About sharon

As the founder and head of TWP Marketing & Technical Communications, Sharon Bailly has more than 25 years of experience as a professional business and technical writer for large and small companies and nonprofits throughout the U.S. Her articles on writing have appeared in Minority Engineer, Women’s Business, New Hampshire Business Review and other publications, and she has presented writing workshops at business groups, nonprofit organizations and individual company sites. TWP provides accurate, exciting and focused content for websites, blogs, brochures, newsletters, success stories, user manuals, presentations and white papers both online and on paper.

Newsletters That Rock

A newsletter–published at set times every week, month, or quarter–is a great way to remind your customers, clients, donors, or volunteers that you are grateful for their patronage and have valuable expertise to share. If you want your newsletter to rock:

  • Offer original stories, not generic stories offered by your industry association or some other group. Your newsletter should highlight what your organization is doing and what you know, not information that anyone can find in exact duplicate by searching the internet.
  • But share your research. Part of being an expert in your field is passing on information that your clients, customers, donors, or volunteers don’t have time to research themselves. So if an interesting fact comes to light, write a story around it. If an interesting story grabs your attention, give your readers a link to the story.
  • Pay attention to graphics. Include photos of your staff or volunteers; photos of projects you’ve completed; before-and-after pictures; infographics; or just really cool designs. Your newsletter is part of your brand and should reflect the styles, colors, and fonts you use in your website and other publications. If design isn’t your strong point, hire a graphic designer to create a template.
  • Work on the headlines. Simple headlines are fine (“New Z-100 Barbecue Arrives August 1”) but select verbs that give them punch (“New Z-100 Barbecue Sizzles with Summer Fun”). Proofread headlines carefully; if you make an embarrassing mistake, it will occur in the bold, italicized, 20 point headline. Trust me.
  • Link to detailed information. Instead of sending out a long newsletter, provide a link to your most recent blog post, white paper, campaign, or offer. People want a quick read, not an exposition.

Worried about content? Turn to TWP Marketing & Technical Communications ; I’ll make sure that your newsletter attracts and keeps the attention of your customers issue after issue.

 

Writing the Perfect Proposal

I’ve worked on many proposals and executive summaries for industries as diverse as oil & gas and green products. I’m always impressed by the amount of information offered–and depressed by the problems.

Problems That Undermine Proposals

Two problems stand out in imperfect proposals.

The writers are so close to the product (or service) and so enthusiastic that they no longer see the proposal through the customers’ eyes. Belief in your product or service is an excellent trait and should inform any proposal. However, you yourself wouldn’t make a purchase based solely on someone else’s enthusiasms; neither will your customers. They don’t want a sales pitch; they want you to solve their problem.

Because multiple writers are assigned to a proposal, it doesn’t hang together and important information is either left out or repeated so often that it becomes annoying. Proposals take teamwork, but at some point one person should be assigned to ensure consistency, clarity, and conciseness throughout the proposal.

Characteristics of the Perfect Proposal

Your potential customer has a specific issue that you need to resolve. The perfect proposal assures the customer that you understand the problem and have a solution–one that the customer can understand quickly in easily understood terms. The perfect proposal:

  • Identifies the problem or mission of the customer.
  • Explains (in everyday words) how your particular product or service resolves the problem.
  • Focuses initially on the benefits, not the features, of the product or service.
  • Differentiates the product or service to ease the customer’s process of choosing.
  • Delivers the message clearly and efficiently, keeping overall length (including attachments and links) to a minimum.
  • Gives clear contact information, including a specific person’s name, so that the customer doesn’t have to plow through your entire company directory for someone familiar enough with the product/service to answer questions.

At TWP Marketing & Technical Communication, we have over 25 years of experience writing proposals that give customers the information they want in words that clearly differentiate the product and service while exciting the customer’s interest. We can do the same for your proposals. Contact us today.

4 Habits of Really Successful Websites

Your website is your introduction to people, and first impressions are just as important online as face-to-face. So here are the 4 habits of really successful websites:

  1. Successful websites deliver what they promise. Does the entire website follow through with the same emphasis on certain products or services–or have you changed product and service names, added or omitted some, or gone off on another tangent entirely? If you have a page with a generic name like “locations” or “industries,” have you provided more content than a simple list? Real people are reading and they want compelling copy.
  2. Successful websites solve a problem. Whatever your customer’s problem–a comfortable pair of shoes or training to operate a fractionator–you need to address it, show through videos or case studies or testimonials that you have successfully solved the problem before, and establish your credentials through awards, metrics, blog posts, articles, or insight papers.
  3. Successful websites are careful with acronyms. Technical websites are particularly apt to throw around acronyms as if everyone should automatically know what they mean. Even worse, often the website’s own search function fails to recognize the acronym, a customer’s last hope for a definition. But non-technical websites are also prone to acronym problems, especially when the company has created its own acronym for a process or program (e.g., “our ABAFIN financial program”) without ever defining it.
  4. Successful websites are kind to their readers. Successful websites get to the main point right away, use everyday language, and break up text so that the customer can scan quickly and go back, if desired, to read more. As more and more content is viewed on mobile devices, successful websites will adapt to the smaller screen by making every word and image count. That means boosting nouns and verbs, not adjectives (“wonderful,” “unique”) and adverbs. Creative is important (color, video, formatting) but clear and concise must come first.

