The Delicate Art of Article Writing

I notice that I learn things, and never really realize that I’ve learned them until I see someone else who hasn’t.

After a disappointing meeting with a prospect yesterday, I did some research on their behalf. The meeting was disappointing not because I did not make a sale – hey, that happens, and I can live with that. It was disappointing because they did not understand what I was trying to tell them. This became painfully clear when I began researching the marketing that had been done for them in the last year.

They told me that article marketing had been done for them. I went digging. I was able to turn up only three mentions on Google of articles with their URL in them. I found a gaggle of them on Yahoo though. And I wish I hadn’t.

The articles were full of gramatical errors, childish statements, wandering sentences, awkward phrases, and worse. They gave no new information, had no appeal. Reading them was painful – I had to force myself to read more than a paragraph because it was hard to follow the convoluted sentences. It had all the feel of someone writing in a second language – one they were almost, but not quite, fluent in. These articles will never be picked up by anyone else and reprinted – no one cares for such poor stuff. Google didn’t bother with them, and no one else will either.

I wish those were the only problems though. It was just the beginning.

First, was the glaring one. The potential legal issues. One article made MORE than suggestive claims of a guarantee on a service that could not possibly be guaranteed. I know for a fact that the owners of the site would never wish such information to be published in their name. Yet they are the ones legally liable for the information in the article, and that article is grounds for a lawsuit by someone who has a bad outcome. Another article made a statement that screening eliminated risks – again, in a profession where risks can never be eliminated entirely. This writer not only stuck their foot in it and dragged the client with them, they set up a legal time bomb. One which may come back to harm the site owner years later.

Second, the articles were not written as article marketing. They were merely thrown together using keywords as a guide for what to write about. There was no effort to target the messages as marketing messages – in fact, some of them were repelling rather than encouraging. They had hyped titles, failed to make any kind of useful conclusion, and often talked more about the negatives than the positives. Not one single article addressed the one compelling reason why someone might choose the site owner’s service over the competition. Not one addressed the one major reason why someone might NOT choose the site owner’s service over the competition. Good marketing messages are a subtle, and often delicate thing to pin down. But they are absolutely ESSENTIAL to successful article marketing.

If you write about a topic for marketing purposes, you must do two things:

1. Provide value to the potential customer. This doesn’t mean writing what you want to write, or just researching a topic and writing about it. It means you have to think about what motivates the customer. What do they want, what are their fears, desires, and hopes? What questions do they have that you can provide an answer for? Provide THEIR value, and article marketing works. But to do that, it is essential that you understand the mind of the customer, and how to address their needs a little, before the sale.

2. Provide information that leads them to you. I’m not talking about the signature line. I’m talking about not giving away your business in your articles, while still providing value. Write about topics that they need to know about as a CUSTOMER, not as a Do-It-Yourselfer (unless your customers are do-it-yourselfers). Consider topics about how to choose service (and give it some teeth, not the usual drivel), how to check up on a hired professional, how to care for their purchases, how to evaluate the value of a product or service, changes in your industry, applied technologies in regard to your product or service (things that predict industry trends, or that enhance value). There are all kinds of topics you can write about which help the customer, but which don’t try to make the customer into the expert.

It is a delicate art. And it is something which requires experience and practice to get right. If you are in a business involving legal, medical, business, financial, or other professional information, then you also need to make sure that certain safeguards are observed to keep you from being held liable for careless statements.

So if you are hiring article marketing services, how do you know if you are getting full value?

1. Ask to review all articles before they are published. You will be legally responsible for every word printed at your request. Make certain that what goes out is worthy of having your name on it! Check to see if it is original, fun to read, informative. Think like your customers – will they appreciate this?

2. Ask for a listing of every place the article was published. This is valuable for two reasons – you can make sure the article was actually posted, and if you learn later that something in an article is inaccurate or that it has a serious problem, you know where to go to start the recall process.

3. Make sure you check out examples of writing before you hire. Sadly, the company that published the articles I was so distressed over had similar writing on their home page. Had the people who hired them read that page, and really thought about it, they’d have hired someone else.

4. Expect to be involved. Any professional who claims to write for your business CANNOT do a good job without involving you. They need to know what makes your business unique. They need you to check to ensure that articles are accurate according to YOUR position on the topic (they can research all they want, but they won’t write what you want if you don’t get involved). Expect to have to brainstorm with a writer for new topics every once in a while – expect to talk things over with them, suggest new directions to go, and work with them. A motivated writer will be giving as many ideas as they get from you, but together you’ll do much more. And a good writer will consider you to be their best resource, and will want to work with you to produce the best possible marketing for your business.

Quality costs more. But what is the use of paying for bad writing that harms your company? Like feathers on the wind, an article carelessly loosed on the web can never be fully taken back. Making sure it is good before it goes is your only means of ensuring that it will go on promoting you well for years to come, instead of giving you a black eye every time you turn around.

The delicate art is worth learning. Because the power of good writing truly is phenomenal.

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