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.

Flexing Your Word Power–with a Little Bit of Help from TWP

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog on finding and building your brand in which I asked you to consider three questions. Today, I’d like to answer those questions for TWP Marketing & Technical Communications.

Why Do I Do What I Do?

Aside from the fact that I love to write–I used to scrawl stories on paper before I even knew the alphabet–I consider communication one of the most essential human activities. How does anyone know, support, help, share with, or advise anyone without communicating in some form? Yes, communication can be used to destroy–we know that all too well–but the only way to restore balance in that case is to speak up or, in my case, write. Words are powerful, I respect their power, and I want people to find what they are looking for with their words, whether snow blowers or peace.

What Do My Customers Gain by Working With Me?

They gain an experienced perspective outside of their own and attuned to their customers–I am the consummate customer in my role as a writer. They gain an honest advocate for their products or services. They gain more than they bargained for, as I always pour 150% into each project; writing gives me too much pleasure to skimp on it. They gain clear, concise, accurate content that communicates their passion for what they do from someone who can draw on 20+ years of experience writing for every industry and field you can think of. With the possible exceptions of cat burglary and politics.

If I Didn’t Provide This Service What Would My Customers Do?

They’d muddle along. They might not communicate clearly or concisely or even accurately, but communication is such a strong human need that they would charge ahead anyway. They might agonize over commas versus semicolons, looming deadlines, inconsistent content, and how to say what they want to say. They might produce copy with misplaced apostrophes, wrong (and sometimes baffling) word choices, proofreading errors, and incredibly convoluted and impenetrable sentences. Yet, they still deserve credit because they tried to communicate–and communication is the most important thing.

From our base in Peterborough, NH, TWP Marketing & Technical Communications writes marketing copy that engages your customers and delivers your message with accuracy, clarity, and passion.

8 Better Ways to Talk Tech

A while ago, a LinkedIn user complained about his frustration in explaining technology to nontechnical people. His customers became resentful, bored, and impatient with the very information they asked for. When you feel the urge to talk tech to a non-technical audience–whether in print, online, or in person–try one of these approaches first:

  • Listen. Why is that particular audience seeking you out for this particular technology? What is their problem or need? What do they expect?
  • Accept your role. Your audience has turned to you because of your expertise. Therefore, you do not need to baffle them with technology. They know they don’t know as much as you.
  • Accept their role. Consider this: when you consult your physician, you want answers, not a medical education. When your audience consults you, they also want answers, not a degree in engineering, robotics, quantum computing, or biochemistry.
  • Define the problem. Make sure you are talking about the same problem. Your audience may have diagnosed the wrong problem; they may have the right problem but misguided expectations; or they may not realize they have a problem.
  • Concentrate on benefits. How does your technology solve the problem and benefit them?
  • Use analogies. When possible, compare your technology to something nontechnical and within the experience of your audience. For a great example of how analogy makes it easy to talk tech, see this article in Cosmos about quantum physics.
  • Use pictures. People understand diagrams, photographs, simulations, and tables where words confuse them.
  • Use stories. Everyone loves a good story. Case studies, testimonials, videos, and insight papers bring people along in part because they provide context and in part because they appeal to the story-loving heart of us.

If you struggle to translate technical information into everyday language, please contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications. I have 20+ years of experience writing and editing website content, insight papers, blog posts, articles, proposals, and manuals that bring customers and technology together.

From our base in Peterborough, NH, TWP Marketing & Technical Communications writes marketing copy that engages your customers and delivers your message with accuracy, clarity, and passion.

Find and Build Your Brand

How do customers recognize your business? What sets it apart from every other business in your industry or field? That differentiator is your brand. Before you can build your brand, you need to find your brand. Ask yourself:

  • Why do you do what you do? Yes, making money is important but why did you choose to make money this way?
  • What do your customers gain by working with you? What problem do you solve for them, what extra service or convenience do you offer them? Everything from being close at hand to offering 24/7 service is a gain for your customers.
  • If you didn’t provide this service or product, what would customers do? Is there an identical source in your identical location with your identical staff? What would customers lose if your business didn’t exist–years of experience, an innovative mindset, an award-winning staff?

