As a marketing professional, you’re probably well aware that your writing has to be focused. It has to be crafted in a way that speaks to the right person, at the right time, in the right way.
Funnels are critical to your process. If you don’t already utilize them, you should.
In this article, you will get fresh ideas on how to improve your business writing and see the future-altering power that copy can have when it’s at its fullest potential. You’ll also get insight on the best way to speak to different personas: small business owners versus enterprise CEOs, to be more precise.
Although there are many different types of marketing, inbound has taken the world by storm. It has quickly become popular for obvious reasons—it dramatically moves the client’s bottom line. This is because, in part, it makes people believe companies care about them.
People want to feel like you’re talking to them to solve their unique problems. When you get too general, you can appear lazy and they can feel ignored. If you don’t appropriately address their pain points, they can feel as though you don’t find their needs important. Why are you making all the effort if not to solve their problem? This is why segmentation is so important.
Your business writing will change depending on who you’re talking to. It’s all about hitting the right audience. Your personas need to be strategically targeted so people are only getting the messages they actually need. For instance, you’d be wasting money and effort, not to mention your customers’ time, if you were to market feminine hygiene products to older men. And we know you’re not going to try marketing junk food to fitness enthusiasts. The list goes on.
To hit your goals, you need to be sure you’re hitting the mark by effectively resonating with the audience. This starts with the way you write. Even if you feel you already know how to write well enough for business, there is always room for improvement.
Times are changing and with change comes ever-new ways of thinking.
Your new theories are then put to the test to see what works best. We’ve done the research. Through our own experience and through other resources—since we, too, are continuously learning—we’ve found what works.
Writing to a specific target so precisely enables content to have a profound impact on your target. Thus, by leveraging the advice shared in this article, your writing will ultimately improve to the point where it can transform a business. The reader will be more likely to take action because your content made them feel heard and understood, and consequently, gave them something of value that they could actually trust.
First Component of Business Writing: Intro vs. Executive Summary
Not all openers are created the same. When writing a traditional introduction to a document, as we’ve done above, you’re stating your aims for the piece. You’re leading into things smoothly and gradually and giving the reader a fairly clear sense of why you’re writing—while perhaps still leaving a bit of mystery. You don’t, after all, want to give everything away from the get-go. Or do you?
That’s where the executive summary comes in. It is essentially the entire paper, condensed into a shorter gathering of paragraphs or bullet points. It doesn’t leave any key detail unturned. In fact, when done well, a business executive can pick it up and read the document without having to read a word of the paper it precedes. The executive summary should be able to stand on its own.
Think of the cover letter you used to apply to your current job. It told the hiring manager what they could expect to see in the resume attached to it, rendering the resume virtually the same thing but with greater detail.
Pro Tip: Executive summaries are helpful for busy C-suite professionals who have high-value priorities to attend. They don’t have the time to read a long-form piece fully without knowing what it contains. By reading this brief, separate document, they understand the key details.
You’re enabling them to feel that they absorbed all they really need to know as quickly, yet thoroughly, as possible. It’s short like a standard introduction, but doesn’t leave out anything that would have been extremely handy to know if they had read the entire thing. The actionable wisdom you are providing the reader should be front and center in the executive summary. On the other hand, in a regular introduction, you’re merely setting the scene—not giving them the whole story up front.
To be clear, when we say you should be including detail in your executive summary, be wary of going overboard. Giving too much information would render this unhelpful to your boss—or your boss’s boss. If they feel it could impede their schedule, they might not read it. Your focus should be to include what is absolutely needed, but in as few words as possible. Brevity is your friend here.
Pro Tip: For almost all business writing, introductions are best when written last. In some cases, writing the ending first helps writers to see the desired end state compared to the current state, then craft the body around bridging that gap.
Top Tips on How to Improve Your Business Writing
Study these three main pieces of advice so you can start implementing them when you begin your next winning piece of business writing.
You may be surprised at how much your business writing can improve if you heed our proven methods.
Business Writing Tip 1: Know Your Audience and Your Goal
As we discussed in the beginning, make sure you’re getting the right message to the right people. Watch your tone, style, and verbiage. Different personas will respond best to different wording and structure. In business writing, you want to do what works for your end reader, not necessarily what works for you. This might sometimes involve fighting against your gut if you have a certain way you like to write that doesn’t match the preferences of the target audience. Resist the urge to add too much of your personal, creative flair.
