I thought I was going to help refugees in Athens. I had no idea how much they would help me.
Everyone in business has a story to tell. Some nail it, like Tuft & Needle's eye-catching "Mattress stores are greedy" line. Others ... well, they're working on it.
We're bombarded with marketing messages, so making your message worthy of eyeball time is one-two punch of beautiful visuals AND spot-on copy.
I've learned writing for brands like Microsoft, HP, and Yahoo in my previous corporate comms role, and now in my own Professional Communication Consulting business: There is an art to wrangling the right words. Let's break down the word lasso, partner.
6 must-know writing tips for business
1. Know your audience.
Marketing homework complete, you’re keenly aware of your target market. Think from their perspective. What is relevant and meaningful to them? Personalize your message to meet their innate business needs and goals, and articulate in a way that will be both relevant and valuable for them.
2. Resolve a tone.
What tone or voice should you use? Your writing voice can range from formal and technical to witty and playful. Do you use “we” and “you” or keep things third person? Each piece (website, ads, email marketing, etc.) resonates differently, depending on the chosen voice. Your credibility rides on your ability to keep voice and tone consistent.
3. Understand messaging.
Long before sending ads to print or buying AdRoll space online, spend thoughtful time with messaging. Dive into key takeaways and clearly define them. Make sure your overarching communication plan offers valuable information for prospective customers, and not merely sales jargon. Always remember to keep the “so what?” factor top of mind.
4. Write tight.
Skip the fluff. Every word counts, so weigh the importance of each phrase. This doesn’t mean sacrificing eye-catching words, which paint a picture or slam-dunk an idea. Effectively communicate with a dose of creativity, but realize audiences prefer bite-sized, palatable sections to verbose ramblings. As a rule, vary sentences both in terms of length and word choice.
5. Incite action.
Purposeful marketing writing provides readers with a recognizable call to action. Often the success of your writing is measured by click-through rates or sales stats. When you’re looking for quantified results, you must persuade readers and invite them to act. This could be as simple as, “Call now for a free trial” or “Sign up for our next webinar by clicking here.”
6. Proofread, proofread, proofread.
Dodge this one, and you’ll regret it. A large mall recently sent me (and countless others) an email advertising an event. I might have opened it, had it not born a grammar-offending subject line: “Your Invited.” Really? With a quick edit, the correct “You’re” could have saved their invite from my trash box. As a rule of thumb, if you’re planning to share with potential customers, get a trusted colleague/friend to give your words a second look before you hit send or approve the printing press. We all need editors.
Need help telling your business story? My team of talented writers and I can help. Our client list includes a Fortune Cloud 100 company and we specialize in telling stories for tech and real estate organizations. Let me know here if you'd like helping creating content that gets noticed.
Thinking about starting a business, but not sure how? You’re in good company. Here are wise words from bestselling author and president of the Wiseman Group, Liz Wiseman, on how you can use being a rookie to your advantage.
Before we get to how I met (and ate lunch with) Liz, a moment of reflection on my own “not knowing” during my first year in business.
Happy first anniversary to my business!
This month marks Professional Communication Consulting’s first anniversary. Between mamahood and working with great clients, it’s been the best year of my life (so far!) I’m passionately enjoying the journey of business ownership. My team of talented writers and I help remarkable organizations like Pluralsight, MarketStar, and The Real Estate Guys tell their story. I'm also helping my first AnniverStory client, Career Step, strategically celebrate their 25th anniversary year.
It's been a year of progress, but I’m still a business toddler: I’m curious. I stumble. I make (sometimes expensive) mistakes.
That’s likely why “Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work” jumped off the bookshelf earlier this year. Looking for business advice, her title offered validation for my learn-as-I-go method.
To my delighted surprise, she tweeted back the next day, inviting me to lunch. WOW! What an honor. (Take note: Twitter works!)
The power of your “Rookie Smarts”
There’s liberation in not needing to know everything. Even more, Liz’s book argues it is better for business. Here are some takeaways for anyone who has a desire to start a business (or apply for a different work position or tackle a graduate program – whatever it is!) but isn’t sure how.
Rookies haven’t built up a layer of fear.
“People fresh to a problem haven’t convinced themselves that they can’t solve it.” (pg. 53) For those of us who are figuring out business as we go, there’s fearless freedom in admitting we don’t know it all. (Who does?!)
Rookies access more know-how.
“Rookies, with little to lose and everything to gain, seek out help and reach out to experts who can guide them and augment their deficiencies.” (pg. 87) In fact, Laz shares how they ask many more people, much more often. “When you ask an expert, you get one expert. When you ask a rookie, you get a network of experts.” (pg. 79)
Rookies find work to be playful.
“Perpetual rookies have a different mindset. When they grow up they want to be a kid—permanently young of heart and mind.” (pg. 160) My three-year-old is currently learning her numbers and letters and I see how thrilled she is to learn. It’s FUN. I'm also having so much fun learning new business skills.
Liz’s book isn’t just for those “new” to owning a business or working for a great brand. Those who’ve been at it for years can turn up the dial on their curiosity and become what she calls “Perpetual Rookies.” But that’s another post.
Lunch with author and executive advisor, Liz Wiseman
When you've admired someone from afar, it's always interesting to meet them in person. I watched Liz deliver her successful Silicon Slopes keynote, tweeting her many gems on leadership. Anyone with kids will appreciate this one: “Parenting is the ultimate leadership … you don’t get to hire or fire them.”
