Writing – How Important Is It For Your Business?

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.

Form Letter

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.

B. Promotion

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.

C. Professionalism

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.

D. Contracts

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.

Too much stuff on website

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?

B. Misspellings

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:

lazily written marketing letter

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

bad grammar in marketing letters

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

insufficient information marketing letter

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

write a white paper for your business

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

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

bio page

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.
 

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23 comments on “Writing – How Important Is It For Your Business?

  • I will admit that written communication is one of the things I consider when choosing professionals and businesses, though it’s not the only thing I look at. Another is whether they have a website that goes beyond the canned freebie template to, at minimum, provide essential information: contact names, address, phone, email, services, products, rates/prices, company background.

    Contracts should clearly and unambiguously spell out the reasonable expectations of both parties, and there are sections that must be included for them to be valid and enforceable. They needn’t be full of legalese. Hiring an attorney to draft important legal documents is wise, absent extensive experience in doing so.

    Personal contact is always best, if often impractical. Trying to personalize your form letters can also backfire, as savvy (or not so savvy) consumers enter their contact information oddly and mailing lists may not be “scrubbed” to ensure that salutation, first name, last name, etc. are in their proper places. “Mr. Mitchell Mitch” may make a worse impression than “Dear Sir.”

    You should send your example to the spam filter because it’s just as likely to be a phishing email as it is an attempt to place “free content” with advertising links.

    Clarity of purpose and respect for your prospective clients’ time is always a best practice. Your admonishment against deceit is likely either “preaching to the choir” or “falling on deaf ears.” Some of us wouldn’t dream of deceiving others; others won’t ever understand why it’s a bad idea until it backfires more spectacularly than it succeeds. I do begin to suspect, from the examples given, that this post is more of a “rant” about the completely unprofessional spam we all despise – and a warning to the unwary who haven’t yet learned to recognize it through half-closed eyes and a dearth of caffeine.

    We all have our favorite “crutch words,” or words that we overuse. One of mine is “actually.”

    I think that “vague and insufficient info” is the hallmark of a fraud who only wants to ascertain whether they have a valid email read by someone gullible or greedy enough to care and respond.

    As for good subject lines, it’s not hard to find all sorts of “winning formulas” with a simple Google search. Click bait works; any competent spammer knows that! But a professional ought to tone it down just a tiny bit and ensure that they don’t merely pique curiosity, but also communicate their intention clearly, without deceipt, and without trickery.

    I won’t comment on the wisdom or need of writing a book, but I do agree that a good bio and an online portfolio (a proven track record) are good sales tools – at least when I’m a potential customer.
    Holly Jahangiri recently posted…NaNoWriMo MathMy Profile

    Reply
    • LOL; you’re killing me!

      This wasn’t a rant; it was the presentation I gave to get the discussion going. It’s not word for word, since I gave it off the cuff, but each point is pretty much what I said to the organization. Most of the people in the room had never seen these kinds of letters, which I expected, so they all made great examples of what not to do… even if I did pull a couple of them out of the spam filter. 🙂

      Truth be told, I’m bad at titles; always have been. Most of the titles on this blog wouldn’t pass Google muster; those weasels! lol Regarding business email first contact, I always put the services I’m offering, figuring that I’m being up front with the reason I’m contacting them; it’s the best I’ve got.

      As for the book issue… the first one helped me get paid speaking engagements, which is why I led with it. I know most people won’t be writing a book; we only have 2 other people in the group who’ve authored one. Since it helped my business, it could help other people’s businesses, along with the other 5 things I mentioned.

      Of course, most everything was ignored except for talking about contracts and form letters; I can live with that since I was mainly a facilitator and not a presenter… although even if I’d been a presenter I’d have been good. 🙂

      Reply
    • It’s important for offline presence also. For instance, if you own a pizza shop you’re going to want an online presence where you can show pictures of your pizza, other things you make, set up online ordering, share your menu, offer deals… etc. Good descriptions count, as well as not misspelling things, because the business will be trying to garner attention by finding a way to stand out from the crowd, but also communicating in the easiest way possible.

