Fresh Ideas /

Does your content pass these 5 customer-centricity tests?

#ContentMarketing, #CustomerExperience, #Copywriting

Your latest piece of content reads like a dream. And why shouldn’t it? Is it packed with info? You bet. Entertaining and engaging? Check. Prose and visuals so ripped and taut they would make Madonna envious? Heck ya. So focused on its target audience that readers feel that it’s written specifically for them? Well…maybe not…Dang it, no, it doesn’t do that.

It happens. In our rush to create content, we lose track of our audience. And our customer centricity stumbles. What we need are simple litmus tests to assess whether our understanding of the customer has made it onto the page, into the infographic or is conveyed in the audio or video.

With that in mind, here are the five Ps of customer-centric copy. (By rights, they should all have started with Cs. But dang if it worked out that way.) Use them to test the customer-satisfying power of your content.

Test #1: Pronouns and possessives

Which words does the copy use more: you and your, or we, us and our? Have your favorite word processor count or highlight the use of these words in the document. You should find that the copy includes the second-person you and your more often than the first-person we and our.

So why does that matter?

If you’re looking to be customer-centric, obviously you want to talk about the customer more than you talk about yourself.

Plus, there’s an even more important reason that goes beyond customer centricity. Inserting you and your automatically reaches out to the customer and immediately puts them ‘in the frame.’ It makes things more conversational, engaging and clearly about them.

Test #2: Problem before product

Which is mentioned first in your content: your product or the customer’s problem? Even it’s just tacitly, the copy should address their problem first.

So why does that matter?

Pop quiz: which do you think your customer cares about more: your product or their problem? The sad truth is they care more about solving their problem. Let’s acknowledge and accept that. Make sure you address their specific problem or pain point first. Then the door is open for you to propose how your product helps overcome that problem.

You might be asking yourself: “Does this rule apply even when I’ve only got 50 words of brand-ad copy?” It applies especially when you have 50 words of copy. Addressing one single problem enables you to focus on just the aspects of your product that solve the problem. No chaff. No listing of unnecessary features.

Test #3: Predicates

Bear with me for 30 seconds while I raise some painful middle-school grammar memories and explain the grammatical terms predicates and subjects. (The writer emits a pained sigh.) In a sentence, the subject is the person or thing that does something in a sentence. In “Jack eats candy,” Jack is the subject. And what the subject does—in this case, “eats candy”—is the predicate. At the very least, a predicate includes a verb. Simple, right? And important, because choosing the right subject and predicate make a huge difference in the meaning of the sentence.

Now, which is better: “Our product can solve your company’s problem.” or “You can solve your company’s problem with our product?” Arguably, the first is shorter, but the second is better here. It places the reader—“you”—as the subject of the sentence and your company or your product brand as part of the predicate.

So why does that matter?

If your reader is King Arthur, then your product should be his sword Excalibur, not vice versa.

In every good story, there’s a hero the reader can relate to. In customer-centric copy, the hero should be the reader. And your product should be part of the predicate—not the hero; it’s the enabling tool that helps the hero to overcome adversity.

Test #4: Passive voice

Here’s an example of the passive voice: “The candy was eaten.” See how it injects was, or some other version of the verb be, in front of a version of eat? Now compare that to the active voice: “Jack ate the candy.” This is a much better way to construct the sentence.

So why does that matter?

The passive tense is boring. And that’s not the worst of it. It effectively strips the subject, our hero, from the sentence and in so doing, it strips any sense of action from the sentence. It rarely has a place in marketing, not even in owner’s manuals.

Test #5: Personas

Consult your personas (or any other form of customer insight your company uses). Are you addressing the right problem? Are you using the right vocabulary and using the right tone of voice?

So why does that matter?

Depending on how they were constructed, personas can help you write content that is relevant (addresses the right problems and issues) and authentic (speaks the way the customer speaks).

The first four rules are about the mechanics of creating customer-centric content. The last one is about the actual messages and ideas you share. Together, these five tests help you confirm that you’ve created the yin-yang of customer-centric content; equal parts how and what.

Of course, every rule is meant to be broken. And these tests are, admittedly, down and dirty. But they give a starting point from which to ask: Is there a good reason we’re breaking this rule?