Copywriting used to be one of my least favorite aspects of developing a software product. I have never been a confident writer—I can’t spell, I hate making mistakes, and always feel that even tiny errors call into question my professional ability (thanks law school). However, after being very involved in content creation over the past 4 years, I appreciate how important the people are that have honed their skills in this area. Good copywriters and content managers will become more in-demand as the internet continues to permeate every aspect of our lives.
Use Content Effectively
My favorite thing about content is the ability to extend your brand without having to necessarily demo your product, build a new feature, or offer a discount. Rather, content gives you the opportunity to help and educate your audience outside of your product or service. For example, at Gust Launch we often fielded questions from our customers seeking more information about the startup experience in areas we did not offer any products or services. We used some of these more recurring questions as an opportunity to either develop content for our blog, or we would reach out to our extended network and collaborate on a guest post.
Our monthly traffic to the Gust Launch Blog far surpassed our customer base. We consistently had tens of thousands of people landing on our blog every month. Further, one consistent piece of feedback we would get when interviewing our customers was that they would read the blog extensively before purchasing our product. By simply providing more education, we were able to increase the sales of our product.
While we were able to leverage our content effectively at Gust, it was not always a seamless process. Copywriting is hard. It takes time and effort to get the copy into publishable shape. We often underestimated the time it would take to develop the copy for either the marketing site or the application. This would lead to design and engineering being blocked on their work. It wasn’t always an issue, but I can’t stress enough the importance of giving the team enough time to not only write the first draft but also to go through the process of editing and getting sign off from stakeholders.
Make a System for Content and Copywriting
Having experienced both the good and the bad of creating content, I believe that more attention needs to be made to creating a content system within an organization. In software, we already set up disciplined processes for how we implement, design, and prioritize our work. Content needs its own attention spent on creating good systems for effective creation and collaboration. Every company and team will be different, but I think there are some key elements that are necessary to make content creation easy, simple, and delivered on-time.
Sourcing and prioritizing what content you want to create
This is perhaps the most well understood and well utilized by organizations. This is the content calendar where upcoming blog posts, ebooks, etc. are brainstormed, planned, and prioritized. Consistency is key to building high-quality and engaging content. Have a plan where stakeholders can come up with and collaborate on ideas.
Develop a style guide
Unless only one person in perpetuity will write all the copy for the organization, you really should consider memorializing the organization’s approach to tone, voice, and grammar. Don’t leave your writers with no direction on how they should be developing content. This also really helps with solving differences of opinions between various people in your organization that can create blockers to get your content published.
Mailchimp has a fantastic style guide you should check out.
Have a clearly defined drafting and editing process
There is nothing more painful when developing content than for someone at the last moment to propose major revisions. It drastically slows everything down and is really demotivating for the team that has been working on the content. Make sure that the collaboration and review process is clearly established for your organization. It should answer: 1) what stakeholders need to approve the copy and at what step in the process; 2) who gives final approval on publishing the content; 3) what type of feedback is expected at each stage in the editing and approval process; and 4) what are the timelines on giving feedback to the team.
A great example of this type of editorial process working effectively is on law review journals at law schools. I guess all those hours really did pay off in the long-run.
Create healthy expectations around mistakes
Even if you have an excellent editorial process, it is inevitable that you will find a typo somewhere in copy after it is published. When it does happen, there needs to be healthy expectations around addressing it. It is not the writer’s fault if the content gets published with a typo. This is a team effort and that is why several eyes are needed during the review process to catch errors. The good news though is most of the time if you are publishing content online, it is just about the easiest thing to fix.
A Great Way to Get into Tech
Developing your skills in content strategy and copywriting is a great way to get into tech, regardless of where you want to end up. Being a proficient and effective writer always pays dividends. What’s more, this isn’t a skill set that is particularly in vogue. The tech industry is still trying to make up for a relative shortage in engineering, data, and design talent. However, as the ROI on SEO/SEM continues to dwindle and more media moves to online platforms, I have a strong feeling that people with content/copywriting chops will find themselves in high demand with companies vying even harder for their users’ interest and attention.
Enterprise tech is one area specifically where I see demand growing for this skill set. Things like legal tech, fin tech, and reg tech deal with complex topics that can be challenging to communicate to new markets and customers. Writers that have a knack for making complex concepts easy to understand are going to be highly valued.
So here’s to hoping that more talented writers take up the call and join us to help create better experiences and software.