      Reply
  • Good morning, Maria- I mean Mitch. LOL. I’m sorry people have reached out to you without taking you seriously; that’s got to be extremely frustrating and discouraging but continue putting out great content and your readership will respond accordingly!!

    Reply
    • It’s actually not all that frustrating Patrick because all I do is share my post about proper guest posting requests decorum and promptly send them to spam. What’s frustrating is realizing that some businesses see this as a proper way to prospect for clients.

      Reply
  • Writing is very important for business. We may not initially be perfect, however, constant practice exponentially improves our writing skills. Sure, composing article requires a good writing skill… Thanks T.T Mit for sharing.

    Reply
    • It certainly helps, although it’s easy enough to hire someone else to write for you. The problem there is people aren’t sure how to price articles written for them; if they’re paying less than $50, quality ultimately suffers and that doesn’t benefit anyone.

      Reply
  • Beverly Mahone says:

    Mitch,

    You know me. I’m a writer and I believe writing is crucial to your business for all of the reasons you mentioned above. My pet peeve is poor grammar!

    Reply
    • I know what you mean Bev. I’ll go with “very poor” grammar because I know some folks aren’t particularly enamored with my sentence structure sometimes. I write partially how I was taught and partially what I heard while growing up. Still, at least I close sentences, add punctuation and capitalize when proper. 🙂

      Reply
  • I have never sent nor receive emails like these and I am thanking God that I have not. Writing is essential for business. I would not consider reading anything further if the article is filled with spelling or grammar errors, tacky headlines and/or unaligned. It shows how professional the individual is and it is my baseline for hiring anyone.

    Reply
  • Hi Mitch,

    This article you have written is rich with information about communicating through writing. There are so many ways to do it.

    What stuck out to me is the “form letter” because I notice online and offline that the structure of a proper form letter is not taken so seriously. Maybe I’m old school, but it is engrained in me to do it properly and address the person by name. (Just a pet peeve of mine lol)

    Some say email is dead, but not so. This is where we can intimately engage with others. When we give a CTA or a question in an email, we get to know the person on a higher level. Email is where we can also give more information to those who have made that mini commitment to opt in.

    So true that if we are in our own business, we have to get others to know who we are. Indeed, there are many ways to do this, but sticking to the subject here of writing, we have to keep on perfecting our skills.

    Oh dear you have my wheels spinning in my head as usual.

    -Donna
    Donna Merrill recently posted…3 Blogging Commitments Guaranteed To Boost Your BusinessMy Profile

    Reply
    • I seem to do that to you Donna. lol I don’t send out an email unless I have the person’s name… even then I still rarely market via email, something I need to change. When I do, I certainly know sentence structure, punctuation, capitalization and all the rest. Brevity also helps; say too much in an initial contact email and no one’s going to read it.

      Reply
  • Oh yes, I get tons of these spam requests too, and they are so obvious and so annoying. I also get those ones about how they have such a wonderful infographic that I should share with my readers (and of course it’s not really related to my blog).

    The spelling and grammar issues really drive me crazy. I mean seriously, if you can’t compose a well written email, do you think I’m going to trust you to write a blog post on my blog? Nope.
    Lucia recently posted…13 Tips for Long Term Brain HealthMy Profile

    Reply
  • Hi Mitch,
    As the competition in business is increased one need to follow different metrics to make their business to the top level. Now, writing is one of the major way to market about your business. Its an amazing article. Keep posting!!!

    Reply
  • DEBASHISH BAIRAGI says:

    Writing is essential for business. I would not consider reading anything further if the article is filled with spelling or grammar errors, tacky headlines and/or unaligned.

    Reply
  • Writing’s continually been important but when you consider that there’s such a lot of new people getting into entrepreneurship it appeared the precise time to provide the heads up about it.

    Reply
    • That’s an interesting point Gill. Entrepreneurship definitely is growing these days. Thus, it stands to reason that more of these businesses should consider having a blog to help them compete.

      Reply

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