For a lot of small business owners, “writing” tends to be a catch-all term.
Everyone understands that it’s important, but it can be hard to tell what types of writing are out there and which ones are best suited to your business needs.
When everything from product to presentation matters, trying to filter out what would have the greatest impact on customer engagement can be a frustrating experience. But it doesn’t have to be!
Here are a few types of writing that can help your business grow:
You might be familiar with ad writing simply due to how the media portrays advertising agencies in movies and on television screens: A bunch of people sitting in a boardroom throwing out clever one-liners or working overnight on a single line of ad copy meant to be the centerfold of an ad campaign.
That still might be how it works in the upper echelons of some New York agency, but for small business owners, it’s much more down to earth.
However, the media portrayal gets one thing right: This is one of the most important types of writing out there when you’re trying to sell something.
Ads tend to be short, eye-catching, and designed to get users to click or engage in some way to find out more. With modern pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns like Google or Facebook ads — just like billboards, mailers, and 30-second television ads — you’ve got a limited amount of time to get your message across.
In the digital space, that limited amount of time might come down to how much screen space you have to catch a reader’s attention before they scroll down and forget your ad forever. You’ve got to make those precious moments count!
Sales writing is about using that time in the most efficient way possible to create an on-brand message that captures a customer’s attention and gets to take action to find out more.
When Should I Use This?
Ad writing is one of those types of writing that can find a home in almost any business, whether it’s a digital storefront or a brick-and-mortar retailer. That may include:
- Pay-Per-Click ads (PPC)
- Mailers / Flyers
- Sales jingles
- Retail window signage
- Digital banners
When you’re writing something with strict limitations and you’re trying to get someone to take action, this is the kind of writing you’re probably looking for.
Looking to do it yourself? WordStream has a few great tips to help you get started!
If ad writing is meant to be short and sweet, content writing takes an entirely different approach to the market. Compared to the other types of writing listed here, content writing is the most flexible and has the widest berth.
Why? Because content writing is meant to engage with readers through information and entertainment.
The most straightforward example of this might be a blog post. It can be funny, it can be informative, and as long as it continues to fulfill a purpose to interested readers, it can be 10,000 words long. Nobody’s going to bat an eye at that. You might even get a boost in your search engine rankings for providing comprehensive content.
Of course, the openness of content writing means that there’s quite a bit of it out there. Too much, in fact. According to a recent Forbes article, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is created each day. While all of that isn’t content marketing, it’s still more information — entertainment or otherwise — than any one person can consume on a daily basis. It’s impossible to keep up.
And that’s the literal limit of content marketing. It’s a wide channel, but in order to reach your target audience, your content needs to be focused on your target audience and written with them in mind.
When Should I Use This?
Because the sky’s the limit with content marketing, this type of writing can be used for longer-form content without an issue. Some examples might be:
- Blog posts
- Online articles
- Lead magnets
- Case studies
- White papers
- Videos & Scripts
As a reminder, content writing has fewer restrictions than other types of writing, but that doesn’t mean you should just sit down at your keyboard and start hammering out words.
Poorly researched or uninformative content that isn’t targeted is just a time-waster.
If you’re looking to do it yourself, this article from Scrunch can help you get started.
This style of writing often gets a bad rap as dry and boring, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Business writing is one of the few types of writing that you’re most likely to use without knowing it.
When you get down to it, the purpose of business writing is to impress someone or to influence their decision-making process in some way while keeping a specific focus.
But it’s subtle. When you’re reading a billboard or scroll past a banner ad on a website, you know that you’re being advertised to. It’s blatant and obvious, and that’s sort of the point.
Business writing is one of the few types of writing that doesn’t need to hammer people on the head because it’s most often used to build relationships.
Here’s what I mean: Business writing can be internally- or externally-focused, but you almost always have some idea of who you’re talking to.
Internally, it’s the company memo that gives information while building employee culture. It’s the email that thanks someone for attending a company luncheon while, at the same time, trying to network with them over a new office initiative.
When used externally, it’s a proposal, a white paper, or a sales letter — all documents of purpose — that don’t necessarily sound like they’re “selling” something. (Yes, even the sales letter doesn’t have to come off that way.)
When Should I Use This?
If you’re focused and on-message, and you’re trying to build relationships with a target audience, business writing is probably the tool you’ll use to do it.
A few examples, mentioned earlier, would be:
- Policy documentation
- Corporate memos
- Business plans
- Sales letters
- White papers
For small business owners, this type of writing is often the consequence of running a business. You need it in order to operate on a daily basis.
However, if you’re strategic about it or you work with a professional, you can often generate templates for your most commonly-used business documentation, which saves time and energy later down the road.
If you’re an entrepreneur who isn’t a fan of writing emails and proposals, technical writing might be your worst nightmare.
Because it’s written in a just-the-facts, tone, technical writing often comes across as dry and tedious. I won’t defend it; the writing style typically used in this format is designed to be neutral.
You might be asking yourself, “But if we know about that, then why doesn’t anybody fix it?”
That’s because technical writing is the most straightforward of all other types of writing. It’s designed to get the point across and convey information without an ulterior motive.
As readers, we’re often looking for something to catch our attention while we read, whether it’s an interesting headline or catchy dialogue. In technical writing, you won’t find that.
Information, first and foremost, is why you’re reading a technical document, so that’s what the document delivers. See? Straight to the point.
When Should I Use This?
You’ll see this style of writing most often employed around process and policy documentation:
- Training manuals
- Company operational policy
- Assembly instructions
- Software guides
Looking to give it a try on your own? Here are a few tips to help you get started.
