Which do you hate more…
- Adverts with the wrong spellings?
- Letters with mistakes?
- Emails which aren’t relevant to you at all?
Ok, these may not be the biggest problems you face in your business, but I’d take a bet you notice businesses who make these mistakes – and you might well avoid using them in the future. Mistakes are unprofessional, and not understanding your customer – or wasting their time – turns people off.
So, when you have something to say, how do you make sure you don’t fall into any of these traps? How can you write content that impresses your clients and attracts their interest?
Whether you’re writing marketing material, websites or reports; here are my tips for better business writing.
Each of these really is a tip in more than one sense, it’s the high-level view of a much larger subject. So, this blog is the first in a series, to be followed by separate articles on each of these themes. I hope you find this piece helpful – then stick around for the sequels.
Time and Space
You need your communication to be clear, and clarity is difficult to achieve when surrounded by mess, or worrying about a list of urgent tasks.
Make space, physically – and in your diary if necessary – so you can focus on writing. Your attention needs to be on your message, and your reader.
You may feel this is unnecessary, that you can concentrate perfectly well in any environment. Don’t we all work differently? The important point is for you to find the ideal space and time to allow you to concentrate on the task in hand – writing the best document, or letter, or advert, you can.
Where do you work when you need to concentrate?
If you want to know more read The Right Environment: 5 Questions to Help Identify your Perfect Workspace to think about how the physical space we work in impact on our focus and creativity?
Who’s Out There?
You’re writing because you have a message to tell, but the focus of your words needs to be the person reading it.
If your message is for Steve – your customer of 20 years, or Margaret in the marketing department, making your text relevant to them is easy. If you have a relationship with your reader the communication comes much more naturally.
But what if you’re sending out flyers? Or planning a website? How do we identify the audience in this situation?
Think about who you want to be reading your communication; picture the customer you’re hoping to appeal to. Is it the overworked parent who needs more time and more energy? Or the energetic pensioner with time on their hands but limited funds in their pocket?
- Do they have a specific age range? Gender? Income bracket?
- What are their priorities, and how do they achieve them?
- What worries them most, and how do these worries affect them?
- How will your message impact them in their lives?
Some people find it helps to give their reader a name, or even a picture.
This may seem complicated but knowing who you’re writing for will make writing the communication itself much easier.
As I mentioned in my first blog (Welcome to my blog), knowing your audience will affect the language and style you use, as well as the message itself. For more support on this, read The truth about why it’s important to focus on your reader.
What Can You do for Me?
Now, we’ve got an idea who your reader is; this is the time to think about what you need to tell them, and how you’ll do it.
Maybe you’re selling a product, or telling your customers about a change in service… what’s important here is that your reader knows why they should be interested. Grab their attention by telling them how you’re going to make their life better.
If you’re not sure how your news is good for the reader then you can be sure they won’t get far reading it.
You can see now why it’s essential to understand who your reader is.
Until you can picture their needs and desires you won’t be able to identify how your product, or news, is going to fulfil those requirements.
Your first sentence should convince the reader they need to keep reading. As I said before, the thing you need to focus on is not why you want to tell them your story – but why they should want to read it.
Potential customers won’t be excited that you’ve managed to get stock of a new printer – unless you can tell them that by buying one they’ll be able to save time on printing, and money on cartridges!
Existing customers aren’t going to be pleased you have employed new staff in your warehouse – unless this means that they’re going to get their goods quicker and with an identified picker who will help them with any queries.
Identify the benefit to the reader and put that front and centre of your communication – literally if the formatting allows it.
As with the previous tips, it’s worth spending some time looking at how to focus on identifying the customer benefit, there’s more in my blog How to get your words read and your company noticed. I hope these ideas have helped for now – remember to focus on what the reader is getting out of this.
Short, Sharp and To the Point
Now you’re clear on your message – it’s time to get it out there.
We all know how valuable our own time is, well let’s assume that our readers time is worth much more! Get to the point, and make the point easy to find.
Formatting is crucial.
- Whatever font you choose it must be clear and large enough to be easily read.
- Ensure the page doesn’t look crowded with too many words – this will put readers off; white space on the page between paragraphs, or points, make the text much easier to read.
Don’t waffle… There’s no need to be fussy, or formal, use the same kind of simple language you would use in a conversation. You don’t want to scare your reader off, or put barriers between yourself and your readership.
It is not a case of ‘the more words the better’, the job of this communication is to give the reader enough information to get them interested. Tell them what they need to know, but don’t feel you must include everything – they’ll know where to go if they need to find out more.
For more help getting the words onto the page, you might find Taking the pain out of your business writing helpful.
In fact, this brings me on to my next point.
Before you leave your reader, ensure they know what to do next.
There was a purpose behind this communication, what was it? Do you want the reader to call you? Visit your website? Spend some money?
If you don’t make it clear how they can claim the benefit you’ve told them about – your reader won’t do anything.
This writing should end with a ‘Call to Action’, a statement that makes it clear to the audience how they should follow up with you.
“Call us now”
“Come in and see for yourself”
“To benefit from this great deal, visit our website”
Again, if you’d like more ideas on this subject, I have devoted a whole post to this The Challenge: Getting sure-fire action from words.
Get it Right
Always read through what you’ve written.
Yes, you’ve got a spellchecker but this is your message and you need to be sure there are no mistakes.
Whether you’re confident writing or not, it’s more likely you’ll spot an error while re-reading than when you’re writing the text – give yourself that chance.
Your word processor, or other software, might give you some help with this. And if you really lack confidence in your own skills, ask someone else to have a look. What you don’t want is to press send on that email to your whole contact list – and immediately see that you’ve misspelt something obvious.
There are more tips to give you confidence in your checking here, Simple checks to give you confidence in your writing.
I hope this has given you some ideas to help next time you’re trying to find the right words.
Of course, if it all seems a bit too much there is another way, find someone else to do it for you.
Finding a professional who can take that worry away might be the best tip of all. See what a copywriter can do for you here.