How to Improve Business Writing
Why Is Business Writing So Important?
Business writing provides a common thread that ties diverse audiences together. The end result of content writing is eventually seen by investors, customers, partners, advertisers, employees, prospects, suppliers and lenders. Poorly written communication can inflict permanent damage — as Will Rogers observed in a timeless piece of wisdom, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”
In the digital age of written content on the Internet, organizations of all sizes have minimal control over the timing and location of that critical first impression. Customer-centric sales processes and inbound marketing strategies place customers squarely in charge of their own destiny. When prospective buyers are seeking educational content that will enable them to make timely purchase decisions, most information-seeking customers are depending primarily on search engines and social media to point them in the right direction.
With high-quality business writing content, companies can immediately improve their chances of making favorable first impressions. Despite the high stakes of winning or losing new customers due to content quality, many organizations continue to drop the business-writing ball on a regular basis. While this is a serious problem, it is a fixable one.
The goal here is to describe why and how business writing problems occur and to identify several practical solutions. To start this overview, the first table below summarizes what I consider to be 10 of the primary reasons that business owners and managers overlook business writing in their daily routines. The second table outlines an even longer list — 15 common mistakes that should be avoided in any attempt to improve business writing.
10 Reasons Why Organizations Overlook Content Writing
- Lack of Content Writing Skills
- Not Aware of Effective Business Writing Strategies
- Indecision About Alternatives
- Unwillingness to Spend More for High-Quality Content Writing
- Unaware That Help Is Required
- Not Asking the Right Questions
- Shortage of Time
- Resistance to Doing Things Differently
- Not Sure What Is Needed
- A Bad Experience on Crowdsourcing and Freelancing Websites
In the rush to implement inbound marketing strategies within a business, the importance of content writing often gets lost in the shuffle. This is a serious mistake.— Stephen Bush
Would You Rather Learn from Mistakes or Avoid Mistakes?
How do you feel about mistakes? I think that mistakes are often misunderstood by all of us.
On the one hand, we have a common observation that tells us that “We all make mistakes.” An equally popular piece of advice is that “We should always learn from our mistakes.” There is also plentiful wisdom from esteemed and successful individuals who repeatedly remind us that failure played a major role in their eventual success.
If we want to prevent mistakes, we need to understand why we make mistakes in the first place. While I totally embrace the philosophy of learning from mistakes, some potential risks and problems are much more critical than others and should literally be avoided at all costs. In such cases, it is often feasible to learn from the collective mistakes of others — and subsequently avoid or prevent the mistake altogether.
When we are talking about learning from mistakes, it is important to realize that the learning process should not be solely limited to evaluating our own performance. Whether we are talking about business writing or any other example of a mistake that has been made, there is an abundance of wisdom available from people who are openly willing to share their experiences.
In this spirit, I am contributing an expansive list of 15 common business writing mistakes — they are summarized in the following table. Would you rather learn from them or prevent them?
A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it and never makes that mistake again. But a wise man finds a smart man and learns from him how to avoid the mistake altogether.— Roy H. Williams
15 Avoidable Business Writing Mistakes
- Repetition of the Same Mistake
- Obsolete Solutions for New Content Writing Problems
- Misleading and Inaccurate Claims
- Inadequate Content Research
- Careless Business Communication in Any Context
- Spinning of Content
- Free Stock Photos
- Overlooking Niche Audience Potential
- Lack of Enough Detail for Consumers
- Duplicate Content
- Unnecessary and/or Excessive Links
- Oversimplifying Content
- Writing Content for Search Engines Instead of Customers
- Settling for Low-Quality Content
To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful.— Edward R. Murrow
Are Press Releases Obsolete?
While press releases continue to be widely used, two questions should be asked:
- Are press releases effective?
- Are press releases a relic of a bygone era?
As for the first question, my observation is that most press releases are not even remotely effective. With some serious effort, this course can typically be at least partially reversed. Whether organizations are willing to spend the time and money to make this happen is another question altogether.
Regarding the second question, my experience indicates that press releases have limited value for most organizations — especially in the digital era. With inbound marketing changes and customer-centric sales processes, educational content such as case studies, extended articles and white papers are likely to be much more effective than a press release in terms of educating and persuading potential customers to make a buying decision.
Despite these arguments to the contrary, press releases still have fans and supporters that advocate issuing a press release for specific occasions. For those and similar circumstances, the following table provides 10 suggested guidelines that can help to improve your press release.
Press releases worked in the old days of printed newspapers and limited channels for distribution — but now they're an outdated, inefficient tactic for all but the businesses people already pay attention to… The sad truth is, press releases are not effective for unknown brands: It's like a little kid tugging at his sister's sleeve, saying "Look at me!" It didn't work in your (oh-so-lonely) childhood, and it won't work now.— Kathryn Hawkins
10 Press Release Guidelines and Suggestions
- Cover “5 Ws” First — Who, What, Where, When, Why
- Avoid Free Press Releases
- Third-Person Point of View (They, She, He)
- “No Follow” (Nofollow) Links
- Limit Links to Absolute Minimum
- Unique Content About Newsworthy Event
- Avoid Any Misrepresentations
- 500 Words or Less
- Release Tuesday through Thursday (Usually)
- Include a Video and Textual Image That Cover Most Key Points
4 Examples: Outdated Content Writing
Spinning — Creating Multiple Versions of the Same Content
Short Articles — 200 to 400 Words
Blog Networks — Emphasizing Links Over Content
Duplicate Image Content — Non-Unique Stock Photos
10 Business Writing Examples: The Old and the New
If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.— Red Adair
4 Business Writing Observations: Educational Content
- “Standard articles” are often not long enough to get the job done when educating customers, so be prepared to do “more” if relying on articles for inbound marketing results. The concept of extended articles is a practical solution.
- Customer-centric sales processes require educational content like case studies.
- Using white papers and other specialized content can help businesses gain a competitive edge.
- Discerning consumers have made it clear that they are seeking high-quality educational content when making buying decisions. The challenge for business owners and C-Level executives is to deliver content that meets the high expectations of potential customers.
More Business Writing Success Tips
Increase Use of One-Page Business Proposals
Don’t Use Too Many Images — Can Reduce Mobile Views
Include Unsolicited Proposals in Business Development Strategies
Employ Multiple Content Strategies — Think Outside of the Blog
The potential for problems is often increased when business writing is outsourced to a “low bidder” from a crowdsourcing website. Customers seeking educational content have high expectations — is it reasonable to expect that a low-bidder mentality will meet and exceed these expectations?— Stephen Bush
© 2017 Stephen Bush