Why Knowledge is Stifling Your WritingNovember 6th 2014 Sally Ormond copywriting, knowledge block, writing effectively, writing simply
I have never encouraged anyone to write about their own business.
The quality of the marketing collateral you produce is key to your business’s success.
I know you’re sitting there reading this thinking yeah, right. You would say that, you’re a copywriter. Granted, that’s partly the reason because if I encouraged you all to write your own stuff I’d be out of a job, but that’s only a teeny-weeny part of my motivation.
Something strange happens when you run a business – you become knowledgeable. After a while you have come across just about every scenario you can think of, the information you have amassed is stifling your objectivity and you start to communicate less effectively.
No, really, you do.
Because everything about your business is like second nature to you, you begin to assume a certain level of knowledge in your audience.
As a result you start answering questions your customers don’t want to know about and you find it impossible to effectively and clearly respond to their genuine questions because you automatically assume they have a greater understanding than they really do.
Just think about it; how many times has your kid come to you asking for help with their homework? They’ve told you want they’re studying and the question they need to answer, but because you have a higher level of knowledge than them, you immediately launch into an answer that brings in all sorts of other facts that they haven’t even learnt yet leaving them more confused than before.
The same thing happens when you try to write your marketing materials. Rather than starting at the base level and building on knowledge, you immediately launch in to a complex and convoluted answer that just confuses.
Because it’s hard for you to believe that someone else doesn’t have the same knowledge level as you, you become a hopeless communicator. It happens to everyone, no matter what field they are in.
Overcoming your knowledge block
The main problem with your knowledge block is that once the information is in your head you can’t get rid of it. You can’t suddenly decide to “unknow” stuff, so you have to find a way to suppress your knowledge.
For some that’s like dumbing down what they know, but it’s not. It’s an effective way of clearly getting your message across to your audience.
When first meeting with a new client, I always tell them to treat me like a customer – they mustn’t assume I know anything. In fact, even if I’ve written for the same industry before my knowledge level is zero because I don’t know their business.
Even then I usually end up stopping them and asking them to clarify something because they’ve used a term or language that’s confusing or assumes a certain level of knowledge that neither I nor their customer has.
The best way to avoid this trap is to get someone else (a professional copywriter) to create your copy for you. But if you insist on doing it yourself make sure you follow these steps:
Write down what you want to say
- Review it to make sure it is aimed at your customer, highlighting benefits, and not about you and your company
- Review it again and simplify the language and remove any jargon
- Get someone not connected with your business to read it to see if they understand what you’re saying and whether it would make them buy/get in touch etc.
- If the answer is no, go back to the drawing board and start again
- Keep going until you write something that’s simple, clear, engaging and compelling
Despite what you may think, writing marketing copy is not easy. If it were copywriters, like me, wouldn’t exist.