As online business accelerates, so does the need for business writing fluency.
Content marketing – creating and sharing online material – is expected to grow to $9.59 billion by 2023. That’s a massive number of dollars. And all those videos, social media posts, and blogs will account for an even more massive amount of words (and writing).
For you and your business to have a say, you must develop the capability to wrangle words effectively.
But there’s a problem.
Recently, one of our software clients explained how it had taken weeks for him to put together a proposal for a new business opportunity. The end product was well done, but he was frustrated by how long it took. His description of the process had a familiar ring we hear often. It goes something like this:
“I know what I want to say, but I don’t know the best way to say it”
People who have stopped speaking their native language will often say that after a while, though they can still understand it when they hear it, they can no longer speak it fluently. They’re out of practice.
The reason it took our client weeks to prepare his proposal is not that he doesn’t know his stuff. It’s because it’s much more difficult to express himself quickly and accurately in writing. He hasn’t yet developed business writing fluency.
Fluency has to do with accuracy, ease of expression, and speed. And it takes time and practice to develop.
And having time to practice is where most people struggle with the idea of writing about their business. The sobering truth is – as those of us who write seriously know all too well – it takes lots of practice. But there is one surefire way to reduce the time expenditure. Start with the right questions.
Before you start, stop and think
Though most of the ideas will come after you begin writing, it’s critical to chart out a general direction for your content in advance. This single action will dramatically improve your business writing fluency in every piece of content you create.
To do so, we recommend you answer the following three questions:
1) Who is this content for?
This isn’t just about demographics, but more so the psychographic aspect. What is the central problem in this person’s mind as it applies to your service or product? What aspects of the buyer’s journey are they struggling with most?
Demographics matter too, but the idea here is that understanding who it’s for will shape everything you have to say about the topic. Your story has to align with their story, and the only way that can happen is to have your client’s story down pat.
You’re the expert in this area. Draw on your experience and the countless conversations you’ve had with your customers.
Imagine yourself reading a post about your favorite hobby, and it begins by stating the ten ways people struggle most to learn it. Now imagine every one of those ten items matching up with your personal struggles. That’s powerful stuff!
2) What is the aim of this piece of content?
The obvious answer is “to win business,” but you need to go deeper. There’s a decision process that your customers go through, and the higher the cost of goods or services, the more involved that process tends to be. Decide on a single objective, and steer toward it with the words and structure of your content.
Is it a demo or a free trial?
A consulting session or a questionnaire you want to be completed?
Remember, the purpose of your content is to move the reader/viewer from point A to point B. Get clear about point B, or you don’t stand much chance of arriving there! 🙂
3) How will this content help them?
You’ve done the work of deciding who it’s for and what it’s for; now it’s time to make it worth their while. It’s an old but timeless adage; give first. And give generously. Apart from that consulting session or a next step in the sales process, be sure to provide something helpful.
What kind of information would be helpful to them apart from the buying decision? For example, a software developer could share what they’ve learned about streamlining business processes with better technology.
Start developing your business writing fluency now
There are several ways to get started practicing the three questions above.
For example, in his book, “They Ask You Answer,” Marcus Sheridan recounts how he rescued a failing business simply by doing what the title of the book implies – he began creating content in the form of answers to questions asked most often by his customers. He soon learned that providing those answers without asking for their business ultimately became a phenomenal sales engine for his company.
But it can even be simpler than that. The very next time you communicate with a customer, whether it be an email or a social media post, start by walking through the questions one by one. You’ll find this practice increases your clarity instantly.
Business writing fluency is not primarily about grammar rules – it’s your ability to express your combine your business knowledge and experience in a way that benefits your customers and prospects.
We’d love to hear about your efforts. Contact us!