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!)







Deciding on Your Opt-In: 6 Musts to Making Valuable and Memorable Content for Download

Opt-In Ideas

Opt-ins can take practically any size, shape, or style, but often appear in the form of...

  • Downloads / Reports
  • eBooks
  • Checklists
  • Quizzes
  • Lists
  • Planners
  • Calendars
  • Spreadsheets
  • Trial Software
  • Templates
  • Cheat Sheets
  • Resource Guides
  • Swipe Files
  • Photo Packs
  • Wallpapers
  • Lock Screens
  • Challenges
  • Webinars
  • Online Courses

Conversion is currency, and consistent contact with target audiences rewards in sales, new projects, referrals. But before that happens, you’ve got to get names on your list.

Opt-ins (sometimes called “lead magnets”) are a great way to do just that. These valuable pieces of content are shared with visitors to your website, in exchange for access to their email addresses or other contact information.

These are compelling content marketing tools for two reasons: because they make your expertise believable to prospects that take the time to apply what you've already shared, and because every new email you capture expands your reach so that you're able to spread the word further when you have a new product, feature, or service to share.

    Although choosing to create a valuable opt-in is often easy, creating the content for said opt-ins often proves to be quite hard. People often make the mistake of creating content their customers don’t need or want, in formats that don’t reach them where they already are, or add any value to their lives.

    When we create opt-in offers with our clients, we focus on the areas of their expertise that come to them so easily that they take it for granted. They’re often blind to this information, and wouldn’t think of as a marketable “hook.” This is exactly the kind of information that makes for a great opt-in offer. You can have the best, most creative opt-in idea on the web, but if it doesn’t offer uncommon insight in the form of uncommon content, “value" goes right out the window.

    Your expertise, their need, and a call to action that connects the two in the mind of the reader. These are the three pieces that must work in tandem for an opt-in to be a success.

    With that in mind, how should you decide what your opt-in should actually offer? Here are some of the guidelines we use to choose wisely when answering that question with our own clients.

    Emphasize education and utility over entertainment.

    When you encounter a pop-up or sidebar featuring an enticing offer, what do you often feel? Skepticism? Annoyance? Cautious optimism? Users, customers, and prospects want to know that giving you access to their inbox is a win for them – not just for you.

    No brand wants to be known as an inbox burden, and an opt-in that doesn’t add value or impress with insight is an opt-in that’s on the fast track to becoming an opt-out. Avoid anything that feels like entertainment (recycled blog posts, ‘vlogs’, or links to your social media) and instead focus on your area of expertise and how it can be applied in the life of your audience.

    That doesn't mean you should make it dry and boring, though. Use humor where applicable if it works with your brand voice and tone, and try to be as short and sweet as possible so they can get straight to the action for themselves.

    Aim to offer the highest amount of value that you can create in the least amount of time.

    The best thing about an opt-in is that content you can create in an hour or less is content that can drive interest in your brand for years to come, something also known as “evergreen content.”

    An opt-in is something quick and easy. Don’t overthink or spend too much time on it. Instead, think about striking a balance between what you can teach, share, or package up quickly and easily that also helps your ideal customer's life or business. For your first opt-in offer, you’ll want to spend no more than 2 hours on the content itself.

    Got the idea down, but need help designing it up? Talented partners like Four Oh Seven, Phyllis Sa Design, and Flourish Collaborative can handle the design side of things so you can skip the Photoshop crash course and give your opt-in offer a professional design that will stand out.

    Help your ideal customer recognize their own needs, before they’re even aware of them.

    The best opt-ins bring prospects to a moment of realization (“I need this”) before a moment of reckoning (“I can’t live without this”).

    Are there patterns to your customer interactions that reveal more about what clients don’t know they need until you recommend it to them?

    Pinpoint those, then strategize about how to build a powerful opt-in around the ‘a-ha’ revelation that sells itself.

    Tease a more comprehensive product or service and prove ‘on the fence’ prospects that they need exactly what you offer.

    Your offering should be a small slice of your service, not the full helping. It’s helpful to think about your process for working with people, then tease the first step as the lure to the next.

    Or, in the case of a product, think about the skeleton version of the full product. If you’ve built a killer productivity app, give away a ‘lite’ version that doesn’t include all the bells and whistles. If you offer consultation or discovery calls, package up the questions you ask as a workbook. 

    Help kickstart projects before they even begin. 

    If you work in client services, your opt-in can even double as a project kickoff tool. Imagine an interested client ready to go with some of the homework you often send off at the beginning of a project, already done. This would save you both time, getting straight to the point with a client who knows what they need, or at the very least, more awareness about what their pain points are and how you’re the best person to alleviate them.

    What information do you need from clients that can bypass some, not all, of the discovery process? Spend some time thinking about how to break client ‘homework’ or discovery into self-guided opt-ins that save you both a step.

    Make them feel something about your brand.

    Finally, your opt-in should be more than an informational hook – it should be an emotional one, too. The fact is, opt-ins are a dime a dozen. Every marketer, from the amateur to the expert, recognizes the importance of an opt-in in the process of list building.

    You might be surprised by how easy it can be to bolster your brand identity and story through some very simple additions to your opt-in content.

    If you’re offering a checklist or an eBook, a cover page and personalized letter explaining what it is and how to use it can help your opt-in stand out. If you want to teach something, a webinar can help people get to know your voice and personality. For printed materials, 'bake in' your brand through headers and footers that keep you top of mind as people print them off and use them. 

    Show them the tip of the iceberg.