Your ability to look at things from perspectives that are not your own will help dictate whether your piece turns out successful or not. Always keep in mind, it’s about the person you’re trying to convince to take a certain action, not about you. If you’re writing to someone at the C-suite level about an idea, you want to be taken seriously and get your point across effectively so your idea progresses to the next stage. The power behind your writing comes from whether the professional believes you can solve their problem. Make sure you make a plan for yourself and know where you’re going before you begin.
Business Writing Tip 2: Cut the Jargon From Your Business Writing
Avoid buzzwords, clichés, and wording that could potentially annoy the reader—or worse, just sound like noise in their head. Some writers think that in order to fulfill this step they need to write long, complicated sentences with word choices that would have only thrilled their middle school English teacher. Skip the decorative vocabulary and keep it simple and direct. Simple is not going to be seen as uneducated or informal—quite the opposite.
It’s actually more difficult and takes better writing skills to communicate what you need to in a succinct way. The reader will appreciate your ability to be clear and respect their time. In all honesty, they want you to get to the point, and they don’t want to have to tell you that. So, say what you mean to say, be deliberate, and don’t overly embellish your sentences.
For example, before fine-tuning this article, a sentence read, “To help get an even better sense of what should be reflected in your business writing, it’s always valuable to see what others have been doing.” An internal decision was made that the first half of that sentence was unnecessary, and it was edited down to, “It’s always valuable to see what others have been doing.”
Also, don’t forget to use an active voice instead of passive. Assert that you know what you’re talking about to come off as more confident, believable, and valuable. And, lest we forget, the C-suite consists of humans, so don’t fear making it personal. Engage them emotionally. Address talking points to them rather than approaching with the mindset of what you want yourself.
Friendly, relatable language will pull them in. Constantly boring people will not make them think you’re smarter. Instead, it will make them think twice before picking up another document you’ve written.
Business Writing Tip 3: In Business Writing, It’s Not All About Your Opinion
It’s not about your opinion, it’s about facts. Include plenty of statistics. We’re not saying your writing shouldn’t contain your ideas, but back them up. If the whole document consists of claims that seem to come out of left field, you cannot blame the reader if they don’t believe what you’re saying. People need proof.
Because of the over-saturated world we live in where everyone is generating buzz about topics they believe to be important, many of us are accustomed to tuning things out. We often walk around with our blinders on and need real, authentic material to truly reach us, and subsequently, be absorbed. Compelling facts and figures can go a long way in getting through to your reader. Pick the best results-oriented studies you can find when trying to communicate a point. You should be relying on percentages rather than hearsay.
Keep in mind, you always want to be writing in a purposeful, strategic way instead of wandering aimlessly across the page. Each pen stroke or touch of the keyboard should be calculated and free of fluff or too much bias. Have a reason for every line you include. Do your research and make it mean something.
Now that we’ve gone over some tips for crafting business writing in general, let’s narrow things down further. It’s time for the second focal point of this post: segmentation.
Differences Between Corporate Executive and Small Business Owner
You’ll recall we mentioned that one of the main methodologies behind inbound marketing is that it’s crucial to keep your persona in mind. Who will the reader be? Again, getting the audience right can make or break a piece of business writing. In these two examples, both types of people are at the helm of a business. However, because they are from different types of businesses, you must consider the very different ways you write to them.
How to Write Content for the C-Suite: Enterprise Executives and CEOs
This is often where ghostwriting comes into play. The people sitting at the top of an enterprise hierarchy, such as the CEO, won’t always have the capacity to write their own work. It’s crucial to know how to write for them when they are focusing on steering the company toward continued success. Ghostwriting is when a person writes content for another individual who is named as or assumed to be the author. The real author of a piece of business writing may go unseen, but can still make an impact as the mastermind behind it—no public credit necessary.
As a marketer, you should be prepared to be the person tasked with this feat. They know you have a way with words or you would not hold the position you currently do. You already have a reputation as a connoisseur of storytelling who adapts voices and tones, as needed. So they assign you to be their voice. To adopt their style of communicating, think about what they do. They are behind major business decisions and each move they make can affect not just clients and employees, but investors and beyond.
