I’m the first to admit it.
I’m not the world’s greatest listener.
I tend to talk more than listen. I have the bad habit of waiting impatiently for the other person to stop talking, so I can carry on saying what I want to say.
I’m not that bad all the time. I’m making a conscious effort to shut up and really, truly listen.
And I’m getting better, I think.
Any improvements I’m making are more than likely a result of my obsession with conversational writing and copywriting.
The more I dig into the craft of conversational copywriting, the more I learn about the power of conversation itself.
And the more I read and think about the power of conversation, the more I recognise that the foundations of great conversations are built on our ability and willingness to listen.
In other words, if you want to be a good writer, copywriter or conversationalist, you’d better hone your listening skills first.
Here’s how you can do that, in three easy steps.
Step 1: Listen before you write. And keep listening.
Too many companies and entrepreneurs pay lip service to the idea of listening to their prospects and customers.
But all too often, it’s just that… lip service.
They do market research and focus groups. They mine big data sets.
They listen as if it were a science project.
That’s not listening at all.
Where can you listen and learn the language of your audience? That’s easy. Though social media, blog comment streams, reviews on Amazon, Yelp and other sites and platforms.
Online there’s no end of places to discover the true voices and emotions of your prospects and customers.
Forget the data sets. Listen to the voices.
Step 2: Mirror the language of your readers when you write.
The best way to let people know you’re really listening to what they say is to mirror their language.
Talk back – or write back – using some of the same words and phrases.
The simple act of repeating a few of the words they just used shows you’ve been paying attention, that you’ve been listening.
You can mirror people’s emotions too. Do that and you’re demonstrating empathy, letting them know you understand their point of view. You get where they’re coming from.
The more you listen, the more you can mirror. And the more you mirror, the more likely it is that your audience will pay attention to what you’re saying.
Step 3: Write like you’re there, as a person. Not like a marketer.
When you write in the language of a clever marketer, you’re creating distance. You’re writing from on high. You’re writing AT your readers.
That’s no way to be conversational.
Put aside your fancy writing skills. Stop writing like a highly trained marketer or business expert.
Write like you’re talking with a friend over coffee.
And if you’re ever in any doubt about whether you sound like a person or like a marketer, just read your copy out loud.
How does it sound? Natural and honest? Or carefully constructed and sneaky?
When you write like a listener, you set yourself apart.
Most copywriters and business owners write like marketers.
Or they fall back on fancy business writing.
Both approaches create distance between you and your readers.
But when you begin by listening, everything changes.
Listen carefully and you’ll get important cues on the language you should be using.
Then simply relax, and write as if you were writing an enthusiastic letter to a friend or neighbor.
Keep it simple. Keep it natural.
Be persuasive, but in your own, conversational voice.