    It can be a little bit scary to give away what you know for free, but that's why you're going to focus on an opt-in you can create with just a few hours of work. Lead your prospects through your approach to dealing with one specific problem so they can watch your thought process unfold for themselves, with no additional work on your part.

    They'll get the message loud and clear that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and it'll be so much easier for them to believe that buying your product or working with you directly will truly help them get what they need.

    Share the Good: How to Talk About Giving Back Without Patting Yourself on the Back

    Many of us have an aversion to sharing the good work we’ve done, especially when it comes to donating, volunteering, or going on missions trips. When it comes to businesses sharing their stories of service, talking about doing good tends to walk a fine line between authentically sharing a philanthropic experience and using that experience as a PR opportunity.

    Companies who put boots on the ground to stand in soup kitchens, dig gardens, or build schools instead of writing big checks often share what they do internally – on debriefings calls, in team meetings, across personal Facebook feeds – but rarely do they dedicate their efforts to sharing those stories where they can be publicly seen and celebrated for fear of being seen as self-righteous. 

    The antidote to self-serving content is to always make the story about the value doing good brings to other humans, not yourself. Celebrate the good that others get to experience through you, not the good that you get to do for them. 

    One company breaking that narrative a client of ours, a software development company based in Northern Virginia that makes giving back central to their business strategy. In fact, developing products and developing people has become central to the company’s messaging, advertising, and recruiting efforts. We’d heard from others that our client had an incredible amount of good to share, like building water sanitation systems, funding new housing, and writing letters to sponsored children, but we had no idea the incredible amount of personal impact and professional reach these stories actually had.

    Since sharing these stories aligned with business and content efforts, we pitched our client a radical idea to build a dedicated microsite for housing content focused solely on giving back, featuring stories from those who went on trips and documented their experiences, business leaders who attended and brought back their own perspectives, and firsthand advice from the company's executive team about how to build giving back into similar business models. We explained that the audience for this microsite would be triple-pronged, designed to share with customers what their investment has funded, attract likeminded employees enthusiastic about working for a company with shared values, and give similar businesses in the same space ideas for folding in their own giving back strategies into the core of their business strategy. 

    To assure our clients that the content we’d be developing would be celebratory without being self-congratulatory, we offered a few pieces of storytelling advice:

    Invite many voices to raise the volume on the culture that exists within.

    One of the goals we outlined with our client at the outset of our project was to raise the profile of their giving back programs, while also attracting likeminded talent that was focused on finding employment with a company who was as focused as doing good as they were. Instead of making the content sound attention-grabbing through the voice of a company executive or a press release, we wanted to tell stories from a variety of perspectives, including team members who got to share their own personal experiences, challenges, and perspectives, as well as other business owners who got to join in on missions trips and fundraising. In doing so, we were able to engage employees at all levels, asking them to consciously share memories of their missions trips in a way that gives everyone at the company an outlet for expression, and ultimately, connection with those to join a workplace that lets them do more of that. 

    By encouraging employees to share the kind of content that often stays tucked away inside – journals and diaries, photos and videos, social media and blog posts – everyone becomes a participating member in shaping the content the company publishes. This not only shows the company as a do-gooder, but one that trusts employees to share in their own voice, curate content for its audience, and work together to publish what they deem valuable and worthy of awareness. As a result, celebrating employees for knowledge-sharing creates a culture of transparency and communication, something that benefits internal cultures as a byproduct of benefiting external communities. 

    Celebrate the good that others received, not the good your team gave. 

    Giving back stories trend toward being self-centered when they focus on what a team got out of it, rather than what subjects of aid benefit from.

    Our client is focused on developing software and developing people, so much so that it makes it’s now a core value that every decision the company makes is checked against. While the company’s leadership places a great deal of emphasis on team member education, enrichment, and mentoring, they do so to consistently add value to employee’s lives so that they can add value to the lives of others.

    This is an important distinction, one that should be consistent in the stories the company tells about itself. 

    Instead of making the stories of do-gooding about what people in impoverished countries get to benefit from, we made the stories about the impact that many talents converging for one purpose result in: clean water, better education, higher quality childcare, and more financially secure communities that can now thrive.

    Tell stories that share the strengths of employees, how they impact customers, and how customers can fuel bigger cycles of giving back.

    Teams who give back together are more likely to be engaged at work, work more dynamically in groups, and feel comfortable pitching their ideas to leadership, reinforcing the culture of communication we talked about earlier.

    By making it clear that part of the motive behind giving back is to invest in the strengths and skills of individuals, customers and clients understand that they’re also signing up for higher company morale, enthusiasm, retention, and loyalty than any other competition, all of which affects their own ROI.

    Now more than ever, companies want to do businesses with likeminded companies who take care of their employees, and whose dollars have the power to do good by association. Knowing that their investment is fueling a pattern of good is a powerful, built-in byproduct of a business relationship. 

    Include actionable advice that helps businesses do more good themselves.

    To avoid making the focus of our impact pieces about what they did, we gave readers valuable insight into how they did it. We interviewed company leaders for their insight into how they built giving back into their business model, breaking down big, hairy, audacious goals into action items that other business leaders can implement in their own organizations.

    Offering up firsthand advice from one leader to another does more than position companies as a leader in the giving back space; it opens up opportunities for knowledge sharing across industries, leaving the door open for other businesses – some of which even be considered competitors – to reach out and access common ground where passions overlap. 

    Has your company found a way to talk about its giving back efforts without patting itself on the back? Tell us about it!