What are you saying?

Who, what, when,why, where, how and how much.

Everyone can write.

We’ve all been to school. Learnt how to spell, how to pull sentences together. We’ve learnt at least the very basics of grammar.

Everyone can write.

But not everyone can write well.

And not everyone can think like a writer should think. Not even all “writers” do that.

The What, Why, Where, When, Who and How of writing

Back in year one, my teacher, Mrs Lister, taught us about the 6 Ws of a story – What, Why, Where, When, Who and hoW. Every story, she said, must contain all these elements.

But this is also true in planning your writing.

  • What do you need to say?
  • Why are you going to say it? Or Why do you need to say it?
  • Where are you going to say it?
  • When are you going to say it?
  • Who are you going to say it to?
  • How are you going to say it?

I’ll talk about the why, where, when, who and how another time. Today, let’s chat about the what.

The what, why, when, where, who and how of the WHAT

As well as planning the 6 Ws in your writing, you need to consider a further 7 Ws in what you say. These can be slightly different for different businesses, but in general, they’re:

  • What you’re selling
  • Who the product or service is for
  • Why people should buy it, or why they should buy it from you
  • Where they can access your product or service
  • When they can access it, or when it will arrive
  • How they use it, how they maintain it or how it’s made
  • How much it costs

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying every single piece of content needs to answer all 7. But all 7 should be answered along the way as your audience interacts with your business across various platforms – your website, emails, socials, ads, and tangible products.

Knowing when and where to include each is key. If you don’t, there are too many questions in the prospective customers’ minds which leads to one of two things:

  • Fewer sales than your business deserves
  • More queries and questions than your customer service team (or you, as the business owner) should have to deal with

So answering these questions early and often is essential.

FAQs are not the solution

Too often, people struggling to tell the story rely on FAQs to answer what’s left. So FAQs become the junk drawer of their website.

Don’t fall into this trap.

FAQs exist for a reason. A few reasons, in fact:

  • To accommodate the impatient customer: Some customers dive straight to the FAQs to get their answers. In my experience, these customers are easy to convert but hard to retain: They’ve answered their immediate questions but not necessarily considered their needs or brand affinity. These are not your ideal customers.
  • To assure the nervous buyer: FAQs are where you can answer those additional, niggly questions 5% or less of your customers have. It’s where customers go to discover your returns policy, or how to properly dispose of an item when it needs to be replaced.
  • To reduce strain on customer service teams: FAQs should be home to troubleshooting information so customers don’t need to contact you and wait for a response.
  • To boost SEO rankings: FAQs are another place to share your story, explain your product, and use your primary keywords.
  • To reiterate the answers to the 7 Ws: For those who might have missed it the first time.

The majority of customers only check out FAQs when there’s a problem or a last quick question to answer. If you haven’t answered the key 7 Ws before they turn to your FAQs, you’ve likely lost them.

Price can (rarely) be the exception

Sometimes, you can get away with only answering 6 of the 7 Ws across your content, leaving price out of the conversation. The default should be to include it, but some businesses can get away with skipping it for a couple of reasons:

  • Your product/service is the leader amongst competitors with loyal, and very vocal customers. If a prospective customer has heard about your business so much that they’re convinced they need you, you can probably get away with hiding your price behind a checkout. (But this doesn’t mean you should.)
  • You offer by-the-project prices. If no project is the same, it doesn’t make sense to advertise your pricing.
  • You’re the best of the best. You’re a Michelin 3-star restaurant of your industry.

Build out your strategy

Before you put pen to paper, take time to think through the 7 Ws and plan where they should be answered and where they should be reiterated. Make checklists for each page or component and work to them as you write.

Revisit your existing content to make sure the story is solid and Mrs Lister would approve. And if you’re not sure if you’ve nailed it, drop me a line and we can have a chat about getting you on track.