It’s not hard to write in a conversational way.
Or to make people smile.
You just need to relax a little. Access your inner human.
But a lot of people in business struggle with that simple idea. Being human.
They’ve convinced themselves they need to sound like a “real business” or a “real marketer”.
The trouble is, as soon as you do that you create distance between yourself and your readers.
No reader is going to feel an emotional connection with the blah blah blah of a business or a marketer.
But they will connect emotionally with a human voice.
Let’s look at how 5 different businesses are tapping into this simple truth…
#1 – Write as if you were talking out loud…
Innocent Drinks is a UK company that started out by selling smoothies.
Here’s their origin story. You can find it on their website.
We started innocent in 1999 after selling our smoothies at a music festival.
We put up a big sign asking people if they thought we should give up our jobs to make smoothies, and put a bin saying ‘Yes’ and a bin saying ‘No” in front of the stall.
Then we got people to vote with their empties.
At the end of the weekend, the ‘Yes’ bin was full, so we resigned from our jobs the next day and got cracking.
It’s a cute story. Very human. Very relatable. Our instinct is to smile and like these guys.
Now go back and read the text out loud.
It works as the spoken word, right? It could be the transcript of someone telling this story over drinks with friends.
When something feels natural while being read out loud, that’s conversational.
#2 – Don’t be boring, even if you do make cardboard boxes
I’ve been following these guys for years, since they first built a surfboard made with cardboard.
Ernest Packaging is, to put it simply, a company that makes cardboard boxes.
Easy to be boring. But they’re not. Their website is a riot.
And the writing on their website is fun too.
Nothing says “Valentine’s Day” quite like flowers, but nothing says “You’re sleeping on the couch tonight” like a bouquet that got smooshed on the ride home.
Transporting such a delicate bundle has its share of challenges, and with millions of relationships across the globe on the line, you can bet your box of chocolates there are companies hard at work to help you hand-deliver that precious bouquet into the waiting arms of your loved one.
The writer has a sense of humor. The approach is playful. We get to smile at the use of unexpected words, like “smooshed”.
Boring business people and smarty-pants marketers don’t say “smooshed”.
But people do. Humans do. And the image of a smooshed bouquet will likely make us smile.
#3 – Be surprisingly friendly
This is an example from one of my favorite writers, Ann Handley.
If you’ve signed up for her personal newsletter, you’ll see she likes to play with her salutation from time to time.
It was a year ago that I revamped, recast, remodeled this newsletter from an RSS blog feed into an actual letter—from me to you.
Since then, I’ve thought a lot about what goes into a must-read email newsletter these days.
On a dull day, with your inbox full of relentlessly boring marketing messages, it’s nice to get an email from a friendly voice saying, “Hello, sunshine!”
Other salutations have included…
Happy Sunday, friend.
Hello, hot stuff!
Ann is being friendly. Totally human. And she makes us feel she’s writing to us, one-on-one. As a friend.
That’s being conversational.
#4 – Engage your readers with questions
Jeff Walker of Product Launch Formula often uses a question or in the first few lines of his emails.
Why? Because questions engage the reader. Particularly if they are open-ended questions, inviting the reader to think… to enter into the “conversation”.
Here’s an example of how Jeff does it.
Have you ever set a big goal, and then just let it fall by the wayside?
I don’t mean you tried and failed. I mean you set the goal and then didn’t really try?
(I’m over here raising my hand too. My guess is that we’ve ALL done it.)
Why is that? Why do we decide to do something, and then never even start?
Great use if questions. Also, Jeff’s writing always passes the read-out-loud test.
Try reading it out loud and you’ll see what I mean. It just feels natural.
He always sounds like a friend chatting with us over coffee.
#5 – Lighten up
Something all these examples have had in common is that the companies and writers behind them didn’t take themselves too seriously.
Yes, you can lighten up a bit, even if you sell cardboard boxes.
And, as the folks at Casper demonstrate, you can be playful with the copy when you’re selling mattresses.
Try the mattress for 100 nights. No springs attached.
In other snooze
It’s silly, right? Primary school humor. But it sets a different tone. It reminds us that Casper isn’t like other mattress companies.
It has a human touch.
The common thread that runs throughout is this…
The common thread, beyond being a little light-hearted, is that all of these writers share that human touch. A human voice.
They don’t sound like traditional businesses. They definitely don’t sound like pushy marketers.
They sound like people.
And we like to connect with and buy from real people. We feel attracted to companies that connect with us in simple language. We appreciate it when they make us smile.
This lies at the heart of what it means to be a conversational writer.
NOTE: I’ve written an entire course on conversational copywriting. You can find out about it here…