Write better right now!

If your business communication is focused on you, no one is reading it. They care about themselves—which makes your ad, brochure, social media posts, or website the equivalent of the obnoxious guy at the cocktail party who drones on about himself.

Here are ten tips you can apply today to make you more interesting to your readers:

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1. Make it about them.

Your customers and prospective customers are paying attention to your promotion (TV, website, email, social postings, etc.) to learn how you can help them. Are you making it easy for them? Are you recognizing their problems and offering solutions? Or are you trying to sell something? Show them effective solutions, they’ll show you enduring loyalty.

2. Make sure your messages are true and compelling.

Jerry Seinfeld has this great routine about “Certs with Retsyn.” His point is even more compelling—what is Retsyn? We all know Certs has Retsyn, but we really don’t care because Retsyn means nothing to us. Get the Retsyn out of your writing.

3. Use their language, not yours.

We all love the language of our industry and the buzzwords of the day. Keep it in the office. The real test of good writing is showing it to ten random members of your target audience and knowing they all understood it quickly, easily, clearly.

4. Be about one thing that matters, and write about it every chance you get.

Coca Cola® is about fun. NIKE® is about personal performance. The means to those ends is selling soft drinks and athletic gear respectively. I’m about telling great stories. Writing is my means. What are you about? What is your means?

5. Talk about what they get, not what you offer.

If your product includes a ¾'' galvanized machine screw and your competitor’s has a ½'' regular nongalvanized screw—resist temptation and don’t write about it. Write about the fact that your product will last longer, stand up better to the elements, is more reliable, and is a better investment in the long haul. That’s what your customers want to buy. When they say "prove it," then talk about your ¾'' galvanized screw all you want.

6. Know thyself first, then thy competitors.

Over the years, I’ve had a number of clients show me a competitive ad and say, “Do something like this.” The result has been cementing their reputation as a “me too” company. Instead, know who you are, what you’re about, what makes you different and better, and why your customers love you. Then write about it, repeatedly.

7. Stand out.

Don’t settle for average. The next time you go to write something, create a first draft then throw it away and start again. This is where creativity begins and your message and/or promotional investment begins to show a substantially better return on investment.

8. Be real.

I live in a town where our university’s football team is a five-time national champion. Each Fall, all of our local advertising takes on the same tone.

Like the (TEAM NAME), we understand it takes hard work, dedication, and excellence to become the best at what you do. At (COMPANY NAME), we make that same commitment to you. So if you’re looking for a true champion when it comes to (PRODUCT NAME), look no further than (COMPANY NAME).

Seriously? Your company is the national champion of patio furniture? The old rule about underpromising and overdelivering is just as true in your writing as in any part of your business.

9. Tell a good story.

All good stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Does your writing? If I were to tell the story of this website, it might look something like:

Beginning—We’re all trying to grow our businesses and reach our vision of success—whatever it may be.

Middle—But the urgent daily demands of business pull you further and further away from the things that really matter—like communicating with customers and prospects.

End—By following these ten writing tips, you can get more out of the time you spend reaching out to your customers and prospects.

10. Let others tell your story.

If you really want your story to resonate, let someone credible tell it. It might be a customer, employee, or community leader. But if you can get them to tell your story as seen through their eyes, your credibility skyrockets. And, by its very nature, a testimonial follows most of the tips above.

This list was developed based on experiences with my advertising/marketing clients. But it will work on your next e-mail to employees or anything you write.

If you want, print the entire list and have it handy next time you write something.

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