Snapshot : Writing about marketing is a valuable habit. It helps us research new topics, organise our ideas and share our marketing knowledge. As a writing topic, marketing has a rich seam of sub-topics you can mine for ideas, inspiration and insights. In this article, we explain how writing about marketing can make you better at both writing and marketing.
The marketing world is a noisy place, isn’t it?
For a start, it’s full of extroverts. Extroverts who love to talk about marketing. Some marketers love the sound of their own voices, don’t they? Brand purpose, this. Customer funnel, that. Digital content, the other.
Blah-blah-blah. Yeh, whatever.
But, marketing needs to start with listening, not talking, We’re all born with two ears and one mouth. Good marketers use them in that proportion.
Marketers who listen more understand customers better. They build stronger brands built on that customer understanding. And they create stronger brand activation because they create marketing that’s based on what customers need and want.
In marketing, you choose your words carefully.
Read about marketing
Of course, we’re all also born with two eyes. (unless you’re secretly Blinky in the Simpsons). The same principle applies. Use them in proportion to read more about marketing.
But this is another marketing area that’s “noisy”. There’s over 70,000 titles in the marketing section on amazon.com.au for example.
At one book a day, it’d take you over 192 years to get through them all.
Clearly, not happening.
At best, most of us are lucky if we can fit in a new marketing book every few weeks. (That’s about our pace as you can see from our marketing books review list on GoodReads).
Add to that all the marketing magazines, agency publications and blog articles, it’s no wonder some “marketers” say they don’t read books anymore.
But they’d be wrong to do so. Don’t be one of those people.
Reading matters. Reading about marketing expands your marketing knowledge. It opens you up to new ideas that’ll make you better at marketing.
Writing about a topic like marketing helps your get better at it. You learn to organise your thoughts. You think about how to structure your writing. And it sticks in your head better, because you’ve written about it.
That’s good for you and good for anyone who wants to learn from your writing about marketing.
What we’ve learned writing about marketing
Our Kindle and bookshelves are full of books that talk about what it takes to be good at writing.
They’re also full of books about what it takes to be good at marketing.
But in all that reading, there’s not much that covers both topics together. One or the other. But not both.
Given we do both, we thought it’s be interesting to share some of what we’ve learned.
Marketing is a broad topic to write about
Firstly, writing about marketing helps you appreciate how broad a subject it is. It’s as broad as writing about “medicine” or “food”. There’s a lot more specific sub-topics that sit below that broad term though.
But to keep it simple, broad marketing can normally be divided into three more specific chunks of interest. These are customer understanding, brand building and marketing strategy and activation.
(of course, each of these can be further divided into increasingly small chunks).
Look at customer understanding for example. Your first thought is probably market research. You use market research to find out what customers want after all.
But market research is a big topic in its own right. It also breaks into chunks of interest. There’s the overall research process to understand and manage. You need to work with market research companies.
But customer understanding as a subject is more than than market research.
Customer interactions on your website or third-party platforms generates data. Data helps you understand customers better.
Always remember your objective in understanding customers. You want to understand what they do, and why they do it.
Customer understanding often overlaps with some areas of psychology. This shows up in writing topics like behavioural science. (see also our review of one of our favourite business writing books on this).
Behavioural science helps you get under people’s skin, and understand better why they do things.
Pause a second though, and think about all this means from a writing point of view.
We picked one subject – customer understanding, but we’re already linking it to a bunch of related topics – like market research, digital data and behavioural science.
The challenge when writing about marketing is rarely finding things to write about. It’s more often about how to connect different marketing subjects together in a way that readers can follow. Your marketing story needs to keeps the reader wanting to find out more.
Brand building / Marketing Strategy and Activation
The same principle applies to other marketing subject chunks like brand building and marketing strategy and activation. Those also contain many sub-topics and links to other skills. It’s a great writing challenge to pull these together to create a clear marketing story.
For example, you need to know how to brief and carry out segmentation research. You need commercially focussed decision making skills to create market attractiveness models. And finally, you need concept development and analytical skills to create a positioning statement.
Then, you move on to create your brand identity. Again, lots of different skills and topics to write about. How you create intangible brand assets like your brand essence for example. How you create tangible assets like logos and colour palettes. All these fall under the broad topic of “marketing” but they’re quite different to write about.
