Ben Kulakofsky

Can Bad Writing Kill New Business Opportunities?

by Ben Kulakofsky

How much money does your company lose when a client churns? How much do you lose from an investment that doesn’t pay off? These are expenses that are easily tracked and quantified, but they’re also the tip of the iceberg when it comes to lost business.

One major driver of lost revenue that few companies take into account is poor writing.

One researcher estimates that poor writing costs American businesses $400 billion each year. Consider now the main goal of companies around the globe: bringing in new business. Whether your prospects simply view you as less professional than the competition due to a misspelled word, or you don’t adequately communicate the value they gain in buying your product, bad writing could very well be killing your new business opportunities.

So what are you going to do about that? We all have targets, and you certainly want to hit yours. The best way to start eliminating the damage done to your new business from bad writing is learning about some of the most common mistakes and how to fix them.

 

Common writing mistakes that can kill new business opportunities

Of course, we could fill a book with the mistakes writers make and how these can affect your business. Fortunately, there are a few major spots where businesses commonly fall short. If you learn to recognize these mistakes (and fix them) in your own writing, you’ll make great strides toward increasing the amount of new business you close.

 

Mistake number 1: Not leading with your value

There’s a term that was originally associated with journalism: “burying the lede.” It refers to a story that fails to emphasize the most important information up front.

Leading with value

This is just as relevant in copywriting as it is in journalism, probably even more so. Whether it’s your website copy, your blog, or a sales email, your readers don’t have an infinite attention span. In all likelihood, you have a very short time to hook them and move them toward your call to action.

If you don’t give readers a good reason to buy your product, or at least engage with your brand immediately, expect them to churn.

Furthermore, what you see as a reason for them to keep reading might not line up with their reasoning. Your clever wordplay or fascinating industry statistics may not actually help demonstrate the value in your product or service.

Unlike with some marketing materials, value, in this case, doesn’t mean thought leadership. It means the reason why someone would want to invest money in your product, be it some ultimate savings for them, improved efficiency, or something else altogether. With that value buried in your copy, it’s likely that many readers won’t perceive it at all. And if they don’t perceive your value, you can expect to lose their business.

Fix number 1:

A little editing goes a long way. First drafts of anything, from white papers all the way down to emails, are often just a way for you to fully formulate your thoughts. Once those thoughts are on paper, it’s necessary to extract and emphasize the most important information. This is true in every type of writing, so don’t think that you’re exempt because you’re working on something shorter.

Always read over your work, asking yourself what the value is and how quickly a reader can see that value. Then ask yourself if that’s the value that will drive someone’s deeper engagement or conversion. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that — you just need to make sure to always include that step.

Of course, it also helps if you understand the most important values associated with your product or service. These will vary a bit based on use case and the persona who you’re addressing, but you should be somewhat aware of this variety already.

If you work in sales and marketing it’s unlikely that you don’t already know about what value you bring to customers. However, if you haven’t already written this down and your company doesn’t have a style guide, this step could help you immensely. Make sure to use succinct and precise terms to communicate your value as clearly as possible. Once you have your values written down, go ahead and share them with the rest of your organization to help amplify them.

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Mistake number 2: Not improving your content over time

No matter how well you plan and identify your values, it’s impossible to know how an email or piece of content will perform until you’ve put it out into the world.

Getting better over time

Everyone on your team may agree that the proposal you’re sending to a prospect is perfect, but you can only guess how it affected the final outcome of the deal unless the prospect explicitly tells you. Does this sound efficient to you?

How can you grow more successful over time without understanding how to make your sales and marketing materials stronger?

The second mistake we’ll address is doing nothing to measure and improve your copy over time.

Of course, many of you will recognize that this is sometimes easier said than done. The effects of writing aren’t easily measured, which is why this blog post exists in the first place. However, our mission at Instant Magazine is to make your content work for you. To that end, we’ve identified some ways to measure and improve your writing. We even added features to our platform for the express purpose of making this process easier.

