Best Tips For Business Style Writing

Remember the time you heard a senior executive making a speech at some corporate dinner or employee’s day when the speaker said something so crisp that it made you go, “That’s what I’m talking about… you nailed it!” In ways more than one, those are exactly the sort of sentiments that good business style writing should evoke every time.

To me, personally, business fashion writing flirts with creative & academic writing; it is like a hybrid of the latter two. You cannot say that a particular writing style is better than the other two; each one has its distinguishing tone & distinctive purpose. However, there are some professional business writing standards which you are supposed to follow rigidly while working with business correspondence and communication.

To successfully identify a correspondence as business writing, one must be familiar with the acceptable and frowned upon characteristics of corporate style writing. That will be the main focus of this humble excerpt; to attempt to touch upon what business cut writing entails.

To start off with the core concept, readers is like to play Bull’s Eye with business style writing; the ‘bottom line’ should become apparent in as less words as possible. Subsequently you will find other things to be mindful of in order to add flair to your management style writing.

Minding the Active and Passive Voice

The active voice should be used for the most part. As a business writer, you should be aware of the difference between the active and the passive voice. An example has been inked below to make it easy to understand.

The grass was cut by the landlord. (Passive voice)

The landlord cut the grass. (Active voice)

The passive voice should be brought into play when you want to make a point without placing too much emphasis on it; as if you want to glance by it.

Striking the Right Balance with the Length of Your Write-ups

After the active and passive voice distinction, a business writer must also appreciate the differentiation between making something sound “short & sweet” & giving someone a “shut-up call”

What that means is that even though you want to nail the points in as less words possible as logic permits, you do not want to make your reader feel disrespected; you don’t want to make scrambled eggs out of your writing. Keep it concise but make sure it maintains a rational flow of thoughts & ideas. Some experts have coined the term KISS for this practice i.e. Keep It Short & Simple.

Stating the Core Purpose

To make the thought flow smoother, state the purpose of the correspondence at the beginning. Consequently, run a quick overview of the points that will be elaborated in the subsequent text.

Representing Yourself

Also be wary of where you use ‘I’ and ‘We’. ‘I’ is specifically for your sole actions and beliefs. ‘We’ is used to refer to the company as a whole. Therefore, do not use ‘we’ in place of an ‘I’ because your wrong choice of words can drag the firm in to the legal courtyards.

Style and Fonts

The popularly adopted business style font should be a 12pt text; either Arial or Times New Roman – something that is easily legible. Keep scanning through various commercial style writing excerpts with the eyes of an observer; you want to see how the message comes across to you as a reader and what, if any, changes would you make if you had to convey the same message.

Do People Still Use The Good Old Yellow Pages Business Directories?

Firstly, the term ‘Yellow Pages’ is a globally recognized, meaning for a telephone directory of companies. In some countries the term is trademarked and the business is operated by the IP holder, however, in other countries like the USA, the name is not registered so many people can legally use the name with their business directory service.

Specifically, in the UK the brand is owned and operated by Yell Group and is listed on the London Stock Exchange. The company was originally owned by the GPO and later BT and set up the first directory in Brighton in 1966. During the subsequent 40 years the business grew from just the one directory area in the UK to over 100 at the peak of its performance. In the 2000’s the company invested heavily in foreign markets headed up by CEO John Condron at the time – this was a controversial decision given the inevitable decline of printed media due to the actual and forecast growth of the Internet and supporting technology.

In 2003 Yell decided to float on the LSE with an initial IPO of 276p – over the next 3 years the company enjoyed steady share price growth achieving 634p in Feb 2007. However, the party wasn’t to last as soon after the share price fell rapidly over the next 2 years to just 13p in March 2009, and has stayed low up until today at just 4p.

So why has the ‘Yellow Pages’ brand and confidence in its abilities fallen so much in recent years after such a long history of growth and expansion? Well the answer is quite clear today and really can’t be blamed on the benefits of hindsight. Just 13 years ago you didn’t have to be an Internet guru or strategist to realize that print media will inevitably decline at some point. If you think back, offices were already implementing paperless solutions, early adopters of the Internet were already looking for businesses online and expecting richer content, technology was developing at a rapid pace enabling the publication of data faster and more accurate than ever before, homes across the UK were buying more computers per year than television sets. However Yell kept doing what it’s always done and concentrated its core efforts on printed media (as it worked so well for them in the past) – they did dabble in Internet technology but really just published the Yellow Pages business directory on the net. In the UK Yell brought out a product called ‘YP Ad Online’ – as the name suggests, it was simply publishing printed media content online – not the most forward thinking publishing strategy you may think.

