A few weeks ago I led a roundtable for my consultant’s group on the topic of business writing for consultants with the title above. In essence, I put together a presentation and led the group discussion on a bunch of topics I felt were important to share and talk about. This article will encapsulate what I discussed and share some of the examples I used to get my points across.
I started with an overview of the importance of why good business writing could help our businesses. I listed six categories I felt were important for us to consider, those being:
A. Sales and Marketing
For anyone working in business for themselves, marketing and sales is how we eventually make our living. Marketing is the hardest part because we have to prospect for clients, and if we’re not able to reach them verbally then writing is the way to go.
Promoting one’s business is one thing; promoting ourselves is another. It’s important to help potential clients get to know us as much as it is to get them to understand what our business can do for them.
By composing articles for blogs, magazines and other outlets, we have the opportunity to show our knowledge to potential clients and hopefully gear ourselves towards our client base. This is one of those areas where standing out from the rest is a must.
I’ve been amazed at how many horribly written contracts I’ve seen over the years. This is the sales part of the process and if you mess this part up you’re never getting any clients.
E. Web related material
The reason I stress that all small businesses should have a website is because it can serve as a resume or brochure for their business. I also stress having a social media process for one’s business because the numbers are too great not to try to take advantage of it.
F. Email contact
Most of the examples I’m showing in this post are horrible email contacts I’ve received, that many of you have probable received also. We all know that we only get one shot at making a good first impression, and if we’re going to send email to prospective clients our writing skills better at least cover the basics properly.
The next thing I talked about were 10 issues that business writers need to avoid. I stated the caveat that there were way more than just these 10 but I felt these would be the most important to a group of consultants.
Most of the issues below will have image examples; I’ve already used 2 of them. The issues are:
A. Form Letters
If you write a form letter to send out to multiple people, you need to add a bit of personalization to give the appearance that it’s original. The first image I shared above is an example of a form letter that I get often from multiple sources. You’ll notice there’s nothing personal in that letter to me; why would I not send it to a spam filter?
This one is self explanatory. I’ve griped often about having a lot of misspelled words on blog posts, but at least that’s in your own space. Anything you’re sending out to potential clients needs to be edited for both clarity and spelling mistakes.
C. Trying to squeeze too much in
The second image I shared above was from an old website I visited back around 2004. This was only a sample; the entire page was much, much worse! The concept of letting people know what you do doesn’t mean to overwhelm them by trying to stuff in every single thing you do; it’s necessarily to leave some things for direct contact. At the very least, don’t put it all on the same page.
D. Deceitful letters
Look at the letter example below:
The problem with this one is that I’ve never written any articles on “average debt”. I’ve written articles on debt, such as giving tips on how to get out of debt, but what purpose would an article on average debt have? One line supposedly about “my blog”; this person obviously never visited that blog… the liar! lol
E. Laziness; do some research
Look at this one:
Notice all the articles this person wants to put on my site about payday loans? If the search box had been used to look up that term he’d have noticed that every article on the site is against payday loans. Of course, that first paragraph is copied from another form letter, once again not knowing the reality that false flattery never works.
By the way, this person & most of the others could have benefited from my article on things to do before making a guest posting request, which not only included looking through the blog to see if they accept guest posts but taking a gander at the About page and learning the name of the author… if it’s available. Laziness to the nth degree.
F. Overuse of certain words
I don’t have a visual example of this one but I talked about the process of editing my first book many years ago and realizing that there were certain words I used way too often because I tended to use them in my regular speech. It’s like writing a story and consistently using “he said” or “she said” multiple times per page; no one wants to read that.
G. Horrible grammar
There’s multiple issues with this one (including calling me Maria lol), but I used it as an example of horrible grammar. This person wants to write for me, yet it seems she can’t write for herself.
H. Not telling people what you do
Can anyone tell me what these people do? I could make some major assumptions, but I shouldn’t have to work that hard when they’ve made first contact. I’m not sure what they actually want from me either. If you’re going to reach out to someone or write anything to promote yourself or to try to get business, you at least have to tell people what it is you do.
I. Not using a good subject line in email
I know this is one of those fake spam letters, yet it helps to highlight the problem with bad subject lines in both email and regular mail. By the way, I got this particular email 13 times in 3 days for 3 of my blogs; I guess I’m listed under “recipients” multiple times. lol
J. Not highlighting specifics in a contract
No example for this one because it would be unprofessional to share a business contract sent to me by someone else. Suffice it to say that I’ve seen some pretty bad contracts in my day which has led me to ask a bunch of questions and request a number of changes.
From my side, most of my contracts are only 2 to 3 pages at most where I list what’s needed from the potential client, what I’ll be delivering them, the expected time frame and how much I expect to be paid. I like to be specific in what I’ll deliver without telling them what I “hope” I can accomplish because you never know whether your norm, if it’s positive, will always achieve the same results.
Never promise anything that you might not be able to deliver. If someone promises something (like ending up in the #1 position on Google; please!), run away… fast!
The final piece of the presentation talked about 6 ways that consultants should think about writing to help benefit their businesses. These 6 considerations are:
A. Write a book
I’ve already mentioned that I wrote a book on leadership; I’ve actually written 2 books on the subject. The first book got me a lot of speaking engagements along the East Coast (and one in Nebraska) even though it was self published. The second book hasn’t done much for me yet but it still allows me to prove that I’m more than a one trick pony.
B. Write a blog
There are more businesses around the world that have blogs these days. Even if they’re not writing all the content, at least they’re participating in the game.
C. Write an article
Although I don’t do or accept guest posts, it’s still a legitimate way to try to get the word out on your business. There’s more outlets than blogs though; magazines, newsletters, newspapers, sites like HuffPo and Medium… lots of places where you could help your brand by getting an article published.
D. Write a white paper
This is a very small sample of a white paper I wrote and added to my main business site as a download. I talked about the process of helping a hospital increase their revenue $730 million in 53 weeks… more than doubling their daily revenue. Why yes, I’m proud of that! 😀
E. Create a digital product
I have more than one digital product concerning leadership, and once again this is just a small sample of the first page. This is another way to help promote your business as well as show your professionalism, even if it doesn’t sell all that well.
F. Create your online portfolio
This is just a sample of the bio page on my main business site. As I said above, a bio page is your personal resume where you get to tell people more about yourself. I thought the image was a nice touch, so much so that my business cards have the same image on them. This is a big part of branding and marketing oneself; something to think about.
Even though this presentation was geared towards consultants, everything I’ve shared is imperative for any small or medium sized business. No matter what you do or who you work for, having a good understanding of business presentation skills will help you go a long way in your career.