What’s the difference between a business and a company? Does it matter?
I was editing a piece of content today aimed at small business owners—retailers, restaurant owners, people like that—and the writer made a reference to “your company.” This particular writer creates content for a number of different clients, many of which are in very corporate fields, so most likely the word “company” slipped in there out of habit. I changed it to "business."
In content—and communications in general—the words we choose make a difference. The owner of the corner coffee shop, for example, probably doesn’t think of his business as a company, even though (in the strict dictionary definition sense) it is. When he comes across a piece of content that makes a reference to his “company” rather than his “business,” or, even better, his “café,” he might think:
- This content is not for him.
- This content was written by someone who doesn’t understand his needs.
- This content will not help him solve his problems.
Our coffee shop owner would head back to his Google search results to find a piece of content that spoke more directly to him.
Empathy is a Content Marketing Skill
Whether you’re doing content creation or content strategy, one of the most valuable attributes you can have is a well-honed sense of empathy—the ability to put yourself in another’s shoes. For marketers and content writers, the people with whom we need to empathize are our customers, prospective customers, and readers. We need to understand what’s going on in their lives that’s causing them to seek out a solution online and, for writers especially, we need to understand the language they use to talk about it.
One word, like calling a business a company, can mean the difference between sounding like a trusted advisor and a clueless poseur. Choose your words with care and, if you don’t know the right words to use, ask. Check in with your business’s existing customers and ask them what industry content they read. Record them talking about their business (if you’re doing B2B) or their interests (if you’re doing B2C) and make a note of the words they use and the words they don’t.
And—here’s the most important thing—after you’ve written a piece of content, read it back to yourself as if you were a member of the target audience. How would you respond to it? Does it speak to you? Keep working on it until it does.
“On Content” is an ongoing blog series by IMR content manager Matthew Cook that confronts the difficulties and celebrates the pleasures of writing online content.