Marketing strategy and activation
And finally, marketing plan in hand, you still need to activate it. Plans don’t win customers, actions do. But writing often underpins those actions from briefs to agencies to project documents to manage activities.
Check out our guides to marketing innovation or advertising for example. The process to do those almost always includes a writing step of some kind. Write your objectives. Write your brief. And write the plan so everyone knows what they need to do.
Better writing skills leads to better marketing skills
When you write about marketing, you learn the value of writing clearly. How to be clear in your objectives. How to write a clear brief. And how to use writing to motivate and influence people inside and outside your business.
Good writing skills raise the quality of everything you do in marketing.
With your writing hat on, marketing as a topic give you a rich vein of source material to pick away at. Your challenge is how to pick the ones that matter most to your audience, and write content that’s specific and that sparkles on the page.
Marketing readers want specifics not broad topics
If marketing is about giving people what they need, writing about marketing has to do the same job. In most cases, this is about giving information (practical advice on how to do things), insights (stories and anecdotes about how and why things happen) and ideas and inspiration.
These writing outcomes come easier when you’re writing about more specific subjects than broad generalities. Writing just reads better when it gets specific and concrete than broad and abstract. It feels more real, more relevant and more relatable.
This is why SEO writing is so important. Use keyword research to find out what people search on that’s relevant to marketing, and organise and structure your work to make it easier for readers to find it.
Organise your writing
Good organisation of your writing helps readers find what they’re looking for. It helps them meet their needs. You owe it to them.
Create headlines and short summaries up front, so readers quickly know what your writing is about.
Add categories and tags to your blog posts to make topics easier to find. Use logical structures to organise your different articles. Set up a clear website schema. This helps both readers and search engines understand what your articles cover and how to find them.
Searching for content takes time away from reading content. And reading content is what you want from your writing.
Link your writing
You also need to consider how readers navigate through your writing.
With online writing, make sure to link relevant keywords to related articles.
We’ve already shown some examples of how different marketing subjects can link together in terms of telling a story.
But writing online content means you can create actual links that take the reader to the next place they need to go.
You need to find a balance with your linking approach though. Too many links and you risk overwhelming the reader and losing them. Not enough links and you have to constantly re-explain related concepts, which breaks the flow of the writing.
The right balance means links that are relevant, helpful and interesting.
Example – packaging links
For example, let’s say you were writing about packaging development.
You’d want to cover practical topics like how brands stand out on shelf, or on product pages for example. But to answer these questions, you’d need to link to related topics like colour psychology, typography and logo design.
But you’d also want to cover the role of packaging in storage and transport. You’d need to link to subjects like the supply chain and the order to delivery system.
Linking like this helps you connect diverse topics. Graphic design and warehouses wouldn’t normally be related topics, but packaging links them together. (check out our article on packaging in e-Commerce for another example of linking together two seemingly unrelated subjects).
Marketing is a mix of abstract and concrete topics
Which brings us to our next challenge writing about marketing.
Most writing guides advise you to focus on concrete subjects rather than abstract concepts.
Concrete subjects are easier for readers to understand. They appeal to the senses. You can see, hear, touch, smell or taste them. Readers “get” these subjects quickly and easily.
Abstract concepts on the other hand only really exist in the mind. You have to imagine and create a mental picture. This is harder work for the reader.
This is why you’ll find lot of marketing writing becomes “how to” do things. A “how to” guide contains concrete practical information that’s easy for readers to understand.
For example, when we wrote our beginners guide to Adobe Illustrator for marketers, we focussed on concrete practical information. We worked through each of the basic elements of the program, showed what it did and how you could use it.
Explain abstract concepts with concrete examples
But marketing isn’t just concrete topics like this. It’s often abstract concepts too, and these are tougher to write about.
Writing about marketing forces you to find ways to explain abstract concepts. You can use concrete examples to do this.
For example, our article about marketing evolution and marketing revolution talks about abstract concepts.
You can’t see, touch, taste, hear or smell those. But you know what they are.
So, we use a concrete example to explain them.
We ask the reader to imagine they’ve got a mouse problem. To solve the mouse problem, they can build a better mousetrap – an evolutionary approach, or they can buy a cat – revolutionary approach.
Mousetraps and cats. Concrete topics.
But used to explain evolution and revolution. Abstract topics.
