I’ve had my nose in a book from the time I was three years old. As soon as I could make sense of the words on the page, I visually devoured everything given to me. I was particularly drawn to anything I could find from Laura Ingalls Wilder and Gertrude Chandler Warner. I loved all books, but always gravitated toward certain authors.
Why? It’s simple: I found what engaged me and stuck with it. Those particular authors (and books) pulled me in and left me eager for more.
Many years and technological advances later, not much has changed. I still seek out engaging content (though, mostly about inbound marketing, not prairie living) and steamroll over anything I find convoluted or unhelpful.
Most online readers do the exact same thing. They seek out what engages them and reject everything else. In order to become better at writing for business, it’s important to examine what makes some articles stand out and others fail. In just a couple minutes, we’ll cover some key business writing tips, but first...
What’s The Difference Between Engaging & Average Content?
Engaging content delights a reader by fulfilling a promise. If I search “how to bake cookies” and I receive step-by-step instructions on the best cookie-baking methods (along with a cookie recipe ebook thrown in for good measure) I’m going to be very satisfied. Engaging content also entices the reader into reading the next sentence, and the one following, and the one after that. Essentially, the reader can’t get enough of what you’ve written!
Average content offers up an ordinary, mediocre answer to a question. It isn’t horribly written, but the reader doesn’t have enough incentive to actually finish it. As far as the reader can tell, viewing an average piece of content hasn’t helped him or her fix or accomplish any problem at all.
Example: Why You Should Avoid Writing Average Content
To illustrate why writing average content should be avoided, imagine the following hypothetical situation:
You have recently started toying around with the idea of going back to school and obtaining another business degree. You are looking for some well thought-out advice on why it would be smart for you to do this. You run a quick Google search and come across a university-run blog post. Encouraged, you click the link. In the article, you see that they list three reasons to move forward with your business degree in bolded text:
1. Build your network.
2. Take time to reflect and analyze.
3. Make a career switch.
Hmm, you think, those are pretty general and don’t really apply to me. You move on, wondering if there is any easily-accessible information about their degree programs within the article, but you can’t find any. After less than 10 seconds on the page, you shake your head and hit the back arrow. This wasn’t what you were hoping for at all!
Does this scenario sound all too familiar?
Before I explain why this kind of article is average and how you can avoid this type of content, allow me to introduce you to several business writing tips that (virtually) all great content writers follow.
6 Business Writing Tips To Engage Your Readers
1. Give your readers something to take hold of and something to look forward to.
You should always leave your readership wanting more of what you’ve written. On that same note, do not drone on about yourself and expect people to care—they won’t. (In fact, one of the only times you should talk about yourself is when you create your professional bio!) If you are still reading, that means I’ve accomplished this goal and given you an incentive to stick around! This should be of utmost priority when you’re writing for business.
2. Use an active voice.
Don’t muddle the meaning of your sentences with a passive voice; it comes across as stuffy and formal. Consider these two sentences: “This dull article is written by me in a passive voice,” and “I wrote this compelling article using active voice.” The passive sentence––in which the subject is acted upon by the verb––puts you to sleep. The active sentence––where the subject performs the action––is much more interesting. (Take a look at this infographic for more examples.) Unless you’re submitting a paper to the American Journal of Biochemistry (or the like), use active tense.
3. Make strong claims and back them up.
“Inbound marketing might be a good idea for your company.” Did that sentence invigorate you? I doubt it. On the other hand: “The best way to effectively promote your business is through inbound marketing.” This is a much stronger claim! Make sure to back up your claims with evidence.
4. Challenge preconceived ideas and push limits.
Engaging content isn’t always well-received. It can frustrate, irritate, or even enrage your readership. (For example: Wondering How To Buy Leads? Suck It Up & Do Your Job Instead. That title’s going to grate on someone’s nerves!) Regardless, don’t be afraid of your readership and don’t back down! If your content strikes a nerve and you get an earful of responses, congratulations! You’ve created something engaging, whether your readers like it or not. Don’t worry: chances are you will receive some very positive feedback, too.
5. Make every bit of content a call-to-action.
This particular business writing tip is extremely important. Every piece of content on your website should provoke your readership to do something. In other words, don’t write something just because you want to fill up a page; write something to get a targeted reaction.
6. Research, research, research.
Don’t celebrate because you’ve keyword-stuffed your way to page one on Google. Instead, celebrate if you’ve targeted the right audience, answered your readers’ questions, and created something that resonates with them.
(For more helpful hints and tips on how to create appealing content, check out The Anatomy & ROI Of A One Million-View Blog Post.)
So, What Went Wrong In Our Example Article?
Now that you have a good grasp on the business writing tips above, let’s return to the hypothetical blog post about getting a business degree. Drawing from what you’ve learned about writing great content, can you identify a few possible reasons why this article didn’t engage?
Some possibilities include:
- The main reasons listed are not bold claims, making them irrelevant to many readers.
- There’s no clear call-to-action.
- Nothing within the article leaves you wanting more.
- It doesn’t challenge any preconceived ideas I have.
- After skimming the page, I have no incentive to read past the bullet points.
Time To Get Writing!
Next time you create a piece of content, ask yourself these questions:
- Have I made and fulfilled a promise?
- Does every sentence encourage my audience to read the next?
- Does this article answer a question, big or small?
- If I hadn’t written this, would I be interested in sticking around to read it?
- Will this article help a reader fix or accomplish something?
If you answered a resounding “yes!” to these questions, congratulations! You’ve adopted our business writing tips and created appealing content that is ready to go to work for you and drive traffic to your website. Give yourself a pat on the back––and then begin planning your next engaging article.