Simply put, Yell didn’t grow up with and embrace the Internet – in the early years it saw it as an auxiliary product to the printed directory media, and still invested most of its RAD, processes and money in the printed and 118 offerings. This resulted in Yell being on the back-foot, and 10 years too late to exploit its brand and the potential it once had to be a market leader of providing advertising services on the Internet, thus enabling it to migrate its offline / printed media customers to online solutions and products.

So what’s the future for Yellow Pages globally and specifically Yell Group in the UK / USA and Spain with nearly 3b worth of debt? Well it’s not too late for management to finally wake up and start developing relevant products people will actually want to buy without being sold to. Yell really need to stop blaming the ‘economic environment’ and navel-gazing by commissioning internal ‘in depth reviews’ as per its latest 2011 Q3 results – you don’t read about Google’s revenues in AdWords dropping or being impacted by GDP. They constantly out develop and out-perform the market though innovation and exploitation of new technologies, and produce advertising solutions that people want, understand and most importantly work.

Yellow Pages in the UK is still a respected and trusted brand, however, with each day that goes by this is eroding faster than a dictator’s grasp on a war torn country – so someone better act quickly. The brand is an institution that we have all grown up with, however, brands (no matter how super) are all fragile and bad management, strategies and products will almost certainly kill a company in today’s fickle, fast-paced, fast-growth technological world – you only have to look around at brands such as Woolworths to realize that.

So do people still use the good old Yellow Pages printed product? Well according to Yell and their published online Facts and Stats they do – in fact they claim over 80% of UK adults use the printed business directory. However, when you look at the small print this figure was actually generated in 2006 – that’s 5 years out-of-date and of course we’re living in a different world now. A more recent statistic published by Yell indicates the book is used over 600m times in 2009/2010. Whatever the current figure is I personally don’t know of a single person that uses the book anymore – except by boys wanting to stand on them at Christmas to reach up to kiss a girl under the mistletoe (perhaps their 1990’s TV campaign of that very situation was a subconscious prediction of their fate). Perhaps a cynical person may assume that the book only survives today due to the capabilities of an efficient and formidable 3,000 strong sales force.

Business Development Training – How To Overcome Fear Of Meeting People

I recently presented a training session at a business conference. The audience were leaders from around Australia. I gave them a break 2 minutes and asked them to stand up and talk to each other. When we returned, I asked how many of them had a place to meet someone they do not know. A solitary hand went up in the air. One!

This was particularly important that the workshop of the conference was to establish effective business relationships. The moral of this exercise is that we are naturally attracted to people who know and like. And it is easy to maintain our current network of customers, colleagues and industry contacts. It can be scary when we have to meet new people.

But – the point of view of business development – is a very selfish when we are not brave enough too reach people who do not know. And ‘selfish for us to avoid engaging with people with whom we might be able to develop a mutually beneficial relationship. I talked to many customers, and education representatives who are reluctant to meet new people. They feel a bit ‘awkward and unsure of themselves.

Do you look like?

In many cases, this reluctance is based on self-centered emotions, such as:

* They do not like me.

* I do not know what to say.

* I’m not good at small talk.

* My new business, and I’ll look like a beginner.

* They’ll think I’m boring.

* It seems strange to talk with a stranger.

* They all seem to know. I’ll be the outsider.

It is ironic that most people feel the same way and could easily comforted each other. But everyone keeps to the “safe” relationship, they already know. Thus, in our efforts to stay in our comfort zone, we act selfishly and do not fully explore new opportunities.

This may be the “kiss of death” to a service. Especially for new businesses or those trying to expand into new areas. Meeting new people is essential to the success of the organization.

Responding to – and the full involvement – with new people (potential customers, partners, or in reference sources), we open our doors to:

* To learn about other companies.

* To learn about new opportunities for us.

* Learn how others achieve their goals.

* Learn “and not” do something.

* Learn what is “‘to those who are more experienced.

* Learning that we are able to deal with extended comfort zone.

* Learn to be more effective.

One of the biggest challenges for service providers, professionals, entrepreneurs and sales people is to have new confidence to strike new relationships.

You owe it to yourself and your business (or your employer).

Tools you need are:

* Ability to listen actively.

* The flexibility and patience.

* A genuine interest in the diversity of other people.

* A good dose of self-knowledge, communication to control their natural impulses.

* A well-rehearsed self-presentation, elevator pitch, the introduction of 30 seconds, or audio logo (the one you prefer to call it).

* The ability acceptable social etiquette.

* The discipline to ensure follow-up after initial contact.

For those who have the courage, and learn the necessary skills, a new world of opportunity and success await you.

When Fishing for New Business, Information is the Best Bait!

People are always looking for information. This is the major reason Google has been so successful. With that as a given, how can we as marketers capitalize on this phenomenon? The simple answer is to give away information. It is the greatest premium item ever conceived. It usually costs less than a pen, a note pad, or a coffee mug; especially if it is repurposed from prior programs, and it’s much easier to deliver. Plus, delivery is actually the first step on the pathway to purchase.