Now that you are clearer about your brand, you are ready to build it by taking these steps:

  1. Know your customers. Brand building depends on your knowledge of your customers. What you do is important, but knowing what your customers want is critical.
  2. Work with a graphic designer to create a logo. The logo for TWP Marketing & Technical communications is simple enough: a TWP in an attractive font. But a graphic designer’s touch mad it interesting.
  3. Take the information you know about your brand and describe what you do in one tagline or one clear sentence. The TWP tagline is: Our words mean business. The sentence appears at the end of this blog post.
  4. Harness the value of repetition. Create opportunities to repeat your message in case studies, blog posts, insight papers, and on your website, brochures, and other marketing collateral.
  5. Make sure you deliver–or overdeliver–on every customer request. Word of mouth will build your brand fast and furious. Customers willing to promote you and recommend you are precious and should be cultivated with every interaction.
  6. Be consistent. From the colors and photos you choose to the marketing outlets you choose (online, in person, in print), you want to project a consistent brand, one that your staff and your customers recognize and support. Having trouble? Contact TWP for the assistance you need to find and build a consistent brand.

From our base in Peterborough, NH, TWP Marketing & Technical Communications writes marketing copy that engages your customers and delivers your message with accuracy, clarity, and passion.

Connect with Customers Using Natural Language

According to a recent article by the Marketing Insider Group, one of the top marketing trends of 2021 is voice search. More and more customers talk into their phones to find the products and services they need. Companies who want to show up in voice searches, as opposed to on-screen searches, will take advantage of natural language.

What is “natural language”? It is the language that people use every day.

For over 20 years, throughout my career as a marketing and technical writer, I have repeated one mantra: write like you speak. Now companies have even more incentive to write like they–and their customers–speak. When customers talk into a phone, they use the language they use with friends–not company jargon, not 5-syllable words when one will do, not strings of acronyms, and not obscure industry terms.

Moreover, they often speak without regard to grammar (not something I advocate in writing!), and they are likely to use long-tail keywords. For example, someone searching for an article like this one might ask, “how do customers search on phones?” or “what is natural language?” or “how do I connect with customers?”

You won’t be able to anticipate every long-tail keyword or question in one website page or one blog post; your writing will suffer if you stuff too many keywords into it. But you can sprinkle those long-tail keywords across several pages and posts.

You may also want to concentrate on video and infographics to catch the attention of customers, relay a lot of content efficiently, and entertain at the same time. However, keep in mind that customers who merely want the answer to a question (“where can I buy shoes?”) are not going to hang around for a video any more than they would stop to read a 1000-word article on the history of shoe buying.

Vary your media: some short articles, some long, some video, and some infographics, depending on your industry and resources. The variation in content and ways of expressing it also serves to capture those lingering customers who do not rely on voice searches, who use natural language terms you have not anticipated, or who are looking for more information than their question suggests.

If you are searching for a marketing and technical writer who strongly believes in natural language, produces content in multiple forms, and has always put the customer first, I would be delighted to hear from you, by voice or text.

From our base in Peterborough, NH, TWP Marketing & Technical Communications writes marketing copy that engages your customers and delivers your message with accuracy, clarity, and passion.

Your Internal Writing Critic: Friend or Foe?

Everyone who writes has an internal writing critic or editor who is constantly asking:

  • Did you say that right?
  • Did you spell, punctuate, hyphenate that right?
  • Is there a better way to say that?
  • Is this the right point to make?
  • Will anyone understand this?
  • Will everyone laugh at this?
  • Did anyone say this already?

That internal writing critic may have the best judgment in the world. Yet, when it is exercised at the wrong time, it can stop you from ever writing a single word, let alone a blog post, case study, website content, or insight paper.

The wrong time is while you are writing.

When you sit down to write, turn off your internal critic or editor and concentrate on what you want to say. If you aren’t struggling for ideas, begin by building on the ideas you didn’t know you had, including industry trends, replies to customer comments, and reasons to select your product or service. Research what companies like yours are saying online. Never plagiarize; look instead for ideas that you can expand upon, explain better, or even counter.