Want to boost the success of your website? Contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications and visit NHBusinessBlog for more advice on delivering content that connects with your customers..

White Paper? Insight Paper? Which Do You Need Most?

White papers and insight papers establish your company and you as a subject matter expert.

A white paper usually summarizes current industry ideas or solutions with a view to clearing up misinformation and improving a reader’s understanding. An insight paper, on the other hand, offers a unique perspective on an industry problem, presenting alternatives to current industry thinking. The two types of papers have a few elements in common.

  • The white paper or insight paper should deliver what it promises. The introduction should always be written last and the conclusion should always summarize the content–all ideas in the introduction and conclusion should be covered in the body of the paper.
  • The big insights should be easy to find, preferably in subheadings or bullet points. Your readers won’t go hunting for the main points in your white paper or insight paper. .
  • The connection to the reader should be clear (“you”) and positive. Most companies know if they have a problem; they are looking for solutions.
  • Examples should be real world and based on actual experience. Interviews are a great way to establish real world expertise.
  • Links to other research and background data are excellent–but the links should actually work. Make sure readers can access the papers or articles you cite and be careful about linking to so many outside sites that readers lose the thread of your own argument.
  • The paper should end with a call-to-action. The call could consist of a summary of the services the company offers or a form for requesting more data or a give-away in exchange for contact information.

As a professional writer and editor, I have decades of experience researching and writing white papers and insight papers for a broad range of industries. Let me know how I can help you can establish yourself or your company as a subject matter expert.

4 Marketing Tips for Manufacturers

Some marketing sites will urge manufacturers to use phrases like “state of the art” and “precision engineered” in their marketing copy. Unfortunately, no one searching for manufactured products or manufacturing services ever searches on “state of the art” or “precision engineered” or any other vague term: they search for what they want, whether that’s a Phillips head screwdriver or an industrial generator.

Here are 4 marketing tips for manufacturers that actually work:

  1. Use Long Tail Keywords. These are search terms that are very precise and usually several words long (for example, “150 watt portable generator”). Long tail keywords in your marketing copy attract people who are actively looking for what you are selling–and are well on their way to becoming buyers.
  2. Keep Your Website and Social Media Active. The more reasons you create for people to click onto your site, the better. But if your website has become stagnant, without new blog posts, videos,news releases, or case studies, you have nothing to link to with your social media posts and your customers have no reason to return. According to one survey, 82% of manufacturing marketers attribute more content creation for an increase in success over last year.
  3. Write in Clear Language Focused on the Customer. Yes, your customers may be experts in their field but they aren’t experts in your field; that’s why they are coming to you for what they need. If your just-in-time, flexible manufacturing system is worth boasting about, let customers know how it helps them. Define acronyms, even if you believe everyone knows them, and do not ever invent your own jargon (“advanced processing system application scenario”).
  4. Use photos and video liberally. The Content Marketing Institute discovered in its 2018 survey that the top three successful content marketing approaches were social media, email newsletters, and video. Post videos showing your manufacturing processes, use or maintenance of your product, or your equipment working at a customer’s site, to create an instant connection to potential customers.

If you have trouble finding the time and resources to create content–whether for website, newsletter,  videos, or social media posts–you may want to hire a freelance writer with experience writing for both international and local manufacturers, including manufacturers of medical equipment, borewelders, and cables. TWP Marketing & Technical Communications is ready to help.

For a Long Life, Read This…

If you want your customers to live a long life, give them something to read. A recent article in AARP’s Bulletin states that book readers have a 20% lower chance of dying than nonreaders, according to a study of over 3,600 adults.

Good writing makes for good reading, and evidently good reading makes for good living.

Blog posts, success stories, and Q&As fall easily into the “good reading” category. People love hearing about others in their same situation, and they appreciate answers to their questions about your products and services. Even a short injection of information–like my Friday #writingtips–can engage customers and, who knew?, keep them healthy.

