds so much for genuine than, “hey, buy this product because it’s awesome!”

    • http://twitter.com/annkmeany Ann Meany

      Thanks Amy! I think one of our challenges as writers is to find what’s facinating about the ordinary. That’s what makes our jobs fun! Thanks for your comments.

      Ann

  • http://twitter.com/annkmeany Ann Meany

    Thanks Camilla. Very good points.

    Ann

  • http://JamesArtre.com/ James Artre

    “Authenticity is one of the most important aspects of communicating well. No one responds positively to an insincere Valentine’s Day message” — or any other message for that matter.

    Insincerity is, perhaps, the most insulting thing you can do to your reader, market.

    Unfortunately, many marketers have a tough go of it when it comes to being authentic. It seems that they would rather rely on what someone else instructs them to do, versus being themselves and attracting a like audience. Which, unless you just have absolutely zero personality, works much better than being insincere.

    But then again, there may just be a large enough market of people with absolutely no personality in which to write for.

    Great article, Ann.

    Be good to yourself,

    James

    • http://twitter.com/annkmeany Ann Meany

      Thanks James! I think that’s it’s become so commonplace not to be authentic, that writers/communicators need to be reminded to be real!  Glad you agree.
       

  • Dechay

    This is so cute. Your valentine’s analogy is great.  I especially like how you tied it together by reminding content creators to remember the underlying motive and create a call to action.

    • http://twitter.com/annkmeany Ann Meany

      Thank you!

  • Chris Olson

    This post is very wrong-headed about passive voice/active voice. No one would ever say, “you are loved by me” unless you were intentionally creating an unusual effect,  so the example is not making a credible point but I suppose it is cute.

    In fact the active voice is a tool that can often be used to tie sentences together for great effect by allowing a writer to subordinate (or hide) an idea/action that is unimportant to the major idea. It also allows some syntactical variety and emphasis, for example, allowing the object of one sentence to become the subject of the next. The writer is following a mindless dictum when she says that active voice must always be avoided and then gives an example that no one would write anyway. And the “tray of mojitos” example would not be true if the writer’s focus was more on the tray, in which case it is likely better off in the subject position. 

    Another wrong-headed dictum that the writer of this post may be laboring under is that when “who” follows a preposition like “about,” it should be in the objective case, i.e., “whom.” Like the active/passive pronouncement, this is an oversimplification. In the sentence from this post — “Being authentic means you really have to think about whom your
    audience members are, and then write about what’s important to them,” it should be “who,” not “whom.”  Does the writer of the post know why?