Once you know what you want to say, begin writing down everything you know about the topic and everything you can find out. You will end with content that is too long or complex or that wanders off topic. That’s good. That extra content will become the source for a second, third, or fourth piece.

Now is the time for your internal writing critic to step forward.

Prune the content. Are you listing three ways to do something, answering four questions, describing a process, evaluating or explaining a single product? Deliver that content and only that content. Prune the rest.

Organize the material that is left over. If, for example, your topic is “three ways to improve your writing,” make sure you list the three ways, one after the other (not two, not twenty!).

Read the content. Does it flow? Are you clear about the information you want to impart or the point you want to make? Has irrelevant material crept in?

Try to write the entire piece using words of 3 syllables or less. This step ensures that you have not turned your piece into a vocabulary test. It will inspire you to write with clear, precise words that are easy to understand.

Break up any sentence longer that 24 words. Short sentences are fine. But long rambles are confusing and they slow readers down. You want to convert readers to customers fast.

Check for grammar and spelling. Please, please, please do not rely on online spelling and grammar checkers. They make errors all the time.

Put the content away for 24 hours and read again. You will find errors–guaranteed. If you find yourself tempted to throw out the content after 24 hours, ask an objective party to read it instead. It may be much better than you think (internal critics can be harsh) or it may be fixable with a few tweaks.

When you shut down your internal critic while you are writing, you write more freely and creatively. When you let your editor side loose afterward, you write better. If your internal writing critic won’t leave you alone, please contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications for content that is creative, clear, and concise–and customized to you.

From our base in Peterborough, NH, TWP Marketing & Technical Communications writes marketing copy that engages your customers and delivers your message with accuracy, clarity, and passion.

The Right Way to Say No to Your Customers

We’ve all had customers (internal or external) who ask us to work with a deadline that is too tight, on a project outside our expertise, with too few resources, or with other challenges that we simply can not handle. So here are several ways to say No to your customers and still keep their good will:

  • My schedule is packed right now but I can get to this on [date] and then it will be my priority.
  • This is outside my area of expertise but I can recommend [person].
  • Let’s talk more about what you need. [Look for a compromise.]
  • Some of my other customers have handled this situation this way [explain].
  • May I offer you an alternative?
  • I can do that, but I will have to [charge more, call in help, delay their other project, or ask for some other accommodation].
  • I may know someone who can start work on this [sooner, cheaper, faster]. Would you like a referral?
  • If you will [make a change, talk to someone else about your priorities, do this research or preparation], then I can take care of the rest of the project.

All these statements surround your No with positives to reassure your customers you recognize and want to support their needs and their best interests. Whether in writing or in face-to-face communications, saying No your customers this way may rescue a project that would add to your bottom line and will certainly improve your customer relationships.

If your conflict with a customer involves a writing project that is out of your scope or if your in-house writing staff is currently overwhelmed, please consider TWP Marketing & Technical Communications as your backup. With 20+ years of freelance, remote experience, I have written website content, blog posts, case studies, articles, and insight papers for large and small companies, nonprofits, and sole-proprietors in nearly every industry, including oil & gas, financial, manufacturing, healthcare, consulting, construction, and software development. I’d be delighted to help you.

From our base in Peterborough, NH, TWP Marketing & Technical Communications writes marketing copy that engages your customers and delivers your message with accuracy, clarity, and passion.

25 Blog Post Ideas

According to WordPress, their users produce 70 million new posts every month and those posts generate over 75 million comments. Why do the posts keep coming?

People search the internet for information and entertainment. When they have a problem to solve–whether they want a new pair of earrings, a software upgrade, or a cure for a common cold–they turn to the internet. When they are curious about how to paint a room or build a rocket, they search the internet. And the advisors they find and remember are the ones who have taken the time to post information and ideas.

