THE INC. LIFE

6 Writing Hacks Entrepreneurs Should Try

In this day and age where content is king, writing becomes all the more crucial for your business

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BY Melissa G. Bagamasbad - 05 Jun 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Some entrepreneurs might have the mindset that being heads of their enterprises, writing is not one of the tasks they should directly concern themselves with. But writing is part of everyday life and is a necessary tool for professionals in order to communicate effectively. “You are not excused from responding to an inquiry or sending a follow-up e-mail,” says writer, marketer, and resource speaker Jonah Chipeco in her article, “Three Reasons Your Business Needs to Write.” “If you have poor grammar or writing issues, it will dampen your confidence in communicating with your team and reaching out to clients. If you think you need to improve in basic business writing, give it some attention. Your staff can’t always write for you.”

Ken Lerona, board member of the PR Society of the Philippines, says it’s important for founders to be able to tell their own business story. “Founders know the story and purpose more than anybody else,” he says. “It’s important that they know how to communicate these to their customers and possible investors.” Lerona also says that “a good business story” cannot wait to be told. “Business owners who are equipped with writing skills can readily write a post, a blog, or a long note about these ahead of the competition,” he says.

Here are some tips on how entrepreneurs can up their writing skills:

1. Get to know your audience

This is especially important for entrepreneurs. Lerona says it’s important to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. “Understand what they need and study their language,” he says. “The key to connecting to your audience is by using the language that they use.”

Asim Haneef, founder of Manila-based start-up PaidUp, does the writing for his enterprise. He agrees that one has to see things from the customers’ viewpoint. “To be honest, they can take a step back from the nitty-gritty of their details and think about their product or service from the point-of-view of an average customer—that will help them to think about how they should be writing, communicating, and demonstrating their service to others—it can even be a healthy exercise for every founder, so that they can see things from a wide range of different perspectives.”

Chipeco adds, “Whether it’s a proposal, company profile, or social media post, understanding the background of your reader will help determine what to say and how to say it. For example, the language and choice of words you will use when writing to a college student is different when communicating with a business executive.”

2. Be simple and concise

Lerona says he has observed enterprises in Southeast Asia that use too much jargon in their copy. “Avoid jargon. Write in plain and simple language. Write as if you are talking to your audience face-to-face,” says Lerona.

Chipeco adds, “Wordy files and long documents repel the reader’s attention unless it’s a blog article and you need to drive traffic through search engines. For a business copy, shorter sentences are more powerful. Remove unnecessary words. Limit your choices to three when making an offer. You are also allowed to write in bullets.”

3. Be as visual and experiential as possible

For Lerona, describing products, services, or solutions as if the audience is experiencing them is crucial. “There is no point in being too technical when your audience cannot see how useful your product is to their own lives,” he says. “Answer their pressing question which is: ‘What’s in it for me?’”

4. Articulate your purpose

Chipeco says it’s important to have a call to action. “Giving information about your services is different from influencing a prospect customer to buy,” she says. “Make sure you know what action you’d like your audience to make after reading your content…choose to highlight product benefits and testimonials instead if you want to drive sales. Nonetheless, always add a call to action.”

5. Personalize business correspondence

Customizing your emails adds warmth and shows that you truly thought of the person you’re writing them to. Businesses need to customize sales letters considering they have multiple audiences, further explains Chipeco. “When I ask for sample templates, companies will show me only one communication used for prospective customers across all industries,” she says. “How you pitch an app development service to a retail owner is different from the needs of an event manager. It will be more effective to highlight a different service or present a more relevant user testimonial depending on your audience. Similarly, I receive proposals from abroad without them writing my name on the heading or mentioning something they know about me. A touch of customization and compliment can add some warmth to cold emails.”

Lerona has the same observations. “Avoid being cold by using writing a style that’s canned and generic,” he says. “Personalize your language. Be a human talking to a fellow human.”

6. Read, read, read

Lerona says one cannot write if they don’t read. “Read, read, and read,” he says. “Good writing starts with good reading. Study how professionals write. This will give you a good benchmark on how you will form your ideas and put together the right ideas.”

For resources on writing, Lerona recommends Harvard Business Review Guide to Business Writing by Bryan Garner and Copywriting Handbook by Adweek.