The best way to get better at writing for your business is to practise, right? Well, not quite. In fact, the actual act of tapping on your keyboard and forming letters into words, words into sentences, and sentences into paragraphs is pretty much the end point.

Before all that, there are some key stages you need to go through to ensure that once you do reach the typing stage, you’re already well on your way to creating effective business copy that will achieve the goals you’ve set for it.

So leave that keyboard alone for a moment, and have a think about these five questions…

1) Who are you?

Do you have a really clear idea of who and what your brand is? I don’t just mean what you do - accountancy or personal training or tea manufacturing. I mean are you the funky accountant who works exclusively with creatives, or the ex-army personal trainer who believes in tough love, or the tea manufacturer who sources only the best Outer Mongolian leaves and charges a small fortune for the resulting brew? The more you understand what makes your brand unique, the better that brand will come across in your business writing.

2) Who is your audience?

If you read my recent article on client personas, you’ll know that understanding your audience has many benefits. Working out who exactly your core client it - not just women aged 35-55 but Karen, who is 37 and lives in Bishopston with her IT consultant husband and two kids and is passionate about yoga and organic food - is essential before you start writing. Because with everything you write, you need to be thinking, “What would Karen think about this?”

3) What is your relationship?

The way we communicate with people changes depending on our relationship with them. We use very different words, tone of voice and body language when talking to our children, our spouse or our boss, for example. In your business copy you don’t have body language or a literal tone of voice to rely on, just the ‘voice’ that the words you choose create. By knowing whether you want your client to see your brand as a trusted advisor, a fun friend, or a nurturing maternal figure, for example, you’ve got a much better chance of adopting the right tone.

4) What is your voice?

When it comes time to actually pin down your brand voice, you can start by making an initial choice between formal and informal. Then it’s just a matter of degrees. It will help you to think about whether or not you want to use contractions (we’re instead of we are, for example), and which versions of key words you might prefer - for example, will you be referring to people’s offspring as babies, tots or infants? The answer probably depends on whether you’re a nappy manufacturer, budget toy retailer or specialist baby clinic.

5) What are you trying to say?

One of the most common mistakes I see in business writing is vagueness. If you’re a security firm, you shouldn’t be talking about how you can make people’s homes secure. Instead, you should be telling them that you can install unobtrusive CCTV cameras that they can monitor from their phone and even add a pet sensor so their beloved moggy doesn’t activate it every five minutes. The more specific you can be, the more impact your writing will have.

I know you’re really busy. But by spending some time on this exercise, you’ll save yourself hours of wasted writing time in the future. And if you need help defining your brand voice, get in touch today for a chat about how we can help.

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