If you own a small business, even a landscaping business, you’re going to do a lot of writing. Web copy, blogs, articles. We often write more than we think we will, and as a result, our writing comes out rushed. Technique gets shouldered aside. But we promise you, if you keep reading, you’ll come away with some simple strategies to make your writing much more effective.
Believe it or not, we spend a lot of time reading. While leisure reading of books is falling, think about how much time we spend on our phones throughout the day, and what we’re doing with our eyes as we’re scrolling around our screens.
That’s right. We’re reading.
It might not be War and Peace, but we’re reading nonetheless. Over time, we develop a natural ability to differentiate between good and bad writing.
We might not think about it, but we are picky, demanding readers. We don’t waste time reading things that are preachy or poorly written. We don’t like it when an article feels too much like a sales pitch, or when we don’t think we’re going to get something in exchange for our time. Do you think it’s an accident that this article opened with a promise?
Everything you write, no matter what it is, serves as a promise to your reader. If you write an article called ‘Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Geraniums,’ don’t waste space telling us about tulips. You promised us geraniums.
Whatever you write, make sure you remember the promise you made to your reader, and don’t let yourself veer away from the subject. Outlines help with this.
Stories come in all shapes and sizes. There are so many books written about the structure of stories you could use them to build an actual structure. Generally, what you need to know is this. Good stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Cinderella might have preferred to start with happily ever after, but it wouldn’t have made for much of a story.
Story structure is so important, that each individual aspect should be broken down and considered with care.
Explain Tetris to someone who’s never played. You might say something like ‘You take different shaped bricks and try to neatly stack them.’ To which they might reply, ‘Wow, sounds like the most boring game in the world.’ But once you actually sit them down and put a controller in their hands, the game is mystifying. Why? Because humans are natural problem solvers. We like when things get messy, as long as we feel as though we’ve got the ability to put them right again.
In storytelling, the beginning is where the mess lives. The before times, where people live with leaky faucets, bad landscaping, dead houseplants.
What would your customer’s life look like without the product you sell? Will they have less time? Less energy? Less opportunity to enjoy things?
At the beginning of your story, it is important to establish your customer’s world before they experience the benefits of your product and service. They should see themselves in this incomplete world, and relate to the problems you give them here.
The middle of your story is often considered to be a trying ground. A test-fire facility. What solutions will a customer try before they use your product? How do these solutions stack up?
In the middle of our story, accuracy is important. If you try to tell readers that a certain solution doesn’t work, but they’ve experienced the opposite, you’ve killed your credibility.
Offer solutions and be honest about what exists out there. Then present a situation in which your product solves their problems better, in a more complete way.
At the end of our story, the right solution has been applied and the problem we introduced has been solved. Now, this could be solved in a lot of ways, but hopefully, you have a product that solves it better, more completely, or more quickly than your competitors, and this is where that should be celebrated.
We’re not talking about preaching or beating anyone over the head. The opposite in fact. Allowing customers a glimpse into the world where their problem is solved is often enough. We already established that our brains are wired to solve problems. Well, they are wired to draw conclusions as well. If you give the brain an inch, so to speak, it will take a mile.
Give us a point to jump off from, and we’ll fill in the rest.
Let’s say you want to expand your landscaping business. You’ve made your name by doing designs and installs, but for some reason, your customers hire other companies for their irrigation needs. How can good storytelling help to change that?
If you shape your message as a simple ‘Did you know we install and service irrigation systems?’ you make risk coming off desperate or sales-pitchy. What’s better is to identify your customer’s problem (beginning), empathize with their attempts to solve it (middle), and offer the solution (end).
It might look something like this: It’s no fun having a lawn that looks fried (beginning). You’re out there, every day, watering and watering, and still, your lawn looks sick (middle). Maybe it’s time to talk to an irrigation specialist. We offer free consultations (end).
That way you establish that you understand what your customer needs, you know what they’ve tried, and you can guide them to success.
The idea that good stories need a beginning, middle, and end doesn’t just work for text-based storytelling. In fact, you can use this method to make powerful video content as well.
Before and after pictures tell a story. Customers’ faces, as they relish the sunlight in their new garden tells a story. Like we said earlier, your audience doesn’t need much. Just give them a jumping-off point and they’ll fill in the blanks.
There is a lot more we could say about writing. The importance of showing, rather than telling, or using active rather than passive voice. But for now, we’ll keep it simple.
The more effort you put into your writing, the more you try to understand and convey solutions, the more your customers will appreciate you. Of course, we understand this can be a time-consuming process. If you can’t afford to hire someone to create high-quality content for you on a full-time basis, consider hiring out to a marketing agency (like Keldo Digital) to do it for you.
It may sound obvious, but writing is a skill. Like any skill, the best way to get better is by doing it. If you want to write better, write more.
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