Bringing the WOW Factor
I’ve been involved the judging of our local business excellence awards and have been struck, yet again, by the way poor skills in writing and presenting their case considerably reduce business’s chances of winning. Some wonderful businesses have entered with a good story to tell. But they don’t tell it well. And they make reading their entries difficult for the judges.
Surely they should raising the interest of the judges, getting them excited about the interview part of the process, bringing the WOW factor.
You might say, “we aren’t entering awards so this is of little interest to me.” But it should be.
Why, because the same skills needed to write a winning entry are those you need to write winning sales letters, quotations, proposals and tenders. They are the same skills you need to write content for your website, for your advertisements, for….
I wrote about some aspect of this in a blog post “Are your words repelling your customers?“ last year.
I’ve also talked about how “communication means customers”. Communicating regularly with your customers is very important to keep them coming back, but if you message is mangled, they going to turn off very quickly.
You need to write in a way that is easy to read and engaging if you want people to read it. And it needs to present well.
Another reason to pay close attention to what and how you write has to do with being able to attract customers and clients for whom price is not a determining factor in their purchasing.
Most people don’t invest much conscious thought into the words they use. They wing it. Many of the submissions I looked at did just that.
Visual presentation is important as is how will it read.
A good presentation will make you look so much more professional, and the reader feel more comfortable about dealing with you. If the way your industry does things is a simple “price, quality, delivery” quotation here is your chance to make yourself different, and stand out.
Here are more pointers about improving your presentation and making such documents easier to read.
- Headline – it needs to stand out. Size, colour, bolding. It’s the contrast. A headline must make the reader want to find out more, and not reveal so much they might not feel they need to read the proposal.
- Sub-heads – ditto but smaller. The same comment as above applies. Customers often scan a document before they read it. The sub-heads will guide them and let them know what is coming. They can be a different font from the headlines or paragraphs which assists the scan.
- Sentences - make your sentences short. The easiest sentence to take in is only eight words long. A sensible average is 14 words. Any sentence of more than 32 words is hard to follow.
- Paragraphs – keeping them short and punchy makes them easier to read. No more than 2-3 sentences. A long paragraph is daunting. It should be kept to one subject.
- Fewer words – don’t use two words where one will do. Most of us use too many words. Part of that is a function of time. Editing for brevity takes time, but brevity makes reading easier. A few, yet perfect words. That's what powerful writing is about. Just the right words. No more than necessary … but always enough to persuade.
- Details and specifics, not generalities, are the foundation for credibility. That doesn't mean overburdening the reader with so many details that his attention starts to drift. Or that he puts down your submission and decides to read it later. Or worse, gives up on it entirely. It means understanding how much is really necessary … and how much is too much.
- Use "connector" words and phrases at the beginnings of sentences to keep people reading. Such as Moreover, That is why, In addition, What's more, On top of that, Also and And. Connector words tell your reader there is more to come. And forget what your teacher told you: "And" is often used to start sentences in The Bible.
- Questions as connectors at the ends of sentences or paragraphs perform the same role. Why is this?
Because you have to read on to get the answers (and if you notice, the end of the above point and start of this point demonstrates this).
You can also demonstrate this by using a word from the last sentence in the opening sentence of the new paragraph.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
Complimentary – Free
Anticipate – Expect
Expectation – Hope
Authored – Wrote
Transportation – Car
Purchase – Buy
Ameliorate – Improve
Lifestyle – Life
Marketplace - Market
- Cut the jargon and acronyms – you may understand them but your reader may not. Make your words easy for him/her to understand.
- Begin sentences with benefits (when possible):
Instead of...Moving your money now will help you avoid major losses.
Try...You can avoid major losses IF you move your money now!
- Dot points – make it easier to scan and grasp the points you are making, just as I have done here.
- Word graphics – depending on what you are quoting, painting a word picture can help. (Can you see yourself in that gleaming new, spotlessly clean stainless steel kitchen?) or (imagine if you had all the information you needed for that benches quote).
- Picture graphics – a diagram or photograph of what you are delivering will help clarify other questions they might have and help reduce the risk and increase the like factor. “Before and after” photographs emphasise the benefits you are delivering.
- Don’t forget the Captions– tell them what the photo is. More risk reduction.
- Fonts – use no more than 3 different fonts. Otherwise they distract.
- Spelling and grammar errors – they distract, and cause the reader to stop, and consider the correction. Once they stop they lose the flow.
Just remember - as Dr. Johnson remarked over 200 years ago - "That which is written to please the writer rarely pleases the reader." You're not writing for yourself but for the prospect. Make it easy for them!
You can improve your quotation or tender by turning it into a sales tool to be used for your advantage, improving both your chances and your profitability.
Presentation and readability play a key role.
© Copyright 2013 Adam Gordon, The Profits Leak Detective