However, it’s a shocking fact of life that the majority of business owners and entrepreneurs have very little writing experience. Despite this, the same business owners go full steam ahead and write their own customer materials and communications, rarely stopping to consider whether or not their writing actually makes sense and is powerful enough to encourage their customers to take action.
If you care about your product and services, you should care just as much about how you describe them to potential customers. This means getting your head around what constitutes great business writing.
Last week we asked a number of writing experts to share their top business writing tips. We asked –
Whatever the piece of writing you’re faced with – whether it’s an email to a potential customer, a new blog post or major website copy changes – what’s your top tip for effective business writing?
Thank you to all of the experts who provided such great insights on revising writing and producing copy that sells. We have selected the best 10, and we’re delighted to share them with you today.
1. Keep it Simple
Keep it simple. This means brief sentences, no jargon, and no long or unfamiliar words when a short, common word will do. Often in business, writers try to impress with their words and end up just sounding stilted and off-putting.
Some examples of bad business writing and suggestions for making them better:
To best serve our clients, we have assembled an accomplished team of synergetic sales associates and customer service agents to assist customers in every step of the purchasing decision.
Our sales associates and customer service staff are ready to help you every step of the way.
Building on our long-standing relationship with XZY Corp., we are pleased to participate in the online trial to create an online viewing solution that appeals to growing consumer demand for convenient access to their favorite programs while continuing to drive value for distributors, programmers and advertisers alike.
We are pleased to be part of the online trial. We believe it will appeal to consumers who want convenient access to their favorite programs, and to distributors, programmers and advertisers.
Thanks to Cindy Dashnaw from BohlsenPR.
2. How to succeed in business writing
Business communication is part of your overall package and should be consistent with all your marketing endeavors, from website content to on-site sales materials. Make sure your tone reflects who you are in your company as well as your firm’s overall aspect, whether formal and corporate or freewheeling and “casual Friday.”
Keep your message to the point – no tangential rambling! – and make it engaging. If it’s boring no one will read it, so what’s the difference? If you cannot organize your thoughts in written form, find someone who can translate them into cogent, well-written copy for you. And please, avoid unnecessary use of insider jargon that means nothing to anyone outside of your office walls!
Thanks to Caryn Starr-Gates from StarrGates Business Communications.
3. Write for one ideal person
Use an “ideal customer” to make sure your message is right.
Who is your ideal customer?
If you know the answer to that question, you can write compelling copy that will convert that potential customer into a paying one.
List your ideal customer’s characteristics, such as how long they have been working in the industry, how much education they have, whether they are a man or woman, and so on. If you are a visual thinker, try putting together a collage to help you hone in.
When you know your ideal customer inside and out, ask yourself what that person needs. Then provide it through your writing. For example, if you are writing a sales letter, address their compelling needs and answer their questions in the text. Then provide a clear call to action that speaks directly to your ideal customer.
Thanks to Jennifer Roland, Freelance Writer and Editor.
4. Tell your readers what to do
We are a new startup but have managed to get 60k Facebook Fans. That said, we are not in the business of writing witty Facebook updates and I am betting that you aren’t either. But, here is the big lesson learned from having tons of readers: people do what you tell them to do. Never assume that a reader is going to take an action on your content; you have to tell them to like a post, subscribe to a newsletter, or sign up for your ebook. Don’t assume anything, tell your readers what to do.
Thanks to Kimberly Dillion from House Of Mikko.
5. Know what you’re talking about
Want to be effective? In all forms, know what you’re talking about!
Expertise in the topic will trump BS and fluffy writing.
All clients or potential customers want answers to their own problems, not recitations of your mother’s beliefs in your abilities. Remember the sales truth: they buy for their reasons, not yours!
After that, being personable (not long-winded) and responsive to their needs (and wants, if not argued) should lock up the sale. . .or account, long term.
What more do you hope for?
Thanks to Richard Cavalier from Meetings Cavalier .
6. Why, what, what, and when for E-mail!
I’m the author of the Amazon e-mail bestseller, Taming the E-mail Beast, and teach this related to e-mail messaging:
Every e-mail sent should start, in the very first paragraph (and possibly as part of the subject line), with the following information:
- Why the recipient received the e-mail
- What the recipient needs to know
- What the recipient needs to do
- When the recipient needs to get it done by
The rest of the e-mail will hopefully provide information that helps with the “how” part of the equation, but this critical upfront information helps the recipient quickly determine what is needed from them when they receive a new e-mail. It also very nicely helps rid the world of too much FYI and unnecessary CC!!!
Thanks to Randall Dean from Email Sanity Expert.
7. Allow time to let it “bake”
Write and walk away.
One of my best business writing tips is to allow time for your writing to “bake.” If you can work on something, then walk away and look at it again later. Nine times out of 10 you’ll see improvements you can make immediately. While this isn’t always possible, if you can do it when you’re writing important documents, you’ll find your writing will improve.
Thanks to Michelle Garrett from Garrett Public Relations.
8. Write an article in 10 minutes
Often simple is best.
If you’re like I was, you might think that you need to write the next best business book; when what’s important is putting pen to paper. To write an article start with “How to” or “7 Myths of” or “Secrets to”. Then write a list of 7 to 10 topics you’d like to cover. Under those topics write two sentances explaining each topic. There — you have your first article and it’s on one page (use it as a marketing tool when you network)! You can always change the title, but not having to start with a completely blank page, and having a title is very helpful.
Thanks to Maria Marsala from Elevating Your Business.
9. Blogging: Try to solve problems for the reader
Set up the problem and then answer it in the post in a clear and concise way.
Try to solve problems for the reader. Set up the problem and then answer it in the post in a clear and concise way. Make bullet points your friend. Also, exploit the power of three just like Julius Caesar and Abraham Lincoln did. Caesar: “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Lincoln: “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” You can use three for your main points or when giving examples. Three sticks in readers’ minds, and it’s an ancient rhetorical device.
Thanks to Alice Osborn from Write From The Inside Out .
If you’re looking for great content, check out our guide to content creation for smart people.
10. Be brief but friendly
Tell all facts but keep it simple.
Keep it friendly but short. Everybody is busy!
Don’t put in extra words.
Thanks to Patrika Vaughn from Advocate House.
Thanks so much to all the experts who contributed their business writing tips. We hope you will continue to contribute on a regular basis.
Would you like to share your expertise?
Every Monday we publish a new Question of the Week. We’re looking for people from a wide range of professions and backgrounds to share their knowledge and experiences. Simply submit your tip to the question of the week using the link below and your responses will be published the following week.
This week we’re asking –
It seems that anyone who’s anyone these days has a blog. The problem is that, with so many blogs available, it can be very difficult to attract an audience.
How can you make your blog stand out from the rest and get the traffic that it deserves?
We really look forward to reading your tips!
Click here to submit your answer
If you think you could benefit from some help with your business documents, check out our business proofreading services.