Two factors inhibit business owners from taking advantage of this vast market that is actively searching for them: lack of time and lack of ideas. TWP Marketing & Technical Communications can help with both, as we not only write but research and suggest potential blog posts. If you are looking for DIY ideas, here are 25 questions to get you started. Each one deserves at least one blog post:

  1. Why are you in business?
  2. What are industry standards for someone in your business/field?
  3. What do your degrees, certifications, and years of experience mean?
  4. What kind of problems do you solve?
  5. What are the potential solutions/course of action for one problems?
  6. How can customers tell if they have that problem?
  7. What are the potential solutions/course of action for another problem?
  8. How can customers tell if they have that problem?
  9. What process do you use to determine the exact problem?
  10. What types of equipment do you use to solve the problem?
  11. What types of methods do you use?
  12. Why did you choose that process/equipment/method and not another?
  13. How can customers prevent their problem in the future?
  14. How likely is the problem to recur and what should customers do if it does? What will you do?
  15. What did a recent customer say about you and why?
  16. What project have you completed most recently?
  17. What is your favorite project?
  18. What should customers consider when choosing who to work with in your industry/profession?
  19. Are there any scams customers should be warry of?
  20. What questions should customers ask when they call you?
  21. What information do you need?
  22. What should customers do or avoid doing before calling you?
  23. Can customers DIY and, if they can, what do they need?
  24. Who works with you and what is their background?
  25. What are your and your team’s guiding principles for customer service?

TWP Marketing & Technical Communications understands that blog posts, case studies, and insight papers offer value for both your business and the customers you are attracting. Our content makes everyone look good–you for providing the solutions and services you offer and your customers for knowing what to ask and who to work with.

From our base in Peterborough, NH, TWP Marketing & Technical Communications writes marketing copy that engages your customers and delivers your message with accuracy, clarity, and passion.

Writing Manners That Matter

In an age of rapid texting, we sometimes forget that there is such a thing as writing manners. Yet, bad writing manners may result in misunderstandings, missed opportunities to connect, and cultural, generational, intellectual, gender, and racial discrimination and exclusion.

So here are nine ways to show that you care about manners when you are writing:

  • You use the correct name of the person you are writing to. You’re more likely to connect if your email is personal. Double check to make sure you spelled the recipient’s name correctly and use the correct title (Dr., Ms., Hon., etc.), if any. If the person has indicated preferred pronouns, use those. You are not allowed to judge or dismiss someone else’s chosen identity.
  • You put communication first. Not everyone recognizes the double meaning of emojis, abbreviations of the moment, or pop culture references. Your company jargon and even common industry acronyms may be unfamiliar to the person you are writing to.
  • You are clear. if you are taking the time to write, then be clear about why you are writing. Explain your purpose or ask your question early on–details can wait until later. Don’t expect the recipient to hunt through paragraph after paragraph before discovering that you’re calling a meeting tomorrow at 9 a.m.
  • You choose kindness. The other person may have annoyed you but your response, like their comments, will last a long time in whatever device they are using. Kindness and restraint always reflect well on you. If you cannot refrain from nastiness, don’t reply.
  • You know your punctuation. Question marks indicate that you expect an answer–no question mark, no question. Exclamation points (which should never be overused!!!) indicate excitement. Periods show you have finished one thought and are beginning another. Consider punctuation the world’s original emoji.
  • You are professional when professional is called for. Avoid humor, politics, jargon, and reprimands in writing. They are easy to misunderstand and they may be resented if they are understood.
  • You are reasonable. The recipient may not be able to answer your text the moment it arrives or may prefer talking to writing or may need to consider before answering. Becoming angry at a “slow” response is counter-productive.
  • You take time to check. Is your email being sent to the correct John Smith or did the email program chose the wrong one? Is your blind copy truly blind?
  • You know when to call. A telephone call or, better still, in person or video conferencing is less painful than spiraling anger or confusion over a written communication that may be misunderstood.

By using your best writing manners, you will reach your objective faster: to let someone else know what you want, offer, need, feel, and think. If you or your team have difficulty creating form or individual content that communicates with manners, contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications.

From our base in Peterborough, NH, TWP Marketing & Technical Communications writes marketing copy that engages your customers and delivers your message with accuracy, clarity, and passion.

