Today’s guest contributor is professional writer, blogger and digital entrepreneur, Men With Pens‘ James Chartrand. The following article was originally published on JonathanFields.com.
The words were out of my mouth before I could stop them:
“When you dress properly and look clean, people treat you better. They’ll think you’re smart. And that you come from a good family with money. They’ll be nicer and pay attention and help you more. Don’t you want that?”
After I’d spoken, I fell silent and felt guilty. What an awful, biased, discriminating thing to say – and worse, I’d said it to my six-year-old daughter.
Some role model I was, right?
But I hadn’t been thinking when blurted that out. I’d been frustrated and irritated because I needed to take my daughter to the hospital, and she’d been (loudly) refusing to brush her long, curly hair.
I don’t blame her. She’d been sick, it was tangled and it hurt.
Here’s the problem: no matter how much we wish the world to be a fair place that judges people for their inner worth and not their outer appearance… it just doesn’t work that way.
Sad, but true. Clean, well-dressed people are perceived to be more educated, skilled or experienced. And they get better treatment because of it. Disagree with me? Go stand next to a beggar and ask the first person to pass by for some help or a few dollars.
In business, things are much the same – and we know this. We dress well, have nice websites and put our best foot forward for our clients. We realize (sometimes intuitively) that our appearance directly influences our reputation, our potential, and our chances of making the sale.
We want to look capable. We want to create a good impression. We want prospects to think, “This could be the guy we’re looking for.”
Let’s take things online, shall we?
Online, there aren’t any face-to-face interviews. It’s all websites and blogs and newsletters and emails. Sure, you have some Skype calls and videos thrown into the mix, but for the most part, people learn more about you and your business through written communication.
And how you present yourself in words means everything to your success.
It starts with design. People land on your website and in seconds, decide whether it looks appealing enough for them to stick around. If they like what they see, they start to read.
And they start making all sorts of judgments about you.
They decide whether you’re smart. Whether you’re sassy or friendly. Whether you’re professionally skilled or specialized in your field. Whether you’re experienced enough for what they need. And whether you’re nice.
They haven’t met you yet. They have no clue who you are. But they make decisions and assumptions about you and your business based on how you present yourself… in writing.
That means that what you write and the way you write it directly influences people’s perceptions – and in turn, how they treat you and whether they should buy from you based on those perceptions.
If they think your home copy sounds expert, they’ll assume you’re a good choice for their project. If your “About” page sounds personable, they’ll assume you’re a nice guy. If your “Services” page is clear and concise, they’ll assume you’re on the ball.
And if your sales copy speaks to them… they’ll trust you with their money.
They don’t even know who you are. Or whether you can do what you say you can do. Or whether your product is going to work or break.
But if you write compelling, engaging words… they’ll believe you’re everything your writing conveys.
The problem is that most business owners don’t know how to write in a way that reflects the image they want to present to readers. They might write well enough, sure, but does their writing create trust, build a bond and convey the right image to pull in sales?
Very often, no.
And if you’re writing your own business content, you’ll want to think about learning better techniques. Why? The answer is simple: If your copy is awkward, if your blog post is clunky, if your newsletter is boring… you’ve lost a sale. Probably several.
You’re leaving money on the table.
That’s not something you want to do, so here are 3 tips (and a bonus!) on how can improve your copy to instantly improve your business credibility – and of course, get better results.
Focus on “you”, not “I”
When businesspeople write about their company, what it does, and why it’s a good choice, it’s tough to write using a “you” focus. But the alternative is writing “we” all over the place. “We do this, we do that, we, we, we.” That gives readers the impression your business is arrogant and doesn’t care about them much. Go through your copy now. Rewrite every “we” so that it reads “you” instead – and see the difference yourself!
Cut the fluff
Most business people are long winded, especially when it comes to writing their own web copy. They think longer sentences sound more professional. But short, easy-to-read, easy-to-understand words create a better impression – yes, even if your visitors are high-level executives. Why use 20 words when 5 will do? Cut out all the fluffy words and trim your content down so that even a teenager could read it – your bottom line will thank you, and so will your readers.
Add some spunk
Some people think that “professional writing” means informative, bland and devoid of personality – but people (and customers) much prefer seeing a more human side, even in business. So go ahead and add personality to your web copy, with little phrases that make people smile or a bit of witty prose. Not too much, though: Personality is a seasoning best used with gentle moderation.
Cut back on the catchwords
Some people use so many catchwords and trendy phrases that it’s nearly impossible to figure out what they’re talking about. (Normstorming? Sounds cool, but what the…??) Trying to be too cool with your copy ends up losing you customers who think you’re just crazy. Be clear, never clever, and make sure you use simple phrases that site visitors understand at first glance – without having to think about it for 10 minutes.
Your online success directly hinges on your content and copy. So learn the techniques. Improve your writing skills. Put every chance on your side.
Because just like my daughter’s brushed hair and clean clothes got her better treatment, your polished words and well-written content bring you better sales and business results.