The CEO is usually the visionary and strategist, so do your research and write with their language and priorities in mind. If a topic is about a mundane detail or too tactical, perhaps it shouldn’t be coming from them at all. There are other people that handle the small, everyday headaches of sorts. If the topic is not something that’s going to affect whether the company as a whole is making strides to be ahead of the competition, it’s best to leave it out.
They want to convey high-level sticking points, therefore so do you. Also, be aware that the reputation of the company generally falls upon them. CEOs are speaking on behalf of the entire company, and when it’s a publicly traded company, these words can have a dramatic impact on the organization and its shareholders. Make sure your writing can maintain strategic partnerships and does not alienate anyone they’ve worked hard to build a relationship with.
How to Write Content for Small Business Owners
Business writing geared toward owners of small businesses should also be uniquely crafted, but in a different way. CEOs do not typically want to get too involved in the details, but small business owners are more directly invested in all aspects of the company. They want things to sound like they’re coming from them and have that personal touch.
Return to the idea of thinking from their perspective. There is often more at stake on a personal level for small business owners. It’s not just reputation to account for, they can be personally liable when it comes to finances. They are bootstrapped, or in other words, not backed by investors as much as the larger companies. In fact, backing often comes from their own funds. This depends on how they filed their business in legal terms, too—such as registering the company as a sole proprietorship or partnership.
The small business owner needs remind themselves more often to step back and look at the bigger picture like a CEO does. They don’t have as many people under them to help with the heavy-hitter topics, so the work delegation is very different. They are also more likely to be in a niche area of business than the industry in which the CEO finds themselves every day.
When doing this type of business writing, take on the persona of someone who is concerning themselves with nearly every aspect of the business. This includes the little things with which the CEOs don’t typically bother themselves. Think about how you would adjust the tone for your writing if this were you.
Reading What the Target Audience Reads
It’s always valuable to see what others have been doing when you’re looking to strengthen your business writing. Dive into the personas—get your feet wet with the types of content that business owners and CEOs are reading. This way, you can imagine yourself in their position—and start writing just like them.
Top Publications for Executives
These are the top-ranked publications from which your target audience will most likely be getting their intel (which means you should, too):
- The Harvard Business Journal
- Forbes Magazine
- The Wall Street Journal
- Bloomberg’s Businessweek
- CEOWORLD Magazine
- The Huffington Post
- USA Today
- The Economist
- Fortune Magazine
- TIME Magazine
- World Economic Forum
- Inc. Magazine
- MIT Technology Review
- Business Insider
- Fast Company
- TED Talks
- Foreign Affairs
- Scientific American
You should also be sure to check out your competitors’ and customers’ websites to stay abreast on the latest trends and make sure you’re not missing anything. This will give you an edge, but can blindside you if you neglect to do so. While some may not have immediately come to mind for you, these resources can be valuable. Many overlook them. Don’t make that mistake. You can learn a lot by leveraging these sources when tackling business writing technique improvements—even if behind the scenes.
You’ve Now Taken the First Step in Improving Your Business Writing
If you implement these suggestions, you will be better equipped to feel in-the-know about topics your audience wants to hear and use the right words so your business writing is styled successfully. You will be able to write with power and precision so your most important points get through every time—rather than letting your message get dismissed by the reader before it ever had a chance.
As you’ve probably gathered by now, a lot of this revolves around perspective. It’s about what the reader wants to see. And as a marketer, this is true whether you’re writing to a client’s potential customers or writing in the voice of your boss to key stakeholders. Remember, small business owners and enterprise CEOs are different personas and should be treated as such.
We all know the adage about the customer—or end user—coming first. It’s about their needs, not yours. Never lose focus. Make them feel heard so you, in turn, will be heard.
Get a sense of their pain points and how you can solve them. And don’t waste their time in getting there because you will likely lose their attention to something else they have on their mind. Writing clearly and concisely is paramount to business writing in order to keep the reader hooked and, ultimately, get your top points across. You can’t convey your message if you can’t get the person to want to keep reading or take you seriously.
You want each reader to sincerely listen, so make each word count. Make them see the value you offer through careful word choices. Be authentic and believable. Furthermore, if you want a comprehensive resource on best business practices for content amplification, we encourage you to download our FREE guide here. With all of these tips, you’re ready to take your business writing to the next level.