Have you ever considered the penetratingly painful cost of perfectionism? Perfectionism runs strong in my veins. How strong? Picture a tall, pimply Year 12 girl, outfitted in her school dress uniform complete with a blazer, thick beige tights and fiercely polished...
I remember my first experience with lipstick. I was 3 and my best friend, Alison, and I had been left alone for a few minutes in my bathroom. We spotted my mother’s beautiful Helena Rubenstein’s Waterproof True Red in its gloriously shiny ribbed gold tube on our pink bathroom hand basin. Alison and I looked at each other for a second, giggled together in conspiratorial glee, and then decided to try putting it on.
Today’s Beginner’s Guide is Grammarly, an essential program in our office for anything related to writing. It is one of our drop-dead essential programs in the office and is one of the first things we install on all new computers.
Writing letters and running a business go hand in hand. Letters can be anything from sending quotes, welcoming new clients, promoting your goods and services, chasing up unpaid bills, through to managing your employees.
Business letters can be email or printed on letterhead, but effective business letters all have a few things in common. Business letters that get results are clear, understandable and inspire people into action. They create a feeling of what it is like to work with your business as well as leave a lasting impression in the minds of the readers.
No matter the reason for your letter, here are nineteen tips to help you create an effective business letter.
Writing is a fascinating exploration into the human mind. The right words can move you to tears, make you want to buy, or turn your insides as warm and gooey as caramel custard. The wrong words can turn you instantly off a person or a company, send you into a rage, or make you totally confused about the point someone is trying to make.
Trust and credibility are your golden tickets to a successful business. One of the key ways to boost your credibility is to offer rock solid guarantees of your product or service.
Trying anything new triggers an anxiety response in humans. Our brains are hard-wired to be cautious, which worked well for our caveman ancestors when trying new berries, but can become a problem when you want someone to buy your goods or services.
Growing up as a leggy teenager going to an all-girls school in suburban Campbelltown, I first thought being irresistible was drowning myself in Musk Oil while swishing my long Farrah Fawcett hair.
At my first disco with the local boy’s school, I came in for some focused attention and wandering hands, as I was broadcasting raging come hither signals when all I really wanted was someone to go see Star Wars with and share a bucket of popcorn.
After that fiasco, I studied in-depth articles in the fount of all wisdom – Dolly magazine. They were filled with sage advice such as “Be yourself” and “Let the true you shine through” and I took it to heart.
Legend has it that Pablo Picasso was sketching in the park when a bold woman approached him.
“It’s you – Picasso, the great artist! Oh, you must sketch my portrait! I insist.”
So, Picasso agreed to sketch her. After studying her for a moment, he used a single pencil stroke to create her portrait. He handed the woman his work of art.
It’s that most wonderful time of the year again. The time when you and your team sit in front of a carton of blank Christmas cards ready to spread a bit of Christmas cheer with your clients, suppliers or employees.
However, writer’s block is particularly pernicious at Christmas time. You sit down with positive dreams of allowing your creative copywriting juices free reign and then end up repeatedly just scribbling your name like a demented pre-schooler.
What do uni students and business owners have in common? After marking sixty student assignments, as well as running some marketing mentoring sessions last week, I can tell you that students and owners share the same written communication DNA.
Imagine this. You decide to go and buy some fresh fruit and vegies for a dish you are preparing. There are two independent fruit shops next to each other (Look … I know this doesn’t happen in reality given the Coles/Woolworths domination of food – but this is your imagination so go with me here). You walk into the first store and the carrots are so soft you can tie them into pretzels. All the fruit on display has a misspelled “Product of the Philippines” label on them. The celery has turned into a puddle of green goo and the cabbages smell more like a dog that hasn’t been bathed in 6 months and that has rolled in something unmentionable. Mm mm. Makes your mouth water doesn’t it!
Great copywriting, just like great story telling, starts with simple templates or formulas as a foundation.
Once you know some of the templates, writing becomes as easy as slipping into a few daggy dad dance moves after a few beers, and your words will deliver phenomenal results (totally unlike the ones you use after a few beers.)
One of my earliest school memories was a Year 1 maths class with my teacher, Mrs Stewart. Mrs Stewart’s perfume was an overpowering blend of stale cigarette smoke with an overlaying hint of Bex powders. Her face was deeply furrowed into permanent frown lines and her hair was over-treated frizzy perm that resembled an out of control steel wool scourer.
I stood forlornly next to her table, with tears threatening to overflow as I watched her scratch yet another huge red cross through my attempt at numbering a calendar.
Hands up if you have typed an email … and then gone back to edit it to sound more knowledgeable and intelligent?
Congratulations! You are 100% normal!
When you are in small business, every morning you armour up to battle your dreaded email inbox. Some days the evil email monster explodes faster than you can hack it down, and other days you reach Nirvana: Inbox Zero!
Most small businesses face the same shocking realisation at one time or another. They decide to get their first website and then discover that their web developer doesn’t write the words for their website for them.
In fact, the developer expects the small business owner to suddenly become JK Rowling and weave some magic with their words for their new website.
At that point, many of the owners feel they have more in common with “Game of Thrones” George R R Martin – and wish a red wedding like scene would suddenly happen to the poor web developer.
You have done the right thing and invested in a professional copywriter to get some decent web copy for your business.
You resisted the siren call of your mother’s-Bingo-friend’s-second-cousin who always wanted to be a writer. You skilfully avoided the rocky shoals of DIY writing squished in between trying to look after your clients, manage your business and still have a life. And you walked the tightrope of hiring someone with enthusiasm and no track record, versus hiring someone with years of hard won experience recognised by higher fees.
Most websites leave the contact us page to their web person. After all, isn’t it just your business name and a contact form?
Not so fast! The least exciting page on a website is like a dirty great digital Wall of China.
On one side of the digital divide is your prospect, wondering whether or not to get in touch with you for a quote. One the other side, you are sitting at your office desk, hoping for a call from someone new. The only thing keeping you apart is your contact us page.
Running an ethical, values-based copywriting business can be challenging. You want to do the right thing by yourself, your team members and your community … but sometimes the ethical boundaries can become a tad blurry.
For example, at what point does marketing cross the line over into unethical influencing? At what point does marketing become propaganda?
Writing effectively about your business takes a few stages to master. The problem is many businesses prematurely publish. They stop just as they needed to get started.
Stage One – It’s All About You
The first stage is getting clear who you are and what you offer. You also need to spend time clarifying what result or outcomes you want from your brochure, website or other writing.
As we reflected on to our 12 year’s in business, we have been looking back over our client files. All we can say is “WOW!” We knew we had worked with a huge variety of businesses over that time – we just hadn’t realised how diverse they really were.
I thought I would share just a glimpse into our copywriting client files – so you get just a taste of the life of a copywriter and the copywriting services we offer.