5 Steps to Writing Effectively

We are all called on to write in our business and personal lives. Whether the need is for a speech, formal report, casual email, or a thank you card, the ability to write effectively is important. Here are five quick tips to help you accomplish this more easily.

1. Begin with the end in mind. OK, I admit it, this one I borrowed from Michael Gerber. But only because it is the first step in everything that I do! I want to define the target…the result that I expect my effort to accomplish. That trite old saying, “if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?” is true. Whenever you communicate, begin with a clear vision of what you want to have happen. Creating a White Paper certainly has a different purpose than a press release. Always ask, “what do you want to motivate your readers to do?”

This blog is a good example. My target is business owners and sales professionals who could engage our firm to assist them in growing their business. The purpose of each specific post is to specifically address a single topic in such a way as to create a sense of confidence in our firm. The action I want to motivate our readers to is completing the opt-in box and allow us to begin a conversation with them. That is the purpose of this blog, the reports and other free strategic information we give away, really, this entire website. The end we have in mind is to begin a conversation.

2. Speak to your ideal prospect. Now that you’ve decided on the goal of your communication, visualize the one person who would represent your ideal audience. Gender? Age group? Economic echelon? Once you have a clear idea of your target, speak only to them. Don’t worry about all the other people who may be in the room or reading your report. For this specific piece of writing, at this exact time, focus just on that one person.

Tomorrow you can write to one of those other people. It is a mistake to try and speak to everyone with a single communication. Trying to do so will just make you crazy and confuse your audience.

3. Write like you talk. Forget for a moment that you are writing. Instead, visualize having a conversation with the ideal prospect you’ve identified. What would you say after the initial smile and hello? Well, that’s what you should write. Far too often authors think they need to use five words where two would do. Good writing is more like a dialogue than a monologue.

4. Baby steps. There was a funny movie a few years ago with Bill Murray as the patient, and Richard Dreyfuss as the psychiatrist. The doctor is constantly advising his obsessive-compulsive patient not to try too much at once, just “take baby steps.” That became a refrain throughout the movie, “baby steps.”

What does this have to do with your writing? Everything! Don’t try to make a specific communication do too much. You can’t go from “hello” to a signed contract with a single advertisement. We live in a time where control of the sales cycle has passed to the consumer. They can learn all about your product or service, your company, and even you without ever going to your place of business. And they will.

When you recognize this fact this you’ll rethink your communications so that each one is designed to move your prospect one “baby step” closer to you. You ad in the magazine offers a free CD. That CD directs them to a series of informative reports sent via email. Each report suggests that they could sample your product by visiting a specific page on your website. Eventually you ask for an appointment, or they seek you out personally to learn more. Don’t try to do too much with each piece…baby steps.

5. Tell the truth. Your audience is sophisticated, treat them as such. Honestly address the needs that your product or service can fill, and no more. Don’t feel like you need to have an “angle” or some cleverly worded obfuscation. Write clearly and honestly, it’s far more credible than any angle you can imagine.

Effectively communicating through your writing is a vital necessity for today’s business person. Keep practicing.