Does Your Website Content Strike Fear–in Your Customers?

Recently I reviewed the website of a new company dedicated to cyber security. The proposed design was fine. What caused me to shake my head was the proposed website content.

I am a firm believer that what your customers want when they find your website is the answer to three questions:

  1. Do you have the information I need?
  2. How will you solve my problem?
  3. Why should I choose you?

Navigation presented the first problem for the cyber security website. All the information about services appeared in two places: under the heading “Services” and with precisely the same wording on the home page. That arrangement might have helped with SEO but it left a visitor wondering. Was there nothing more to say? Was the exact repetition an error by a company that should be proclaiming itself attentive to detail?

I’ve never been a big fan of the Services category, especially if in a small website that lacks a search function. I prefer headings that direct customers to the area where they have the most interest. If the big box retailers can do it, so can you.

When your website content focuses on solutions, your customers breathe a sigh of relief: you recognize their pain and you know how to remove it. Instead, the cyber security company focused on the problem. They detailed everything negative that could happen by neglecting cyber security. I could feel my stress level rising with each paragraph I read.

Customers also want assurances of your company’s capabilities. The cyber security website offered one page that detailed the experience and credentials of the business owner and after that–nothing. No testimonials, no case studies, no blog posts. Yes, the owner was well-educated and credentialed but so were his competitors. How were his particular skills used? Did they benefit anyone?

Unfortunately, when your website makes it difficult for customers to find the information they want, harps on problems rather than solutions, and leaves questions about your capabilities, customers are likely to search elsewhere for the help they need. They will choose the company that demonstrates an understanding of both their problem and the potential solutions–and that may not be you.

Make your customers happy and your revenue stream even happier by working with TWP Marketing & Technical Solutions to design website content that attracts customers and keeps them.

From our base in Peterborough, NH, TWP Marketing & Technical Communications writes marketing copy that engages your customers and delivers your message with accuracy, clarity, and passion.

Differentiating Your Company from the Competition

Your competitors are on social media and have websites, and they seem to have said everything it is possible to say about the products and services you offer. How do you differentiate yourself so that people understand what makes you stand out?

Consider your online presence to be your company’s resume. As with any resume they’ve ever read, your customers expect to see specific skills and accomplishments and–above all–a reason to believe you can deliver what they want.

To differentiate your company from the competition:

  • Be specific. Define “excellent customer service” with statistics, testimonials, and success stories. If your work is extremely accurate, define “extremely”: within a mile, an inch or a millionth of an inch?
  • Take credit. If you “have the capability of repairing a car in 24 hours,” then you repair cars in 24 hours. The italic statement is more concise, stronger and more believable. “Having a capability” or “striving to” and similar phrases mean nothing to customers unless you follow through. So stand up for what you really do.
  • Let your customers in on the secret. Never assume your customers know what you do or how you do it. Everyone in your industry may use environmentally friendly chemicals. Make sure your customers know you use environmentally friendly chemicals–and tell them why that makes a difference.
  • Share your mission. While your writing goal is differentiating your company from the competition, you want to also address meeting the standards of performance that everyone in your field or industry is expected to achieve.
  • Focus your message. Researchers have proven that people can remember at most 4 chunks of new information. Stay under that limit and concentrate your marketing copy (each marketing brochure, website page, blog, press release or success story) on one major idea at a time.
  • Make it interesting and real. Post before and after photos, pictures or videos of your process or location, case studies, and employee bios so that customers connect with who you are and why you do in several ways.
  • Always put the customer first. None of the previous suggestions will succeed in differentiating your company from the competition unless you concentrate on your customer. The most important customer question to answer, each and every time, is “How can you solve my problem?” Identify your customers’ challenges and tell them concisely and clearly how you can meet them.

Need help in writing marketing copy that differentiates your company from the competition? Give TWP Marketing & Technical Communications a call.

From our base in Peterborough, NH, TWP Marketing & Technical Communications writes marketing copy that engages your customers and delivers your message with accuracy, clarity, and passion.