We all know how to talk, so we should all know how to write, right? Well, not exactly. There's a pretty big world of difference between the everyday type of writing that we all do and the sort of writing that you'll need to pull out of the bag in order to really 'sell' your business to potential clients, partners and customers.
You may not be in a position to hire or partner with a copywriter, but there is still plenty that you can do to make sure your words have a positive impact and appeal to the right people.
Check everything you write for mistakes, and then check it again
What's the harm in the odd mistake, you might ask? After all, we all do it. We all cope daily with autocorrect fails and we all struggle with certain aspects of grammar, and the placement of particular punctuation marks.
When it comes to writing for your business though, you can't afford for spelling mistakes or errant apostrophe placements to slip through the net. It sounds harsh to say it, but customers and other businesses will react badly to seeing too many of these errors because it looks sloppy and slapdash. Put it this way, would you order food from a restaurant where the menus were misspelled? Or buy a phone from a store where the product descriptions were littered with the wrong punctuation?
If a customer or potential client/partner sees these mistakes, it plants the idea that whoever has made them is amateur or, worse, doesn't put any care in to what they're doing – that they aren't taking their business seriously enough to communicate properly. Because of that, trust and expectations are lowered, as are the odds that they'll take their business elsewhere to someone who looks more reputable and communicates better.
All of which is why it is so important to check everything you write for mistakes and to use online resources to clear up anything you're not sure about, like quirks of grammar or homophones. It's also worth taking time to eliminate any double spaces, as well as checking for easy errors, like use of the right version of 'it's' and 'its'.
Some people can review their copy on a screen, while others prefer to print it out and go through with a pen. Reading aloud can also help you spot times where your finger may have slipped and missed a key, forming a different word that the spellchecker has missed. However you do it, make sure you read through everything again when you're done, just to be sure.
Don't be afraid to redraft
If you've written and re-read something and it just isn't working, then don't be afraid to redraft it or take a different approach. Remember, great novels are never written in one go, and neither is effective copy. Even this article has gone through a number of redrafts in order to make sure it reads well and gets its points across. It's always better to do things well than to do things fast.
After you've made your edits you should give the relevant sections the once-over, as it's easy to leave widows - mistakes made through the editing process of chopping and changing sentences that can see words and phrases repeated, or cause confusion with words left over from a previous draft.
Ask yourself, who is the audience?
The make-up of the audience that you're hoping to connect with and sell to is going to shape how you write and what key points you hammer home. If you're speaking to other businesses (B2B) then you are going to have to use a different style of writing than if you are talking directly to consumers (B2C).
A B2C approach often calls for a more friendly, light touch, whereas B2B writing is generally more focused on technical details, industry-specific terminology, and is more formal. B2B speaks to a business with the assumption of prior knowledge, whereas B2C speaks to the individual and identifies pain points that can be solved with your product/service. To put it in real-world terms, you wouldn't speak the same way to a potential business contact as you would to a friend you met in the pub.
An easy step to take is to think about how you refer to the business and those related to it. If you constantly refer to the business as NAME OF COMPANY AND ASSOCIATES and use words like 'employees' and 'staff' and 'our clients', then it creates a very formal impression. Referring to yourself as 'us' and 'we' has the opposite effect, creating a more relatable and endearing image.
This is where it can get tricky, because not everyone finds it easy to write in more than one style, and tone is absolutely a key consideration. To get a feel for the tone of voice (TOV) you need, create a list of the words that you do and do not want to be associated with your business. Also think of how you want people to feel about the business or piece of writing that they are reading. This basic TOV will put you in good stead to identify what feels right or wrong when you're typing, but if you are unsure then it is always worth visiting the competition to see how they do things – what words they are using or avoiding.
Sentence structure is also important. Short sentences are more impactful. They also flow less easily. They can also feel impersonal. Meanwhile, longer sentences, , full of clauses and punctuation, can be more conversational if not as direct and focused.
If it helps, this blog has been written with the aim of reading it like it was written by a friendly expert. I, the writer, have strived not to talk down to you, the reader, and have kept the tone conversational. I've appealed to you as an individual by highlighting and identifying with your potential problems and offering solutions while not giving instructions from on high. I'm not selling anything, but by reading this you will recognise that Smarta is an organisation that understands you and knows what it's talking about.
Prioritise clarity and understanding
Even when you're pitching your words to a B2B audience, it's still important to write with clarity. An impenetrable tangle of jargon will exhaust any reader, whether they're in the industry you're talking to or not. Remember, everyone who reads what you write about your business is a human being, a normal person, so talk to them like you would if you were face to face. If people can't understand what it is you do on first reading, then they are unlikely to want to invest any further time with you, let alone their money. Even if you go for the type of long-form sentences mentioned above, you can still set out your stall in a way that's easy to grasp.
If you're writing to a more general public, then a good thought to write with is 'would my gran understand this?'. If you couldn't make your gran (or any senior family member/loved one) understand what you're talking about then it's too complicated.
You don't always have to dumb it down, but what's the point in the copy if only you and the top five industry experts understand what you're on about? Your family and friends in different walks of life make excellent sounding-boards, so try and come out of your own head and use them to sense check whenever necessary.
Look at some light SEO
SEO (search engine optimisation) may seem like a dark art to those without a marketing background, but there are a few things that you can do to help your ranking without disappearing too deeply down the rabbit hole.
First off, if you upload an image to your site then give it some alt tags. You can generally find the option to add alt tags on the back end of your site and even a short sentence can help immensely. Alt tags help search engines optimise content for the sight impaired, so if you can describe the image while linking back to your business name (a picture of a 3D printed flower created by Flower Creators Ltd) then you're laughing. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but the truth is that pictures on their own won’t get you a half-decent SEO ranking.
Another easy tip is to keep updating your content. That's not to say that you need to rewrite your website every other month, but adding the likes of blogs and case studies on a regular basis will help.
Make sure there's consistency across channels
Lastly, you need to ensure that your written communications are consistent across any channels that you use. A law firm is unlikely to appeal to potential clients if they use textspeak on Facebook, or stuff their Twitter feed with cry emojis and gifs.
Some platforms may require a tweaking of the format or language used, but it's more important to stay on message and not allow wild variations to creep in that can cause a reader to experience tonal whiplash. If the reader questions your voice then it can quickly erode trust and brand confidence.
That's it for now! Hopefully your head is now packed with ideas on how best to write your content. For more advice, check out the Smarta website.