Social Media Writing
If you ask around, you might find a few individuals who would make the case that social media writing is a form of advertisement, but I disagree.
Ad writing tends to be about snippy one-liners meant to catch interest and attention. There’s definitely a place for that sort of thing on a social media account, but I’d make the case that social media is most often a blend of content and ad writing.
The purpose of a social media account for small business owners isn’t just to advertise; it’s to establish a branding presence. You can do that by posting all sorts of different media, sharing blog posts, and — of course — talking about deals, sales, and new products.
There’s room for all of it. That makes this one of the more versatile types of writing, and you can use it to leverage your business profile in incredible ways.
However, social media writing is also confined to the platform on which it lives and the rules that govern that platform. So, if you’re operating on Twitter, you have to respect the character limit. If it’s Instagram, your engagement profile should center around images. You get the idea.
In social media writing, your content and your writing will vary due to the platform where you’re engaging your audience.
When Should I Use This?
This answer is probably obvious, so I’m not going to list all of the social media platforms where you might employ this kind of writing.
Instead, let me pose a different question: SHOULD I Use This?
And, honestly, the answers vary. Most small business owners engage in some form of social media, even if they’re reluctant to do so. In the age of smartphones and digital media, the idea of having a brand presence in someone else’s news feed is an appealing idea.
As a writer, I’m not here to run your business. Personally, you’ll find me on a few alternative social media platforms, but I don’t go crazy with it. My position is that businesses have, can, and do survive without it, so it’s not essential in the way that social media companies want you to believe.
At the same time, if you’re good at it, it’s a valuable marketing tool. If you’re looking to try it out on your own, Hootsuite has you covered.
So, we’ve covered the types of writing that you might be looking to utilize for your business, but we’re not going to stop there.
Here are a few additional skills that can help you improve how your writing is received. If you’re hiring someone, here are a few additional skills you check for while making your decision.
For a lot of small business owners, search engine optimization (SEO) is a black box. It’s magic. Nobody knows exactly how Google and the other search engines come up with those rankings, and reaching page one may feel impossible.
Totally understandable. However, there’s an entire industry dedicated to figuring out how search engines rank content and how to get Google and the rest to pay attention to your website.
If ranking highly in Google is part of your business strategy, read up a little on SEO and have a conversation with a writer who can generate SEO-ready content and pair that with the types of writing you need (primarily content writing) so that you get the organic search traffic that you’re looking for.
Go into that conversation with some knowledge about how SEO works, and remember that if someone is promising you something crazy, like first-page results within a week or two of starting your own website, that’s probably too good to be true.
There’s no doubt, every writer is in need of a good editor. Many professional writers have tricks to help us self-edit our own work, but a fresh pair of eyes is almost always better in the end.
If you’ve got existing content and you’re searching for a writer, it’s not a bad idea to see if they’ve got any experience as an editor. See if they’re familiar with AP Style or the Chicago Manual of Style, or if they follow other guidelines and style books out there.
If you’re seeking editing services specifically, you should also take a few minutes to figure out what type of editing you actually need. Copyediting, developmental editing, and proofreading all have their place, and they’re all a little different.
At the end of the day, writing is a worthless skill unless it’s paired with specific industry knowledge. In order to be an effective writer, you have to have something to write about.
If you’re looking to hire a writer, it’s worth checking to make sure that they’ve got the industry experience you need to get the job done. In many cases, industry knowledge can be acquired quickly and easily. For more niche or obscure jobs, you may need to double-check to ensure that a writer’s background experience matches your needs.
Likewise, if you’re producing content yourself, take a hard look internally and make sure that you’re the best fit for the job. Do you have the industry experience needed to target your specific audience? Do you have the skills needed to spread that information through the proper channels?
Often, having one skillset isn’t enough. You may need to partner with someone who can help you with the skills you’re missing or need to develop.
Many types of writing involve interviewing experts or topical authorities.
Especially for content writing, if your content and marketing strategy revolves around interaction with other individuals as part of content creation — think interview articles or podcasts — then you may need to brush up on your interview skills.
When hiring a freelance writer, these skills can also come in handy. Jot down a few questions and mull them over. Sharpen those interview skills with practice. They can save you a headache down the road.
Content Strategy & Generation
It’s true that all types of writing have their place, but content strategy and generation may be the deciding factor in what’s effective for your business strategy.
Small business owners are busy. It’s part of the entrepreneurial bug. With blogs and social media post, the ability to produce thorough and engaging content on a regular basis can determine whether a strategy is successful.
When considering whether or not to pursue a strategy on your own, ask yourself if you’ve got time for it, or if you should connect with someone who can help you accomplish your goals.
If you’re flying solo, an idea generator is a great place to get started when coming up with content ideas — but it’s only a starting point.
Familiarity With All Types of Writing
The funny thing about copywriting is that, in one way or another, almost everyone is familiar with the types of writing listed here.
You might not know the technical names behind the writing style, but you’ve encountered all of them somewhere before, either through newspaper clippings, sales scripts, operational manuals, or holiday jingles.
When considering how writing will be used to further promote your brand, product, or service, keep your purpose in mind while creating your draft and future revisions.
If you’re flying solo, use your familiarity with all the writing you’ve seen over your career to your advantage. Focus on what you’re good at creating, even if it’s just a killer email or sales letter.
As you have time, learn about other content formats and try to roll those out effectively. If that sounds like a tall order — and it can be, if writing isn’t your strong suit — feel free to connect with me for a consultation!