Learn to Communicate Effectively, or Watch Your Business Wither and Die

Not everyone is cut out to be a writer.

Some people are simply terrified of a blank page (or today’s equivalent, the blank monitor screen). Others are happy to start tapping away at a keyboard, only to churn out mangled, contorted, and unreadable prose. Still, others couldn’t find the right punctuation mark if it would save their lives, never learned the differences between verb tenses, or see no real difference between formal writing and the casual style of text messages.

You know what? A lot of these people have become tremendously successful in business and life because they are amazingly good at interpersonal contact. The spoken word—complemented with a handshake or a warm smile—is their domain.

And that’s okay. Not everyone has the same set of skills. Indeed, not everyone has the ability to acquire all the skills they may want. When we’re talking about business marketing, however, a huge barrier arises when the person responsible for communicating your business messages cannot do so effectively. It’s not just a bump in the road—it’s a force-field, keeping you away from success.

Why Mastery of the Written Word Is Essential for Marketing Your Business

By now, you should be clued into Foster Web Marketing’s “trick” for business success: by generously pouring information into the eager hands of potential clients, patients, or customers, you will win their gratitude and attention. You demonstrate that you are so rich in knowledge that you can afford to share your wealth freely, like a king marching through his city tossing silver coins to the commoners.

Of course, that sort of approach too easily slips into contempt. One way to avoid making a bad impression: make sure your website content writing is grounded in sincere concern for your reader’s needs. Customer-centered writing reinforces your position as a mediator between the client’s world and the complex technical world of medicine, the law, or business. Writing well not only informs the reader, it also humanizes you.

And yet there is a cost. The closer your image is bound to the quality of your writing, the greater the penalty for sloppy work. Disorganization, sloppy grammar, misspelled words, or careless diction will be punished by readers fleeing your website to check out your competition. As Forbes contributor Jayson DeMers has noted, “While typos are common and generally forgiven on personal social media accounts, emails, or blogs, brands and corporate or professional accounts are generally held to a higher standard. And after all, many people tend to judge others by their spelling and grammar quite harshly—a behavioral pattern that will definitely affect their perception of the brand or company whose presence that you are responsible for maintaining.”

Some people hope that online video might provide a cushioning effect. After all, we don’t expect the same rigor in grammar and usage when talking face-to-face with friends; perhaps Internet video may be a more forgiving medium for marketing. Alas, video isn’t quite up to the job. While we certainly support video marketing, it’s not able to support the level of detail we need for an information-rich outreach to customers. A one-minute video clip can show you to be a kind and trustworthy person, but it can’t provide the depth of a 300-word blog post.

Is It Time to Blame the Messenger?

When it comes to your website, unprofessional work simply cannot be tolerated. You may never have a chance to fix a bad first impression, because some readers will immediately abandon your poorly written website.

More thoughtful readers will recognize that everyone makes mistakes on occasion, and they may overlook the first error or two. But about the time they reach the third grammatical howler, they will think, “Hmm. These people have had unlimited time to correct the mistakes that slipped through the proofreading process. And yet the errors remain uncorrected. They must not care about the impression they’re making, after all.” And—poof!—you’ve lost your last best customer.

Probably the most extreme solution for this problem is the one offered by Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, in the Harvard Business Review. Mr. Wiens makes a grammar test part of his hiring process for all positions, “including our salespeople, our operations staff, and our programmers.” Furthermore, he says, “if job hopefuls can’t distinguish between ‘to’ and ‘too,’ their applications go into the bin.” Mr. Wiens explains that employees with good grammar skills show they can pay attention to details, a skill that spills over into all other aspects of their work.

Now, we’re not going to recommend you begin a testing regimen for current and prospective employees. Except in one case: if the person who has been writing your web content cannot do so grammatically and lucidly, then that job must go to someone else. Yes, even if you have been the primary writer, you will have to ease yourself out of that role if you cannot do it well.

Skills for Sale, Skills on Loan…If You’ve No Skills to Call Your Own

Getting a new writer for your web content isn’t always easy, but it’s not the Labors of Hercules, either.

While you can begin the search for a new writer by assessing your current employees, you need to be pragmatic: most of your workforce is already fully committed to essential job responsibilities already. Will your best writer be able to produce a varied selection of web content pieces while still doing her primary job? If not, then where do you need her skills the most?

Some companies have succeeded by hiring part-time assistants to write web content. College students, retired workers (especially those who have recently retired from your company), and stay-at-home parents may be ideal writers for your needs. Some businesses have managed to move their regular web content proofreader into a writing position with no difficulty.

Of course, Foster Web Marketing provides comprehensive website content writing, editing, and book production services. But we also stand behind companies that take on the challenge of do-it-yourself writing. Today, we encourage our readers to use the comments section on this page to tell us how they found the right writer for their business—or to share their stories about making their writing the best it can be.

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