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The Write Way To Do Business
| Katie Elzer-Peters
>> Published Date: 2/28/2013
Do you enjoy writing or is sitting down in front of the computer about as enticing as getting a filling at the dentist? Regardless, as a business owner or manager, writing is a fact of your life. Through writing, you:
• Sell productsThinking about writing that way, suddenly it seems less like a chore and more of an opportunity to make money. That’s right: writing well can make you more money.
• Sell services
• Motivate people to come to your retail location
• Direct people around your garden center
• Inspire customers to try new things
• Help shoppers choose
• Teach customers how to have more success with their gardens (which will, in the long run, sell more plants)
You can’t be everywhere at once, so you have to let signage or email newsletters or Facebook posts do the talking for you.
Are Your Words Working for You?
Successful communication is not in the words you say, but in the results you get. It doesn’t matter if you tell people to buy if they don’t buy. It doesn’t do any good to have information on a plant tag that doesn’t answer questions. Are your words getting results?
• Can people understand what you’re saying? Or do you use jargon?
• Do your words inspire action?
• Do people feel good about themselves and the choices they’re about to make when they read your words?
• Are your words spelled correctly and used together correctly in sentences?
Attention spans are limited. Time is limited. You have to get to the point. Here’s how to make every word count in your business writing.
Just Say “No” to Jargon
Do your customers know what “growing medium” means? Probably not. How about “systemic herbicide?” Doubtful. There are some words that are very specific to gardening that you have to use in your writing to convey exactly what you mean. However, you might need to also explain those words. Here’s an example. “Plant perennials (plants that come back every year) to get more bang for your buck.” Or “Kill perennial weeds with a systemic herbicide—a herbicide absorbed by the plant that kills the plant from the inside out—in order to make sure the weeds don’t return.” If you use jargon that way, you can teach your customers without confusing them.
Make Every Word Count
“Water when necessary” is the most useless direction you can give gardeners. If they know when to water something, you don’t have to tell them. If they don’t know when to water, the phrase “Water when necessary” tells them nothing. If language isn’t specific and doesn’t lead to an action, a mood or a picture in someone’s mind, it’s just filler, taking up valuable space. “Water when the top inch of soil is dry” is more specific. Someone can take that information and act on it.
Do your customers know which tool to use when pruning a fruit tree? A boxwood shrub? A tomato plant? Maybe. Maybe not. Instead of a sign that says “Lopper,” what about a sign that says:
Cutting large tree branches
Reaching the center of a shrub
Don’t assume your customers know what they need when they walk in the door. Including more information about what something is used for will also help avoid the paradox of choice.
If you walk into an aisle of a drug store and you see 20 choices for pain relievers, how do you know what to choose? Do your eyes glaze over? Do you reach for what you’ve always purchased in the past? Your customers are doing this, too, when confronted with a wall of fertilizer or pesticide options. Your writing can help them make a good choice. You must provide help choosing, in addition to providing multiple options.
Paint a Picture
Use descriptive words when writing. Instead of blue, perhaps say “Robin’s Egg Blue” or “Cerulean.” You might describe the rustling sound of ornamental grasses swaying in the wind or the vibrant colors of a hibiscus flower. The word “bright” is nice, but “vibrant” is, well, more vibrant. The intensity is higher.
Include Calls to Action
If you take nothing else away from this article, take this: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” Ask people to take a specific action:
Shop from our displays The phrases above are calls to action. In a marketing email, you’ll see “shop now,” “buy now,” “read more,” as calls to action. Once you get people into your store, ask them to buy.
Ask for help
Plant a flat instead of a 6-pack for higher impact
Check your Grammar
People care about grammar. Poor grammar—such as a misused apostrophe—makes your business look bad. If you or your staff send emails that look like texts from a teenager, you won’t be taken seriously by the people with whom you want to do business. Check out the helpful cheat sheet with this story for the most common grammar errors in signage and business writing.
Get some Help
Are you really struggling with writing? Find a local garden writer or sales copywriter to help you. Or if you live in a small town, use the Garden Writers Association to find a writer to help you. Freelance copywriters are pros and can free up your time to do other things.
Grammar Cheat Sheet
contraction versus plural
The cat’s treats.
Cat’s is possessive.
Treats is plural.
There is the mall where they’re going to find their prom dresses.
Possessive/State of Being
It’s hot outside, but the dog is happy inside chewing on its bone.
Use it’s when you could substitute “it is.” GP
Katie Elzer-Peters owns The Garden of Words, LLC, a PR and marketing firm for the green industry.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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