The Written Art of Content Marketing

Content is undoubtedly an integral part of any business marketing strategy– whether what you print in a brochure or post on your company Facebook page. Traditionally, content for marketing purposes was developed from the company’s point of view. The goal was to overpower competitors and stand out in front of potential customers with a writing style of flashy exclamations and exaggerated descriptions. In contrast, a new philosophy is now taking the stage to put the customer’s perspective at the center of content: inbound marketing.

Writing web content for inbound marketing is based on the core idea that content should attract viewers to engage with a company and eventually lead them to convert to be customers. This is called the buyer’s journey, where visitors to your website gain awareness of your company, consider the benefits of your products and services and then decide to make a purchase. Rather than using language to stick your product or service in a contact’s face, your inbound content should express expertise, give advice, and speak to customer pain points in order to lead them through these steps and build a strong sense of trust and brand loyalty. This subtle psychology calls for a unique use of linguistic tools to achieve results with the inbound content style.

The Second Person

With inbound content, the reader should feel like they are a part of your message and by extension, your brand. Using the second person makes this easy by transferring the focus of each sentence from the speaker to the reader. Even the smallest shift, especially when it comes to possessive pronouns can have a big impact. Let’s take a look at an example of a software company:

  • Our new software will make scheduling easy.
  • Your new software will make scheduling easy.

While the first sentence communicates confidently, the use of “our” conveys that the reader is currently excluded from the community of the company and its software users. In contrast, the use of “your” in the second sentence conveys an equally strong statement, but includes the reader and speaks to some of the considerations they might be debating in the decision stage of the buyer’s journey.

Now let’s take a look and consider the impact when this additional second person clause is added: Your new software will make scheduling easy for your clients.

This second clause is addressing a pain point that the potential customer may be seeking to solve when purchasing new software. The use of the “your” in the clause implies that the priority of the marketer is specifically the reader’s clients. As a result, the reader perceives that the software will not only meet their needs but also the needs of their clients. In this case, the second person is also supporting the claim of the marketer’s expertise by implying that they have seen results both in the satisfaction of software companies and with the clients of the software companies.

Sentence Structure Balance

Two sentence structures are constantly at play when it comes to inbound marketing: the suggestion and the imperative. However, take caution, too much use of either one can overwhelm the reader. While the purpose of your content marketing is to urge your reader to take some action, your language shouldn’t sound pushy. Instead, the variation in syntax should express the concern and guidance of a knowledgeable advisor.  

As a more indirect approach, offering steps as suggestions softens your tone as you continue to use the second person. It may be tempting to use “should” and “shouldn’t” frequently, but this may come off as slightly nagging or even bossy. Instead, there are plenty of synonyms you can use to diversify your sentences, whether in a blog post or on your webpages:

  • It is recommended that you…
  • Experts advise you to…
  • With this product, you can
  • Your team will be able to…

Mixed in with your recommendations, you can insert some imperative or command sentences to more directly steer your reader along the buyer’s journey. Start off with a strong verb and then let the rest of your sentence flow from there. With thousands of action words to choose from, you’ll be able to dynamically incorporate imperatives amongst your suggestion sentences to publish content that is encouraging, without being condescending.

The frequency of sentences in either form will be determined by the tone of your marketing brand. Does your inbound content strategy adhere to a friendlier tone? Then, break out those suggestions. Does your brand seek a more formal tone to stand out as a strong expert in your field? Then, include some more imperatives. As you modify your sentence structures, you’ll hit the sweet spot for your audience to continue engaging with your content.

Stimulating Action

Even with an inbound marketing strategy, there still needs to be language that motivates a reader to act. Yes, the inbound philosophy puts a lot of emphasis on “warming up” the reader before requesting them to commit to any specific action. However, this language is ultimately building up to a request, no matter how large or small, for the reader to continue interacting with your company.

In inbound marketing, these requests are named calls-to-action or CTAs. The linguistic style of a CTA is most similar to the traditional style of more direct content marketing. Yet, rather than directly calling the reader to purchase whatever product or service, a CTA can be used to provoke action at multiple stages of the buyer’s journey. For example, CTAs might lead readers to download a free offer, subscribe to a newsletter, or read a blog post. In the case of this, the CTA is used to motivate readers to proceed to download an offer:

There are two components of this call to action, a statement and a button that links to the next page or an offer. A call to action statement should include an imperative and describe a benefit of the proposed action. In the example, the action verb used is “discover” and the benefit of downloading is that the reader will determine their “unique buyer personas.”

The call to action button serves as a straightforward and direct imperative. In this case, “Download Now” can either be read as an extension of the call to action statement or can motivate a click independently. In this way, both readers who are following the text and those who skip ahead to the button can understand what action to take next. As the last content effort to continue nurturing the lead along the buyer’s journey, the language of a CTA button should be strong and direct.

This delicate use of language is even more important when executing a strong inbound marketing strategy. With the use of the second person, suggestion and imperative sentences, and strong calls-to-action, your marketing team can successfully gain the confidence of a contact and encourage them to connect, convert, and eventually become a customer of your company. Although it may take some adjustment from the traditional style of content marketing, the inbound methodology will encourage your contacts to become long-term supporters and avid promoters of your brand.

Read back through this article to begin the process of reflecting on and adjusting your own inbound writing style! Can you spot the use of some of these linguistic tools?