New Business Owners: Writing for Your Customer

New business owners often struggle to understand who their customers are and what those customers want. As a result, the business owners tend to focus their marketing content on what they can do, rather than what customers need.

This “we can do it” approach relies on the customers to identify the solution to their problem and then locate a business that offers that solution. Unfortunately, most customers are not only in the dark about the solution they need, they are barely aware of the ramifications of the problem.

A customer decides, “I need someone to paint my house” and looks for a painter who is nearby and cheap. The customer doesn’t consider, “I need someone who understands that paint may be masking structural problems and that fixing those problems is a priority or the house will need repainting again in just a year or two.”

The difference in those two lines of thought equals a major difference in a business owner’s approach to marketing. Are you competing with the zillion other businesses who offer the same laundry list of services and who are nearby and cheap? Or are you different from those competitors, someone who understands the customer’s problem and looks out for the customer’s best interests? Are you someone who always reaches into the same grab-bag of solutions or do you tailor your approach based on your long-term concern for the customer?

Even online retail stores, with no brick-and-mortar customer contact, thrive best when their website narrows down a customer’s preferences and concerns. That ability to customize your offering to your customer–to create a relationship with the customer–is even more important when you do have customer contact. You never want to sacrifice that relationship because you have a limited understanding of who your customer is and what that customer needs.

If you are a new business owner who needs help identifying your customer and writing focused, appealing content, contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications.

 

Four Truths about Testimonials

The first truth about testimonials is that one great testimonial from a customer is worth 10,000 of your own words. You can tell people and tell them about your fantastic products and services; but a single testimonial has the power to convince them.

The second truth about testimonials is that great testimonials (specific, accurate, positive, believable) don’t simply fall into your lap. You must ask for them, and sometimes you have to interview people to elicit great testimonials. A dozen “great jobs!” have less pizzazz than one testimonial that describes exactly what you did to cause that enthusiastic response and why your company turned out to be the perfect choice.

The third truth is that no one speaks or writes grammatical and clear English all the time. You owe it to the people who give you testimonials to make sure that they come across as well as you do. Before you post their testimonial, fix any small grammatical or spelling problems. If they said or wrote something that makes no sense, either leave it out or ask their approval for an alternative. You should never change a testimonial except to fix mistakes in grammar, spelling or logic; but you should fix the mistakes.

The fourth truth is that testimonials have more than one use. They might expand into a case study or a white paper. They add sparkle to brochures as well as websites. They may inspire a blog post. Let great testimonials work for you and work hard.

In one of my earlier blog posts, I described how to elicit testimonials from customers and explained that some customers may feel inhibited about speaking to a business owner directly. Also some business owners may feel reluctant to ask for praise. Shyness on either side prevents great testimonials from happening. TWP Marketing & Technical Communications has helped companies in service, construction, manufacturing, IT and many other industries ask for and receive the great testimonials they deserve. Contact us today.

Writing for Customers: Concise Versus Clear

I’ve never bought a product or service because the salesperson wouldn’t shut up. Well, there was this car dealer once…

But here’s my point: in their marketing collateral, in print and online, many businesses try to make a sale by “outtalking” their customers. They are desperate for customers to read their entire message. So they pack information into a single long phrase or sentence, whether or not it makes sense.

One company’s website stated: “We provide power delivery concept selection support.” The phrase “power delivery concept selection support” could mean almost anything. A rewrite makes the company’s actual service clear: “We help large factories decide on the most efficient and economical method for generating power.” True, the rewrite takes eight more words. But those eight words are the difference between “outtalking” a customer and communicating, the difference between being concise and being clear.

In the same way, one long sentence demands more of the customer’s time and effort than two short sentences. Take this example from another website: “Customers can replace their existing multiple systems used to perform budgeting, reporting, billing and forecasting functions for tracking different products from different suppliers with one fully integrated system.” Now, here’s the rewrite: “Our system tracks every product you purchase from every supplier. It handles all of your separate budgeting, reporting, billing and forecasting functions—replacing multiple systems with one fully integrated system.” The rewrite is just a little less concise–it adds two words–but it is a lot clearer.

Customers are reading your brochure, website or other marketing collateral to find out about your company, product or service. So you want to make their learning curve easy. Your first duty is to write clearly. Then you can worry about being concise.

You might set yourself this task. Hunt through your copy for more than two nouns in a row and for any sentence longer than 18 words. Then rewrite. The results will amaze you. Your content will gain energy, interest, power and clarity. At TWP Marketing & Technical Communications, we’ve helped many companies move from outtalking customers to truly communicating. Let us help you.

Interviewing Your Customers: The Power of the Story

If you are waiting in vain for your customers to provide a testimonial or thank you letter, you might want to try interviewing them instead. 

Unlike a customer-written testimonial or letter, an interview offers several advantages. You can clarify what the customer means by a comment and ask for the details that set their experience and your company apart from the competition. While it is nice to hear “great job!”, details make a more compelling testimonial, one that inspires potential customers to call you.

With an interview, you gain enough insight to write a success story that captures the attention of customers who recognize themselves in the story. Few marketing tools are as powerful as a good story. If you listen closely to what the customer is saying (instead of focusing on what you want the customer to say), you may gain a new perspective on the value of your products and services.

As a professional writer, research and interviewer, I enjoy interviewing my client’s customers. A freelance interviewer has the freedom to ask questions that a company owner or employee can’t ask or hasn’t considered. Customers feel more relaxed about offering feedback. In one case, a customer’s comments led to an entire new marketing area for a company, which hadn’t realized all the benefits their product brought to that customer. In another case, a customer’s comments enabled a company to address the customer’s concerns before the customer wrote a poor review.

In 20 minutes with a professional interviewer, a customer will provide strong testimonials that can be used online and in print in websites, blogs, brochures, articles, success stories and press releases. I have been interviewing customers for large and small companies for more than 15 years. Contact me today to add the power of the story to your marketing plan.