You see this in a lot of advertising. People laughing and smiling (concrete) is easier to understand than talking about happiness (abstract). Someone crying (concrete) is easier to explaining pain, grief or loss. (abstract).
So, if you’re writing about an abstract marketing concept, use concrete examples to make it easier to understand. Link to case studies. Use real-life anecdotes. Tell short related brand stories. These concrete examples make abstract concepts easier to understand.
Marketing is hard to be definitive – context matters
The next challenge in writing about marketing relates to context. Context matters a lot in marketing.
This is a challenge when you have to write about these subjects. Examples, case studies, anecdotes and stories help. But without context, you end up trying to cover too many bases. And when you do this, you end up using what writers call “weasel words”.
Weasel words are when you hedge your bets when writing. This “might” happen. That “could” be true. “Possibly” this, and “it depends” on that. It’s hard not to let these creep in when you’re writing about marketing, because it’s a hard topic to be definitive on. A lot of the time, it does depend on the context.
There are very few certainties in marketing. It’s more about probabilities than certainties, and you have to work hard to make your writing style still sound confident without sitting on the fence too much. Use those examples, case studies, anecdotes and stories to give context. Use them to build the reader’s confidence in what you write.
But also, write with confidence. Build your knowledge of good writing principles and apply them consistently.
Writing about marketing - apply good writing principles
In previous articles like what we learned writing in 2020, we covered key writing skills like the importance of building good writing habits, learning to draft and edit and many more.
Writing is writing after all.
Good writing, whatever the topic, applies all these good writing principles.
Example – be concise and specific in what you write
One of our favourite pieces of writing advice is this :-
“omit unnecessary words, with eagerness and relish. Vigorous writing is concise.”
In marketing, there’s a lot of unnecessary words. Marketers love to talk about marketing, remember? They love jargon. If there’s a way to say something in a more complicated way, that’s how many marketers will say it.
It’s really hard when you write about marketing, not to fall into this trap.
Sometimes you’ve got no choice. Take a marketing topic like segmentation for example. It’s a long complex word about an abstract concept. But, there’s no real synonym, so you’re stuck with it. Using a long-winded sentence to explain it is worse (e.g. “when you break up the total market into smaller segments”). In writing about marketing, sometimes big technical words are necessary, unfortunately.
But not every time.
Finding ways to explain complex marketing subjects with the minimum amount of words is one of the more fun parts of writing about marketing. Do this with eagerness and relish, as Strunck and White put it, and your marketing writing will be more vigorous.
Vigorous writing is good. Vigorous writing is readable.
Writing about marketing needs to be readable
Readability’s important. If you writing isn’t readable, it won’t get read.
There’s two ways to improve readability.
The first is the traditional manual way of doing it. Use an editor. Use beta readers. Ask for feedback from readers.
The other option is to run your writing through automated readability checks like the one from Yoast (if you run your site on WordPress), or one of the other free readability tools you can find online.
Though not perfect, these automatic tools will help you diagnose possible readability issues.
Too many long words. Too many long sentences. A lack of transition words. All these can make your writing less readable.
We always look at our Flesch Kincaid readability score after writing a first draft for example. It gives us a good idea of whether we’re on track to write readable content.
Our marketing articles mainly fall in the 50-60 (10th to 12th grade) and 60-70 (8th and 9th grade) ranges.
This is a good benchmark area for online writing about marketing. Leave more detailed and complicated content to the academic world.
Your writing about marketing needs to be readable, because readable content helps you hit your objectives.
The objective of writing about marketing
When you write, your objective is to communicate and connect with readers. You want to grab their attention, and for them to enjoy reading your content. And of course, you want them to influence them towards your marketing objective for the writing.
There’s a strong connection between writing objectives and marketing objectives. Attention. Engagement. Influence. Writing helps you achieve your marketing objectives, by building connections with customers and influencing them to think, feel or do something differently.
The better the marketing writer you are, the righter your marketing will be.
Conclusion – Writing about marketing
Many marketers undervalue the power of good writing skills. They either assume it doesn’t matter much, or they farm it out to specialist copywriters at their agency
Don’t let that be you.
Writing about marketing helps you organise ideas and share marketing knowledge with a wider audience. Writing helps reinforce thoughts and makes them stick. You’ll be more able to recall ideas as and when you need them.
The rewards will come through in the clarity and impact of your writing. You’ll be more influential within your business, and have bigger and better impact with customers.