If you have problems organizing writing resources, consider hiring a freelance writer like me to take over the writing duties for you. Afraid that I can’t possibly understand and represent your business as well as you do? Keep in mind that:

  • A professional freelance writer is your partner, not your replacement. I will work with you to make sure that everything I write has the tone, direction, and format that works best for you and your business.
  • A professional freelance writer has years of experience partnering with many different businesses, some exactly like your own. My current client roster includes manufacturers, educators, executive coaches, resume writers, and healthcare professionals. In the past, I’ve worked with many other companies, including nonprofits, banks, and clinical research organizations.
  • A professional freelance writer is passionate about communicating. That means I’ll make every effort to ensure that my words not only clearly represent what you want to say but resonate with the customers you want to reach.
  • A professional freelance writer reads and researches. If reading extends a life by 20%, I’ve earned my 20% over and over. If you run out of ideas, I will research new ones; if your customers raise questions, I’ll research answers; and if your competitors seem to have closed all the doors to interesting content, I’ll open new doors.

Contact me today at write [at] twriteplus.com and let’s get started on your writing project.

Blogs: Finding the Ideas You Didn’t Think You Had

What will I write in my blog today, this week, this month? That question can freeze anyone, preventing them from ever beginning.If you are ready to write about insights from your business or career on LinkedIn or other social media, then you need content. You need to find the ideas you didn’t think you had.

Let’s say you sell security devices, specifically locks for both home and commercial customers. Your first blog post explains what you do. But then what? Here are ten ideas for writing new blog posts:

  1. Separate and compare. Write separate blogs on home locks and on commercial locks and explain the ways each type of lock is different (or the same)–maybe they are different because the doors, quality, amount of use, or styles are different. Each difference could itself become a separate blog post.
  2. Delve into the choices. We’ve now established that home locks have certain characteristics. What choices do those characteristics create and why would a homeowner choose one over the other? Ask the same question about commercial locks in another blog post.
  3. Describe how it works. What are the mechanics of locks? What makes a lock more or less likely to fail or be picked? What is the difference between locks that use keypads and those that use physical keys?
  4. Explain the evolution. Why did home locks end up looking/working the way they do? Why do commercial locks look/work the way the do? What decisions were made long ago that affect purchases today.
  5. Explain the trends. Is artificial intelligence affecting the way people secure their doors? Are new types of materials used to build doors or buildings affecting the materials for locks?
  6. Consider the worst. What happens if someone locks themselves out of or into a room or building?  What is the correct response? What if a lock fails? Can and should locks be repaired?
  7. Enjoy the history. What types of locks were used on dungeons? Is Ali Baba’s “Open Sesame” the first Alexa-type lock? Where did the concept come from of a locked heart opening with a key?
  8. Interview a customer. Ask a customer: why they decided on a better/bigger/different lock; how did they choose their first lock; why did they come to your business for a lock; what do they want the lock to accomplish? Create a Q&A using a “virtual” customer to ask the questions customers should be asking.
  9. Provide 10 reasons. Rank locks from best to worst for certain tasks. List the reasons why someone should consider a new or different type of lock. List the top factors that contribute to lock failure and how to avoid them.
  10. Describe how to prepare for a buy. What information will a lock salesperson need about the home or business and how should the home or business owner decide whether to buy a lock from that salesperson or another?

These ten ways of finding ideas for a blog all involve sifting through information you already have but may not have realized your customers need. The ideas root deeper and deeper into very basic questions: what are locks, how are they used, and how do I know what lock to buy? But if you begin and end your posts by answering only those three questions, you are doing a disservice to yourself and your customers.

You can apply these ten categories of ideas to any business to create a year’s worth of blog posts. If you are having trouble finding ideas and writing an ongoing blog, please contact me through LinkedIn or at write at twriteplus.com.

We All Write

In the age of smart phones, instant messaging, tweets, Instagrams, and LinkedIn, we are so used to reaching for a keyboard that we have forgotten one essential fact: all those words equal writing. We all write.

Whether we call it posting, blogging, tweeting, emailing, or “content,” it is still writing.

The Comic Results of Bad Writing

We can write some pretty embarrassing things if we aren’t careful. We can write a website that boasts: “Our corporal version conspire our mangers and compliments they’re strengths.” That sentence makes it past Word’s electronic spelling and grammar checker–in fact, the grammar checker is at fault for changing “conspires” to “conspire.”

In any case, the sentence is filled with errors. What it should say is: “Our corporate vision inspires our managers and complements their strengths.”

When we treat writing as no more than a byproduct of hitting keys, we undermine our own message and credibility. If something is worth saying, it’s worth saying correctly, clearly, and with conviction.

The Benefits of Good Writing

Customers deserve clarity, and businesses benefit from it. When your customers must work to understand your message, they quickly give up. That means your customers don’t find the solutions they need, and you don’t capture their interest.

We all write. My advantage is that I have over 20 years of experience making sure that every word I write counts. I aim to deliver a clear, concise, accurate, and passionate message that customers grasp quickly.

