Business Communication Writing Skills Benefit From Originality and Media Based Marketing Training

From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.”
~anonymous high school essay

Greetings. Thank you for indulging me in yet another example of analogies collected by high school English teachers. I do so because the language we all share is a treasure chest of words that in the odd combination can make us smile, chuckle, even laugh out loud. And, like Larry the Cat — whose house we share and whose antics are just plain goofy — the best humor is unintentional humor.

Anyway, the gaffe above resulted from a sincere, albeit immature, effort to be original and evocative. Good for him or her, I say. At least the brain has been engaged. But what about the way us adults fall into shallow “copycatism” when we communicate in a professional setting? And how does that reflect on you and your business communications when you mindlessly insert those phrases in your website text or emails? Do you really want to sound like a faceless, unimaginative bureaucrat when it comes to writing skills?

Herewith some inaugural entries in my Language Hall of Shame:

o Negatively impact, as in “Our failure to fabricate even one paper clip that actually holds two sheets of paper together is negatively impacting our sales performance.” First of all, “impact” became a verb only about 30 years ago, even though the verbs “affect” or “influence” did the job quite nicely. But now that it’s here, why compound the damage by adding an awkward adverb (fellow Mainer Stephen King said in his book on writing, “The adverb is not your friend.”)? Why not rely instead on unambiguous, active, space-saving standbys such as “harm” or “hurt?”

o Core competencies, as in “Our core competencies include a flexible attitude about quality control and a collective tendency to stretch the lunch hour beyond normal parameters because we adhere to the principle of saving personal energy.” Does anyone realize that by using the adjective “core” to define “competencies,” you’re implying that you have other “competencies” that might not be so “core?” And that a careful reader could deduce that those other competencies might actually be subpar, or least rather pedestrian? Here’s a solution, in plain English: “What we do best is…” or “Our reputation rests on the way we…” or “We are known for…”

I bring this up because I don’t doubt that your readers are critical thinkers (at least that’s what I tell my writing seminar students to expect), which means they will view phrases like “core competencies” as lazy, unproductive thinking.

o Skill sets, as in “Our employees can bring the most unique set of skill sets to finding a solution to your problem, which is why we consider ourselves a high-end firm that can justify overcharging you for our services.” First of all, you can’t be “most unique” because “unique” means one of a kind. I used to think that foolishness was restricted to the sports broadcast booth, but now I’m seeing it on websites, which was probably inevitable.

Anyway, I ask you: What’s wrong with just using “skills?” How can adding “sets” possibly add anything beyond the useless appendage of another four-letter word? If you use “skills sets,” ask yourself: “Why? What have I gained beyond the obvious tendency to imitate others unthinkingly?”

The News Media…Not Always Nosy Busybodies

“Literature is the art of writing something that will be read twice; journalism what will be grasped at once.”
— Cyril Connolly, English writer

Learning to deal with the press constructively need not be limited to traditional definitions of news. Some realistic role-playing in a media training setting can, in fact, help you frame and sharpen your message for commercial purposes. That’s where I can be of assistance. As a former newspaper and magazine reporter, I like to know how things work and what sets them apart. Then I try to pass on what I’ve learned in succinct prose, as Connolly noted.

Let me describe the sort of training I do. A couple years ago, a clever nurse in Maine came up with a blend of four aromatic oils that she said eased the nausea of first-trimester pregnancy, chemotherapy and motion sickness. To help with marketing, I put her through questions a reporter for the business section of a newspaper or magazine might ask. Then I wrote an article about her “aromatherapy,” which we discussed in detail for lessons learned.

The result? She and her marketing and investment associates came out of the exercise with a much clearer view of how the public would perceive their unusual product. The questions I asked were born of healthy skepticism, and she said she planned to adjust her pitch accordingly.

We Plan Exact Vacation Routes But Often Start a New Business With No Road Map

Seneca “The Younger”, the great ancient Roman philosopher famously observed, “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable”. The intent of his words is clear. Knowing where you want to go is the essential prelude to planning how to get there. Unfortunately, many people go through life without a plan or a goal, and those people usually end up right where they start from.

Most families have a set vacation time to relax and undertake various forms of leisure together. If the family plans a camping trip to a state park in another state, they will typically make reservations, reserve tickets for campsites, service the car, budget anticipated expenses, inspect and inventory their camping gear, organize provisions and print out a map with driving directions to their destination. This is a simple vacation plan. Very few prudent families would simply gather everyone up, hop in the car on a whim, take the first highway and drive aimlessly hoping to stumble in to a national park and hopefully be able to secure a campsite.