There are several ways to find folks who are looking for the information that you have to offer.

First, to cast a wide net, there are many specialized Double Opt-In email lists available for rent, and a simple, carefully crafted message (usually a text message, no fancy photos or graphics) sent out to a thoughtfully selected group of potential clients, offering a simple report, media file, or white paper, then combined with personal follow up, will yield significant numbers of well qualified leads, and, most important, the start of a dialog. And dialogs frequently finish with sales. I cannot emphasize strongly enough using Double Opt-In lists. These are people who have agreed to get mailings because they are looking for information, and they know that they won’t get spammed from these senders. These people are also much more likely to open your email. Industry trade publications are very good sources for this type of mailing. See additional comments about this below.

Next, you can create web pages to offer your information in exchange for people’s email address. A page that is search engine friendly, targeted at people who are searching for your information will always yield people who will to give you their contact information to get your information – the start of a dialog.

Finally, of course, the people on your own lists. These are people with whom you already have an existing email relationship, so you can legitimately mail offers of additional RELEVANT information to them, and they will very likely respond positively.

In addition to electronic documents, remember also if you have valuable information in other media formats, you can also distribute them. It could be a podcast or other audio file, a video, an informational PowerPoint presentation or other media file. Repurposing works very well here. It all adds to the excitement, interest, and value that you are offering making it all the more likely that you will get high quality leads who will want do business with you.

Step by Step…

  • First, you need a choice of several white papers, reports or other information relevant to your target audience. Make absolutely certain you have all the requisite rights and clearances to distribute these pieces. Like any premium or incentive item, you will give them away.
  • Next, decide how you will reach your target audience. The simplest, most targeted, and generally least expensive way is with email lists rented from trade publications in your field. Usually the mailing will go out directly from the trade publication’s mailing service, so it can legitimately have the trade pub in the “From” field. And, because the recipient will most likely already have the publication “white listed” in his or her email system, you will increase the likelihood that the mail will end up in their inbox, not the spam bucket. It also gives the message added credibility, and increases the chances that the email will be opened and read. And the publication will be very selective about what information that it will send out under its own name.
  • The “Reply To” in the email is a person or group in your company who will respond to each email individually. Though this could very well be done with an auto responder, the personal communication puts you that much closer to an in-depth dialog with the prospect, and therefore, that much closer to a sale.
  • The Subject line should be consistent with the information being offered, and also appropriate from the publication to whose list you will be sending.
  • The message itself should be a simple text only message with no images or graphics.
  • The reply from your staff should have the information papers or media files as attachments, and an offer to immediately get involved to address the prospects’ problem.
  • Decide how much you would like to spend, and how big you want the mailing to be. Negotiate with the list owners to make sure you buy at the best CPM for your budget. You never know, by jumping to the next quantity level, you may be able to send to many more prospects for very little more, which will reduce your cost/lead. Since this is a numbers game, more is definitely better.

The critical element is follow up! The main goal of this process is to open a dialog between a prospect and someone in your company who can affect a sale as quickly as possible. If those people don’t follow up immediately, momentum is lost and must be regained before the sale can actually be made.

One of the major benefits of this type of marketing is its speed. From idea to interaction with clients, it can frequently be turned around in a week or so, and is, therefore, very cost effective.

Extending the value of this technique

There are a couple of things that you can do to easily extend the reach of a program like this.

First, publicize the effort. A well placed press release with the email address to contact (or web page) to get the white papers or media files costs very little, and will get you many additional leads. Also, when people see the information appearing in places other than their inbox, it lends more credibility to the story, and increases the response rate.

Next, using standard online list building techniques as mentioned before, add access to the white papers and media files through Search Engine Optimized pages on your web site. But don’t just put them there as downloads; use the same process as with the email send. If someone is interested, and clicks on the link to get information, get their email address, and respond in the same way as someone who responded to the email promotion. Again, minimal expense for added program reach.

The side benefit, of course, is that you will significantly grow your email list with LEGITIMATE names, ones with whom you can legally continue to correspond.

Last, but not least – Measure!

Remember, “If you didn’t measure it, you didn’t do it!” (See related three part article here.) You must track how many leads and sales were developed and how much they cost. This works on two levels. First, you must know if this effort was worth the dollars spent. Most likely it will be. Next, if you use several lists from different sources, you’ll want to know which performed better. If the program works well only from one publication, it may be worth repeating, but drop the underperforming pub, or select another one. But you won’t know unless you measure. You can also see what media draws best, static (PDF or other files to be printed) or dynamic (files to view or listen to). And, you will know how much those names added to your list cost.

And though simple text emails have proven very effective for programs such as this, you may want to test an HTML version with images and graphics to see which draws better in your situation with your audience.

This is a simple program, easy to implement, has many side benefits, and will yield good results – quickly.