Dec 16, 2011

If We’re Going to Write, Let’s Do It Well!

Business owners small and large often find themselves facing a blank page as they summon their wits to write about their business, their latest promotion, or even an important communication to a customer or partner. Experienced business writer and Service for Profit team member, Kathy Wilson, knows that writing is hard, and she’s taken the time to give all of us the following “tips of the trade” this Holiday Season:


Kathy Wilson - Writer/Editor

Whenever you find yourself composing a piece of marketing collateral, whether it’s a product brochure, white paper, case study, or customer e-mail, you want to keep your message as concise and tightly crafted as possible. At the same time, you want to deliver something that will communicate key messages effectively, hold your audience’s attention, and hopefully have the desired effect (e.g., call us, go to our website, buy our product, take advantage of this special offer).

This means making careful word choices and packing in as much rich and impactful content as possible. What you choose to include, to emphasize, and to leave out should start with what you believe will most motivate your audience. Is it general product information, competitive differentiation, ways to achieve increased efficiencies, lower costs, a better customer experience? Maybe it's some combination of these?

Once you understand your audience’s key drivers, you can get down to the job of carefully crafting your message. This can present many choices but your primary filter should always be focused on relevance, brevity, and impact.
For example, let's say that the company you're writing for offers products aimed at simplifying operations, improving the customer experience, and reducing costs. How do you write the most compelling message around these themes?

You could just use short, easy to digest bullets to summarize the company's value proposition:

·         Simplifies operations
·         Improves the customer experience
·         Improves the quality of service deliverables
·         Helps reduce costs
·         Helps optimize systems and processes
·         Improves customer satisfaction
·         Creates a more engaging customer experience

But now watch what happens when we dig a little deeper. How does the company (and its products) do these things, and what additional benefits might be gained? Here are some alternate versions that illustrate this point:

·         Automates repeat processes to reduce complexity and simplify operations (or)
·         Automates repeat processes to improve operational efficiencies and service quality
·         Lowers costs with automation and operational efficiencies to enhance ROI
·         Cuts issue resolution times with complete visibility across integrated service delivery platforms and processes
·         Supports expanded services to improve customer satisfaction and brand loyalty
·         Integrates across social media to deliver a more accessible and engaging customer experience

Finally, there is one more thing we should be thinking about as we are writing and self-editing our copy—namely, can any of our key benefits be quantified? If they can, let’s do it. The impact will be much higher, and your credibility much greater than just stating features and benefits in generic terms.

·        15% savings over competitive solution without compromising speed or quality
·         24% reduction in manual processing for improved operational efficiencies
·         33% reduction in issue resolution time with support system integration and company-wide reporting
·         50% increase in website visitors; 18% increase in conversions

Sound easy? Give it a try the next time you’re facing that blank page. Making things as concise and impactful as possible usually requires two or three passes as you tighten and refine your message. But when you find those perfect word combinations, it will have been well worth the effort.

[Kathy is an experienced business communications writer, residing in Silicon Valley and is available for marketing communication projects when you can’t summon your Muse. You can reach her at A version of this short article also appeared in the blog published by the Envision Technology Marketing Group of San Jose where Kathy is a frequent contributor]