The logistics of moving the family, safely, securely, with reasonable comfort and insuring enjoyment at the park is the reason we would plan the trip. Who wants to waste valuable vacation days on a poorly planned and executed travel experience. This simple illustration of how a family would meticulously plan a vacation in order to insure a fun time and great memories can be transferred to the planning essential to starting a new business.

A successful business startup always is predictive in the planning that is designed and executed to build the foundation of the enterprise. Proper research of the targeted consumer demographic and market category will be exhaustive. All sources of supply and inherent costs will be identified. The product or service that the new Company will provide will be properly priced, readily available, supported with a strategic marketing plan and a comprehensive branding program.

Like the family planning a much needed vacation, the entrepreneur, driven to be successful, will leave no stone unturned in seeking knowledge and advantage that will be key to achieving preordained goals. He will not take shortcuts. He will not make guesses. He will detail the basis utilized to construct each assumption that buttress the conclusions he uses to write the business plan.

The failed entrepreneur is usually a dreamer. Like the disorganized family stumbling into “vacation surreal”, this impostor thinks he can game the system. He does not believe that he needs to research his targeted marketplace, if he can even identify his real demographic target. He guesses at his actual costs based on incomplete information and an unwillingness to perform the crucial due diligence required to identify the best source of production. He believes that because “Cousin Joey” loves his idea, the consuming public will as well.

The “Dreaming Entrepreneur” is a fellow we see all of the time in our marketing consulting business. Planning is for others. He doesn’t believe in the need for a business plan. He guesses at costs, lead times and component availability that are essential for any successful business to know cold in order to meet and exceed goals.

There is no magic bullet or elixir that entrepreneurs can access in order to insure they will succeed. However, there are things they can do that will absolutely insure failure. A key lesson for any person seeking to launch a new product or new business is to take every precaution to minimize negatives that can be reasonably controlled by planning, research and performing due diligence. You can mitigate the chance for failure by properly vetting all contingencies. You will insure failure by sloppily moving forward without properly knowing to which port you are sailing.

The Importance Of Being Relatable To Others With Your Business

The importance of being able to relate and connect with people when you advertise your business or webpage is probably the one single critical element worth paying attention to. I often look around and see some businesses where people don’t appear to even be present. It’s like everything is on autopilot and there’s no need to talk to anyone. Think about it a moment. When you visit a website as a customer it almost feels surreal when the website is just sell, sell, sell and no warmth. Sure, if you have a website you can’t be present in reality, but you can have your face in a picture or on a video. Putting a face to your business is probably the biggest thing you need to grasp.

The essence of what I’m really saying is that exclusive branding is the main goal you should be aiming for in your particular business or niche. The reason I say this is that customers perceive you as the representation of your business. For example, if you sell a pair of shoes, your customer will likely buy from you because you recommend them and you endorse them and they warm to you, not really because they walked past a billboard displaying your shoes for sale. The billboard maybe told them where to get your product, but the actual selling was done by your personal service side to your business. Now let me be more specific:

1) Become your customer’s best friend: Tell a story, use your emotions and make that connection. The feel, felt, found technique is always good. “I know how you feel with worn shoes. I felt exactly the same way, so much that once I went to a party and one strap broke, it was embarrassing. What I found with these shoes I have is they feel so comfortable to wear and look so good, it has given me so much more confidence…”
Get the picture?

2) Use pictures and video of yourself: Being passionate about your niche or products is very important, describing all the benefits and how you’re excited your customers can get the very best benefits with them.

3) Offer something free with your items: People always like to get free stuff. It makes them feel like they have a great deal. Where possible make it all the best value for money.

4) Answer their questions immediately: Most customers have arrived at your website from a search, or from finding an add or something leading to your site. If you can find out what they want to know or have, try and offer a sample of it straight away on your website. This will build up your loyalty and customer approval.

I really hope for you that these four points will grab your attention because it’s my intention to see improvement in those around me who read my articles. There is an array of junky articles which teach broadly what things are successful but I like to be very targeted in my information. The concept of relating to others on a personal level is one of the most critical pieces often missing to one’s business in understanding internet marketing. If you can truly grasp the points herein, you will go very well in your endeavours.