We've all been there: You're pouring over some long and ponderous blog post or document, doing your best to fight back against eyelids that grow heavier and heavier with each passing sentence, all while wondering when the person who wrote this content plans on cutting to the chase and providing you with some interesting and engaging tidbit of information or insight.
Sounds awful, doesn't it? Now imagine if this nightmare scenario wasn't about your personal interaction with boring content from around the web, but rather representing the experience offered up to interested local customers who end up landing on your dealership website. Once you start viewing things from this perspective, the notion of dull content being a laughing matter flies out the window in a hurry.
For the dealerships out there that aren't interested in boring their target audiences to death, let's spend some time talking about how writing conversationally works, as well as the best ways to integrate this strategy into your future digital outreach operations. Once you're up to speed on this front, you'll have all the tools and tactics you need to develop on-site content that keeps the reader engaged, informed, and coming back for more.
The Goal of the Conversational Style
At its core, writing in a conversational tone is all about making the reading process more interactive and fun for your online following - all while keeping these individuals educated and aware of what your dealership has to offer. Wading into these waters a little deeper, the team from The Content Marketing Institute notes that embracing this approach helps promote a continued and fruitful connection with your audience.
"Your content is now a conversation. It's a story that needs an audience to respond. So, yes, go out and create great content. Be the leader in your industry because you consistently share value."- The Content Marketing Institute
In other words, conversational writing is all about creating an on-screen environment that is as close to an actual face-to-face conversation as possible. This revelation might not seem all that impressive initially, but once you realize that conversations of this sort inherently consist of back and forth dialogue between the brand and the consumer (something that every dealership craves and can help support the sales process), the impact of this tactic on your bottom line starts to become readily apparent.
If the notion of fostering a sustained channel of communication with potential customers - via blog comment sections, social media interaction, etc. - isn't enough to get you excited about turning the various content offerings on your site into living, breathing conversational opportunities, then Chris Silver Smith of Search Engine Land suggests looking into the search engine optimization (SEO) benefits of this process.
"Not only is [conversational marketing] valuable for your online reputation management, it's also becoming increasingly vital for your local search rankings."- Chris Silver Smith, Search Engine Land
Specifically, Smith points out that taking on a conversational tone across all of your digital endeavors can enhance your standing and visibility within highly coveted local search rankings, as well as ensure all inbound viewers receive a friendly and inviting introduction to your dealership that mimics the in-person customer experience.
Learning How to Have a Conversation with Your Audience
Now that we've covered the goal of conversational content writing and the benefits that come with this approach, it's time to start talking about the best ways to foster a meaningful dialogue with your audience. To really drive this point home, we'll need to set up some ground rules for your dealership to abide by, as well as break down the process from a variety of different angles.
Place an Emphasis on Your Customer
First up is the notion of speaking directly to your audience via your on-site content. Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, as Econsultancy's Chris Sheen explains, communicating from an exclusively "outward" standpoint and talking over your viewership is an issue that content creators from virtually all industries struggle with in the digital world.
Overcoming this deficiency requires a willingness to place the emphasis on your audience. Yes, there is a time and a place to discuss the merits of your dealership and staff, but the bulk of your content should lend itself to the customer experience and what really makes these men and women tick. By addressing their concerns and talking with customers - and not at them - you'll soon find that these individuals come to trust and rely upon you for insight and guidance into the car-buying process.
Write Like You're in the Same Room
Going a step farther, a good way to embody the concept of talking with your audience in a genuine and engaging manner is by imagining that you are in the same room with them as you write. It definitely comes across as a silly tactic at first, but once you start thinking of the words on your computer screen as a back-and-forth discussion between you and a person looking to learn more about owning or leasing a new car, finding the right flow and style for a conversational experience becomes much easier.
iMedia Connection's Simon Edelstyn suggests asking yourself these questions as a way to simulate the "same room" experience:
- What would they want to know more about regarding the current subject or topic?
- How would they go about asking for this insight or additional information?
- What type of language helps make these concepts relatable?
- Is there another side of the story you might not be considering?
Keeping these considerations in mind obviously isn't on quite the same level as having a reader bombard you with questions during your time spent writing. Despite this obvious shortcoming, taking some time here and there to seriously contemplate these responses still goes a long way toward helping stiff and formal prose develop into fluid and conversational content.
But Avoid Rambling
Of course, we've now come to the part of the discussion where it is important to note that writing conversationally isn't a license to ramble on indefinitely. In fact, going too far down this path and implementing a full-on "stream of consciousness" take on the writing process can leave your readers confused and struggling to keep up with the ideas and topics that make up the foundation of your content.
"To offset the challenges created by screens and layouts, few people actually READ online content; 79% of them SCAN and pick out individual words and phrases. Only 16 percent read word-for-word."- Brian Sutter, Forbes Magazine
A better plan, according to Brian Sutter of Forbes magazine, is to write with a logical - and "scannable" - structure in mind. Not only does this method supercharge the impact of informal and lighthearted conversational writing by keeping viewers on track for the "big points" of your piece, it also taps into the tendency of readers to skim along through content and jump to the sections that truly relate to their current situation.
Skip the Sales Pitch and Bravado
Filling your content with overt promotions and "sales speak" can come off as clunky and heavy-handed - two things that really wreak havoc on your conversational tone - so try to limit these inclusions whenever possible. The same goes for bravado and boasts regarding your dealership and its staff. It might seem counterintuitive to tone down this kind of dialogue at first. After all, you are clearly still in the business of selling cars, right? However, if you've ever been stuck in a conversation with a person who wouldn't stop bragging or ranting about how he or she was the best at something, then you know that this routine can get old in next to no time and isn't conducive to an enjoyable discussion.
Ask Questions (a Lot of Them!)
"The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard."- William Hazlitt, Selected Essays
This quote, from renowned writer and literary critic William Hazlitt, should serve as a major theme that spans across your dealership website, blog, social profiles, and any other potential avenues of content-based outreach. The reasoning behind such a bold declaration is actually rather simple and straightforward: Without input and interaction from your audience, there is no conversation.
So what's the best way to let your inner Hazlitt run free and get your audience talking about their unique needs and concerns while you step back and take notes? Make asking them questions throughout your content a top priority during the planning and writing process.
The best conversationalists among us know how to work a room and tease out information and interaction from the various people around him or herself. Your dealership's content should follow in the footsteps of these social savants and cater to a more interactive experience. Not only does this practice make your content livelier, it also ensures that any subsequent offerings are tailored to relevant issues and topics that resonate with you digital following.
Read Everything out Loud When You're Done
The final suggestion we have to offer up - reading everything out loud once you're done writing and editing - also happens to require the biggest leap of faith on your part. Yes, this practice can be downright awkward and uncomfortable if you're not used to reviewing content in this manner - doubly so if someone else is sitting in with you when it's time to read that first sentence aloud.
Even so, Business 2 Community's Nabeel Butt highlights the fact that letting these inhibitions go and focusing on how your content sounds during this review is a great way to "hear" it from the perspective of the reader. Once you're comfortable with narrating your content, pinpointing any overly-formal or unappealing excerpts that require a little adjusting becomes a breeze.
When it's all said and done, learning to write in a conversational style isn't something that happens over night; it takes plenty of practice, hard work, and determination on your part to get right. Fortunately, if you're able to work your way through these growing pains and embrace all that this approach has to offer, then there's no reason why your upcoming content selections can't make the reader feel like they're sitting down for a chat with an old friend.