Your Client’s Content Sucks: 10 Scripts You Can Use to Break the News

Let’s say you're a web designer, and your dream client is busting down your door to work with you.

Honestly, you couldn’t have imagined a better scenario. They do exciting work, in an industry you’re passionate about. They know they need your help. They came to you because they love your work. They trust you with the design. They’ve got a budget that makes you both happy. The turnaround isn’t insane, and you see no major red flags.

And then you bring up content.
Who will be responsible for the content? 
“I can copy/paste what I’ve already got.” 
“[long pause] Well, I was planning to just repurpose what’s here."
“Great question. I think our intern is an English major.” 
"I’m not a writer, but I can hack it together."
“If I put my mind to it, I can get it done in a weekend.” 
“No idea – can we just use some lorem ipsum for now?” 

You know you need to push your client towards getting professional content help – strategic messaging, a clear voice and tone, a consistent content strategy sensitive to business goals and user needs – but it’s an uncomfortable situation for everyone involved. You don’t want to seem like you’re being pushy, upselling them on something (they think) they don’t need. You don’t want to make an underhanded insult to their writing skills by being too direct. You’re aware that you should communicate the value, importance, and relevance of having a strategic approach to content, but right now, words fail, and you’re afraid that they’ll mistake your professional guidance for contract-kililng condescension. 

Your client’s content sucks. You know it, but they don't. Here are ten scripts you can use to get them the help they need when you're not sure what to say: 

Start with an informal audit – your unbiased opinion as a user, a prospect, and a real person. 

[First Name], you came to me because you trust me, and because I’m a professional, I want to give you my most trustworthy advice. What I say may be direct, but please know that I mean no disrespect; even when it sounds like I’m saying you’re not right, I promise I'm doing right by you. I’ve taken a look at you website’s content in its current state, and I have a few recommendations about how I think we can improve on usability, readability, and relevance. Imagine how your website would pop if we gave the same treatment to content as we’re giving to design? With that said, do you mind if I walk you through some areas of your site where I think your content might be selling you short right now?

Explain how content expertise makes launching on time a priority. 

I know you mentioned wanting to launch by _______, which I think is a very reasonable timeframe. I know I can have the design done by then, but I want to make sure you know just how much is involved in creating content for yourself. Nothing pains me (or my clients) more than having a beautiful new website ready to go, with no content to fill it with. That leads to months of stalling, “coming soon”pages, and frustration on your part. After all, you’ve got a business to run, and I would hate to see you struggle. Do you think it’d be worth the extra investment to make sure your content is done on time? I’d love to set you up with a content specialist who can give you a better idea of pricing and timelines to make this a less overwhelming choice for you. 

Show them exactly where they’re missing out on opportunities to convert. 

There are a few places I see on the site where you’re really missing out on an opportunity to [insert content goal here → build your email list, encourage sign ups, fill out a project planner, schedule a free call]. If you work with a content team to put an email capture in your footer, a short form on a landing page, or an opt-in here, you could convert up to 10% more visitors. I know my content partners may have some ideas about what kind of content would be right for your audience, but I love blending design with content to help your website perform at its peak. 

Demonstrate where content is too wordy, compromises design (especially on mobile devices) or is just plain unnecessary. 

I get what you do, but the way your content is written right now might make it hard for other people to get it, too. A content specialist can help you define the more strategic pieces of your content, such as your value proposition, your vision, and your mission statement, so that people who land on your website won’t have to read so much to understand your business. I see you also have a lot of content in spaces where scrolling should ideally be kept at a minimum. See, if we look at your site on mobile, this statement that can be condensed to a sentence or two feels like an entire paragraph? That’s some really unnecessary hard work that you’re putting your visitors through, contributing to higher bounce rates, and I think we can help you tidy that up by thinking about how usability, design, and content play together.

Highlight any areas where existing content is dead. 

I spent a little time in the ‘dark corners’ of your website the other day, and found a few areas that seem to need a little attention. Have you noticed that these links lead to 404 pages, or don’t load at all? Broken links are a bad user experience that makes it seem like you don’t have time or interest in cleaning up your content (even if you do!). They also cause frustration, say if someone bookmarked a product they wanted to buy later, or were close to checking out or finding what they needed, but ultimately were left at a dead-end. Even search engines hate broken links, leading to less desirable rankings. My content partners and I know how to find dead links, write for blank pages, and redirect content to updated URL’s, making sure pages that need to work together do so. 

Point out areas where jargon or lingo loses their target audience. 

While I was looking at this page/section/headline, I was a little unsure of what you meant. When you’re immersed in your own industry, it’s easy to publish what makes sense to you, but some things can get lost in translation – I’m guilty of it, too! Jargon and lingo are important in establishing credibility in certain content types, but when it comes to content, the simpler the better. Why don’t I introduce you to a content specialist who can help you unpack some of the complex jargon and lingo I see here? I know their approach to writing in Plain English has helped clients just like you who know what they want to say, but have a hard time saying it in a way that isn’t confusing. 

Explain why content is more than just verbal expertise – it’s also technical expertise like formatting, SEO, and specialized knowledge. 

Words don’t just make your business sound good. Words are actually an important part of looking good online, too. And because I know that looking good online is important to you, I really think a content specialist might be able to help with all the things that are ‘under the hood’. A content specialist knows exactly how to optimize for keywords, write so that search engines find and index your website, and format powerful headlines so that people are moved to take action. I think you’d really benefit from some of the more tactical advice they can give you, which I know is far beyond both of our areas of expertise. 

Explain how content and emotion go hand-in-hand. 

I know you’ve heard about ‘brand storytelling’, but I really think your content could use a more story-driven approach. Consumers tend to make rational AND emotional decisions, but right now, your content is only playing to the rational brain by sounding (inhuman/jargon-y/wordy). I know a great content team that knows how to uncover the emotional appeal of what you have to offer through Emotional Targeting, and what your target audience needs to feel at every interaction on your site: upon sign-up, at checkout, while reading your team’s bios, and so on. These are pivotal, make-or-break moments that I believe a content team can uncover and consistently bring to your site’s content. Would you like me to make an introduction? 

Bring up opportunities to optimize business through content. 

Talented content specialists can identify entirely new ways to market your business, structure your website, and even uncover potential new revenue streams (hello, passive income!) you never would’ve thought of yourself. Because they’re always looking at your business through the eyes of your audience and sensitive to their needs, they’re also more apt to bring up new opportunities to do things better or easier, like integrating customer service chats, conducting testing on most effective headlines, and gathering customer testimonials. I’d love to know their insight on how we can blend a little business strategy with what we’re already doing. 

Discuss autoresponders and other areas that are commonly forgotten. 

Visiting your website through the eyes of your customers changes everything. Have you tried filling out things like contact forms or scheduling tools lately? Do you know what happens after a purchase has been made? I’ve heard of some clients with well-designed products and services wondering why they aren’t getting any new customers. Turns out their forms weren’t working correctly! I’d love to work with a content team to help integrate things like autoresponders – messages that get sent automatically after an action is taken – to make sure that that doesn’t happen to you. With their help, we can write helpful messages that set expectations about when prospects can hear back from you, where to find you on social media, and how to access resources like FAQ pages. As an added benefit, they’ll be able to help communicate all of this with a consistent, clear voice and tone that makes you sound professional, and like you thought of everything. (Because you did!)