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April 2, 2008

Developing Killer Content on a Startup Budget

The way you present your e-business to the world is the key to its success. Its so important that your website looks professional and credible so that customers will trust the products or services you are selling. Ideally, your site’s content will also be interesting and unique enough that they appreciate your brand and remember to shop with you again. You need to develop two types of content to make this happen: a “Hollywood pitch” and website copy.

The Hollywood Pitch

It’s important to have a clear idea of what your business does and what it offers to its customers—both for your own thinking but also because friends, family, customers, and even potential investors are all going to ask you, “So what does your business do?”

The best way I have found to encapsulate your new business concept is to use what I call the “Hollywood pitch technique.” You identify the basic elements of your business and compare them to familiar, existing concepts or previous successes in a pseudo-mathematical equation.

In Hollywood, new movie and TV program ideas are often pitched this way because it uses already existing success stories to give listeners a quick, positive impression of what you are proposing. Boiling down your business idea to this quick summary will also help you focus on what is important and unique about your business.

For example, the hit TV show American Idol might have originally been pitched in Hollywood as “an updated Star Search with Hollywood Squares-style celebrity judges and cell phone voting.” Similarly, the Austin Powers movies might have been pitched as “1970s James Bond meets Inspector Clouseau to save the world!”

Figuring out the key concepts and buzzwords for your e-business will also help you write effective copy for your website and construct effective “meta tags” to help your search engine rankings.

Now, ask yourself: How can you summarize your new business using this Hollywood pitch approach?

Copywriting for Your E-Business

Even if you’re selling commodity products like batteries or socks, you’ll need accurate and persuasive product descriptions to convince your audience to purchase from you.

If you are offering more unique items or services, your website needs to communicate the value of your goods in a concise and compelling manner.

If you’re embarking on a more information-intensive or publishing related venture, your copy will essentially be your product, so it is even more critical to your success.

In all cases, the Internet can once again help you deliver compelling written materials cost-effectively, even if you are not a good writer (or speller) yourself. Don’t underestimate the importance of well-written copy because it is more important than you may think. You’ll need good and regularly updated copy for:

  • Website pages
  • Product descriptions
  • E-mail newsletters
  • Customer service documentation
  • Advertisements
  • Business correspondence

If you are a good writer, you can probably fulfill your e-business’s content creation needs yourself. There are two basic situations, however, that may warrant your getting some writing help:

  • You are not a particularly good or fast writer (or at least you don’t enjoy it).
  • You are too busy to do a good job at writing the copy your business needs.

As usual, the Internet can help you solve your problem. (By now you knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?) There are thousands of experienced writers available who would be happy to contribute to your site’s content needs on a project basis. You can find good writers looking for work by going online and posting a small ad (usually for free) to ask for help with your specific writing needs. Good places to start would be ELance & Craigslist.

Regardless of how you recruit your part-timers, ensure you are specific in your ads about the length of the written pieces you need and the style (e.g., product descriptions, advertisements, informational articles, website promotional copy, etc.), as well as your deadlines and offered compensation.

You’ll soon find that finding and hiring freelancers is a great, cost effective way to increase your productivity. This strategy also will work well for graphic artists, Web designers, photographers, customer service staff, and even salespeople.

Guest post by Andy MacDonald, author of The SEO & Marketing Tips for Webmasters Blog.

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