What stands between your business and more sales?
It could be paper savings caused by your marketing content.
Yes, I’m talking about those tiny but surprisingly painful cuts that seem to gravitate towards the most delicate parts of your fingers.
In my 20+ years of writing and editing marketing content, I’ve seen many brilliant entrepreneurs, small business owners, and freelancers pour significant resources into content marketing only to run into a sales wall due to common content issues that cause paper cuts.
What makes content paper economize? The following list gives you an idea, but is by no means exhaustive:
- Bad first impression
- Irrelevant images
- Unexplained terms
- Lack of social proof
- Strange color scheme
- Unequal value exchange
- No way to contact you
- Broken forms
- Contents look compact
- Unclear differentiation
- No way to close the gap
- Bad text flow
- Heavy negative language
- Unanswered reader questions
- Broken shopping cart
- Content lacks structure
- Lack of exchanges of thoughts
- Heavy jargon
- No clear sales proposition
- Lack of evidence
- Aggressive sales language
- Unaddressed objections from readers
- Grammar errors and typos
Granted, none of us are perfect. We all make mistakes.
But it’s just that thinking—we all make mistakes— that leads to too many content writers and content teams leaving prospects vulnerable to the danger of paper cuts.
The real danger of paper cuts is that they add up.
Death by 1,000 paper cuts
Have you heard the expression “death by 1000 paper cuts”?
The original phrase is “death by 1000 cuts.” It’s an ancient Chinese method of torture and execution by… I’m sorry to put this image in your mind… slowly cutting.
Today, death by 1,000 paper cuts refers to dying from 1,000 minor ailments or being crushed by 1,000 minor issues rather than a single major one.
And that’s exactly what happens to buyers when they read bad marketing materials.
Here are examples of how paper cuts manifest themselves in a few different forms of content.
Papercuts of your website
Imagine that a prospect lands on your website, which has been in need of an upgrade for years. “It looks like it was built in 2008,” they think. Cut paper, cut paper.
Because they need what you offer, they don’t click the back button to return to the search results. They read on. “Wait, is that a typo?” they think. Paper cut.
“What is this supposed to mean?” they think, read and reread but do not understand the text. “Sigh.” Cut paper, cut paper, cut paper.
They click on your services page and notice that the images are misaligned. Paper cut.
After seven paper jams, your prospect is in pain. They leave your site, looking for another advisor.
Paper clippings from an e-book
Another prospect responds to a LinkedIn ad and downloads an ebook from your SaaS company. It looks nice, so that’s a plus.
They open the ebook expecting to scan the headings to see what’s most important and worth reading…but there are no headings. Paper cut.
They are still interested and start reading.
Then, after 97 words, the writer starts pushing, selling, and hiring. “You need this process because it makes it easier for everyone in your company,” they say.
The prospect is buzzing. They had expected an exploration of the ebook topic, not an immediate sales pitch. Cut paper, cut paper.
Can you sense how the prospect is already losing trust in your company? And they’re still on the first page.
Your prospect just saw a post on Twitter offering an email newsletter on a topic of interest. They click the link, land on the newsletter sign-up page, enter their name and email address, and click the Subscribe button.
“Am I subscribed or not?” they wonder as they click the button again.
Still nothing. Paper cut.
However, the prospect wants to hear from you – a rare case indeed – so they open their email to see if they received an opt-in or welcome email from you.
Paper cuts galore.
While there’s a small chance that the prospect will contact you to let you know that your form isn’t working, there’s a much higher chance that they’ll drift away, perhaps forever.
Do you feel how painful these issues are for prospects? Do you see why you might be missing out on tons of new customers simply because your content isn’t accurate and polished?
Empathy and editing: your protection against paper cuts
There are two ways to make sure you don’t end up wasting paper in your content: developing empathy for readers and working with a content editor.
Content editors already have reader empathy. That’s why they’re editors.
Content editors don’t turn away when faced with paper cuts. Instead, they dig deep to understand the message your content is trying to get to the world. And once they understand that message, they correct your content so that the message shines brightly, resonates with readers on a deeper level, and leaves no paper cuts.
But you don’t have to hire an editor. You, your writers, and your content team can also develop reader empathy. Here are several ways to go about it.
- Know your buyers. If this advice sounds corny, it’s because you’ve heard it so many times. But it’s not trite. In fact, knowing your buyers is the first step to eliminating many of the more serious problems paper savings cause. Use analytics tools, surveys, social media monitoring, and customer feedback to gather insights on buyer demographics and psychographics. Understand their preferences, interests, use cases and pain points. Do the work and you will enjoy the rewards.
- Talk to buyers. Again, not trite. Don’t publish content in a vacuum. Respond to your audience on social media, in forums, in comment sections, and via email. Listen to their questions, objections and concerns so you can address them in your content. While you’re involved, actively listen as this can give you valuable insights into buyers’ experiences and expectations.
- Know what’s going on in your buyer’s world. Stay up to date with the latest news, trends and changes impacting your prospects. This allows you to cover hot topics and relevant challenges so that your content can show readers that you understand their world.
Developing an empathetic mindset means putting yourself in the reader’s shoes and considering their emotions, experiences, and goals as part of the content creation process. It’s about understanding buyers’ challenges and aspirations and communicating in resonant ways.
Developing empathy also requires effort. It’s a continuous process. But by keeping your prospects at the center and consistently building understanding, you’ll create better content — without cutting paper — and win more sales.