Afterwards, Liz was as enjoyable up close as on the keynote stage. I ate lunch with Liz, her husband, and a small group of friends from different stages of her life. She shared great stories. I noticed how she had learning apps on her phone, was fully present, and her ability to help everyone at the table feel important. She really lives her message. She’s a true multiplier.
Liz taught me to embrace being an entrepreneur rookie. I'm owning it! Business “mistakes” merely mean I’m taking action and learning. And learning is a lifelong pursuit I never plan to stop.
So carry on, friend, in whatever new business venture you want to try. Have fun! And don't be surprised if you discover real advantages to NOT knowing what you're doing in business.
I believe comfort bubbles need some popping now and again.
Stretching my bubble here, sharing WHY I started my business with my video app for Marie Forleo's B-School scholarship.
The past year I've spent countless hours reading, listening, and learning about mindset, personal finance, and business. I hired a business coach. I called 2016 my personal "MBA" year for that reason, but I realize there's so much more I want to know. I'm on a quest to learn, and Marie Forleo's big-hearted, business-savvy training calls my name. Her B-School opens once a year, and I want 2017 to be my year IN! #winBSCHOOL
While there are several things I could have done differently in this video, I followed her advice: Shared is better than perfect! (For example, I wish I would have mentioned AnniverStory, but with a 90-second limit, I tried to keep it simple.)
Here's my video. Do a girl a favor -- will you please watch and like/comment? Thank you!
Marie, hi! My name is Crystalee Beck. I live in beautiful mountain town, Ogden, Utah. (I go hiking a lot!)
I am a writer, an award-winning marketer, and an internationally published researcher.
I'm also a mother of two very cute kids and they are my pride and joy. And really, they're the reason WHY I started my business, Professional Communication Consulting. I used to work full-time in the corporate world and I wanted to take my time and talents back into my own hands so that I don't have to miss my babies' childhoods.
Also, on the professional WHY I do what I do:
I help remarkable people and organizations tell their story. That's what I give the world.
I'm currently writing a biography for a serial entrepreneur. I'm helping several different clients. I've expanded my company and now have a team of writers ... and Marie! I realize I need business training! I need your help. There's so much that I want to learn from you and from B-School.
Please help me have B-School be part of my story.
Thank you for watching. God bless!
Interested in B-School? Check it out
You can learn more about Marie Forleo's B-School at https://joinbschool.com/
It’s not every day you meet someone who’s transformed an idea into a $1.8 billion business.
Last week I did, and we shook hands.
Josh James, Founder and CEO of Domo, gave me a compliment every female entrepreneur wants to hear. Here's what he said and what I learned from it.
We were at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit, a two-day event for Utah’s booming technology industry. The inaugural event was held at The Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, and nearly 5,000 attendees heard from tech and business experts.
I walked in wearing an emerald green dress and new boots, ready to source new corporate anniversary clients for my start-up, AnniverStory™. I came prepared, with a curated target list of potential clients (thank you to my intern Stephanie!) and business cards at the ready. I told myself, “I’m getting three new clients out of this. Ready, go!”
Looking at the crowd, I’d guess only 1 in 10 were women.
The perk of being a gal in a sea of dark-suited men is you stand out. With the goal of meeting new clients, I didn’t mind being noticed.
In my first five minutes there, I practically bumped into Domo’s Josh James, a visionary business leader who took his company from inception to IPO to $1.8B sale. I knew his face from Twitter and had seen him in the news. He's something of a legend in Utah. Later that day I would see him on the main stage, interviewing the President of Pandora, but this was our 10 seconds together. I wasn’t going to miss it.
“Oh, it’s you. Hi, Josh James. I'm Crystalee,” I said, trying to sound brave as I extended my hand.
“Well, that’s a bold dress,” he smiled at me.
It was such a simple sentence, but I walked away feeling as if he’d handed me a $100 bill.
How’d he know that’s the word I was going for?
That interaction spurred me to approach a CEO of another big company, one on my target list, letting him know about my services. I passed my card out to potential collaborators, clients, and old friends. It felt good.
Almost a year in, business ownership is still a brave new world for me, but I believe in being fearless, even when fear may be bubbling under the surface. I believe we’re stronger than what frightens us. I believe that conquering fear is where the real fun starts in life.
Last year I decided I was done with letting fear stand in my way. It was time to spread my entrepreneurial wings.
Letting go of fear leaves a wide open space for freedom. I’ve never been more excited about my work. I wake up on Mondays looking forward to helping my clients. I love what I do. I love the challenge of learning new things, the variety in my schedule, and living on my terms. I love that because I manage my time and talents, my kids get the best of me.
Being an entrepreneur has lit a fire that lights up all sorts of spaces in my soul.
By no means do I have business ownership all figured out. I'm making mistakes and learning new things every day. I think that's part of the fun.
I DO believe in myself and my ability to help others creatively tell their story. I do this through the written word and strategic celebratory events. I feel confident about that, and others are noticing. Even a billion-dollar-company leader.
So that’s the lesson for the business-owning ladies out there:
Be bold, girl.
Dress the part. Act the part. Show up like you mean it. Fake it for now if you have to.
You got this.
In my next post I’ll share about meeting Liz Wiseman, author of “Multipliers” and “Rookie Smarts,” who was one of the Summit Slopes Tech Summit keynote speakers. I had the incredible opportunity to spend a lovely lunch hour with her and her hand-picked friends. (She deserves her own post!)