Fix number 2:

Think about the format in which you’ve sent out communications in the past. A lot of your sales and marketing materials exist as PDFs or Word files. You can see how many people open an email containing these files, and you can even see how many people download them if they’re hosted on your website. Unfortunately, that’s all the knowledge you have.

Now, consider how in depth you can get with your website’s analytics, thanks to Google Analytics. Bounce rates, event tracking, and more give you a practically unlimited ability to optimize for performance. What if you could do this with your sales and marketing materials?

We can’t help shamelessly plugging Instant Magazine here because, well, we don’t know of anyone else who offers that ability. Content created in Instant Magazine — regardless of whether it’s a proposal, a brochure, or something else — comes with its own reporting dashboard, plus all the power of Google Analytics if you embed a UA code.

Here’s why that matters.

When you send out a piece of writing in Instant Magazine, you can gather intelligence about how long people spend reading, see heat maps of where they clicked, examine bounce rates and exits rates per page, and much more.

This means you can identify most successful parts of your content and amplify them in the future. In addition, you can test new copy when your content is less successful and actually know if your improvements make a difference.

 

Mistake number 3: Writing for the wrong persona

If you’re a marketer, you’re probably familiar with the concept of personas. If you work in sales, internal communications, or another profession, you might not be aware of this. However, it’s relevant and useful for anyone who writes a lot in their job.

Choosing the right persona

A persona is a semi-fictional person you create to represent your ideal customer. They have characteristics that relate to job duties, such as day-to-day challenges and goals. They also have personality traits that represent people who may do that job, such as age and economic status. A company will likely have multiple personas that it targets because there are different groups of people who use the product.

Addressing the wrong persona, or not considering a persona at all, in a piece of writing can be a fatal mistake. Of the values you define, like we discussed earlier, different ones will be more relevant to different personas. Personas will also respond to different writing styles, content types, and they will even get their content from different sources.

If you don’t write with personas in mind, you risk potential readers not seeing your content, not finding it valuable, or at worst, actively being turned off by what you’ve written.

The wrong voice for the persona you’re targeting communicates more about your brand than you know, and using an irrelevant content type or promoting your writing in the wrong place both cut you off from a large portion of your audience.

Fix number 3:

We’ve written extensively at Instant Magazine about how to target personas. Our recent blog post, which you can read here, is a great resource for understanding them. We even offer a free template to help you create personas.

 

Bonus: Enhancing your writing with strong visuals

The more you practice and pay attention to what’s successful in your writing, the stronger of a writer you’ll become. In turn, you’ll wind up saving more of your new business.

The tips presented here should already start making you more conscious of how to present your writing in a way that builds new business opportunities instead of turning them away. In addition to what’s been presented here, another tip that’s close to our hearts is making sure your writing is always complemented with powerful and helpful imagery.

Of course, there are some places where visuals can be less appropriate, such as sales emails, but a lot of your writing can be enhanced with the right design and photography.

If you have a designer on your team, it’s easy to work with them to develop visuals. Otherwise, Instant Magazine empowers anyone to quickly create visually stunning content, even without a design background.

If you’re wondering how visuals could enhance your writing, our staff is always available to discuss your projects and strategy.

 

Conclusion

Because writing is something almost everyone does from time to time, even in a very short format, it can be an afterthought. Businesses sometimes don’t keep tight control over what is sent out under their name. That costs them lots of money, especially in the potential new business that’s lost.

The tips here should get you thinking about the value you’re conveying and the people to whom you are speaking with your writing. Of course, there is plenty of room to grow further as a writer, but making these considerations is an invaluable starting point.

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Ben Kulakofsky
Ben Kulakofsky is a content writer for Instant Magazine. His past work has been featured in the Guardian and Al Jazeera. When not buried in his notebook, Ben can be found catching midnight showings of his favorite classic horror movies.



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