I never assume that every word emerging from my keyboard is perfect. I partner with my clients and work hard to ensure that the resulting message delivers exactly what business owners (and their customers) need.

Conclusion

Writing is important. For me, good writing is a passion. Let TWP Marketing & Technical Communications create website pages, blog posts, articles, case studies, and insight papers that enlighten and motivate your customers and raise your image as a subject matter expert. Contact me today at write at twriteplus.com.

5 Very Avoidable Writing Mistakes

In the course of 20+ years as a professional freelance writer, I have come across some writing mistakes so frequently that they begin to feel inevitable. They aren’t. The following are 5 very avoidable writing mistakes:

  1. Utilizing the word “utilize.” Honestly, “use” is a perfectly accurate word that means exactly the same thing and lets the reader get to the heart of your message two whole syllables faster. Most readers spend 10 seconds to figure out if they want to read further; why eat up those 10 seconds with a word like “utilize”?
  2. Not editing quotes for good English. You never want to change what an interviewer has clearly stated. But you don’t want to embarrass them by quoting grammatically incorrect English like “we are prepared of joining” when the interviewee clearly meant “we are prepared to join.”
  3. Ignoring punctuation. Inconsistent, missing, or grammatically incorrect punctuation forces readers to track back over your sentence to make sure they understood what you meant. Bad punctuation equals sloppy writing.
  4. Redundancies. You cannot have “very capable manufacturing capabilities” or “successful initiatives for success” because those phrases are redundant. It is easy to latch on to a word like capabilities or success and then overuse it in statement after statement. But each use bulks up your message without adding content.
  5. Vagaries. This writing mistake often appears together with redundancies. What does “capable” mean in your industry? What does “success” look like? How “precise” is your precision and how “speedy” is your speedy delivery? The more specific you are, the more you differentiate yourself from the competition–who are making the same vague claims.

How a Professional Freelance Writer Can Help

As a professional freelance writer, I am alert to avoidable writing mistakes that seem to crop up over and over again. Some are due to unfamiliarity with English; others are bad habits acquired over time; others are attempts to sound profound that simply backfire; and still others stem from confusion over what is and is not permissible.

My one and only passion is  writing clear, concise, accurate, and interesting content. If you are concerned about avoidable writing mistakes in your marketing or technical materials, please contact me today at write at twriteplus.com.

Breaking Up Is Easy to Do: Six Ways to Make Writing Less Boring

If the person in front of you talks in a monotone, never pauses for comment, and drones on and on and on….you are talking to a bore. Unfortunately, writing can easily become boring if it, too, consists of great blocks of uninterrupted words. And you know what people do when they see bores and boredom looming: they run.

Here are six ways to break up your message, make your writing less boring, and keep your readers reading.

  1. Numbered lists. People love articles of advice that begin with “Five Ways to…” and they appreciate instructions that clearly show them “Step 1….Step 2….” and so on. Numbered lists reveal right away how much text a reader will have to read. They also provide logical breaking points (say, between Step 8 and Step 9), if the reader needs a moment’s pause.
  2. Bullets.  If you have a list that doesn’t lend itself to numbers, try bullets. Bullets are the first choice, for example, in listing accomplishments in a resume or LinkedIn profile. Be careful not to create overlong bullets that are still simply great blocks of text. Also be careful about consistency. When you change bullets too often, they come across as sloppy; and you confuse the reader about each bullet’s importance.
  3. Headings. Headings and subheadings are an easy way to break up your message and guide a reader from one important topic to another. They also give readers a chance to pause before absorbing more information. Make sure that you keep your headings or subheadings to 2 or 3 levels at most. If you find yourself creating a level 4 subheading, you are probably overdue for a new main heading.
  4. Bolding/Italics. Bolding and italics immediately direct a reader to important information, and the emphasized words serve as an instant summary. However, emphasis can also be overdone. The general rule of thumb is: The more methods used to emphasize text (bold, italic, underline, small cap, and so on), the less power any of them have.
  5. Short Paragraphs. Limit your paragraphs to 4 or 5 sentences and each sentence to no more than (and preferably less than) 30 words. When you join short paragraphs to any of the other suggestions above, you let your readers feel that reading your content will be easy and enjoyable, as opposed to overwhelming and boring.
  6. Graphic Design. I love professional graphic designers. With a change in font size, the positioning of a photo or video, or any number of other graphic techniques, they draw a reader’s attention and hold it. Graphics allow the reader’s eye to rest from reading and may decrease the need for a lot of explanatory text. One warning: the magic professional graphic designers perform often becomes design overload in amateur hands.

Do you need help to break up your message and make your writing less boring? When clear and interesting communication is important to you and your customers, contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications.