How to simplify your message when writing for your business

Keep it Simple

In the last couple of articles we’ve concentrated on why storytelling is good for your business.

But it’s no good if you waffle so much that your customers lose the plot.

thinking businessman

Now, ok, I’ll admit I have a tendency to waffle occasionally.

But that’s because I tend to write as I talk, and I’m a terrible waffler (that’s SO a thing, I could be the waffliest waffler in the north).

However, writing for yourself is notoriously difficult, and I am no exception, but when I write for clients I know to rein in the waffle and write concisely and simply.

magnifying glass
Take a good look at your writing.

Simplifying your writing isn’t dumbing down, it’s allowing the largest number of people possible to read your words.

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Keep it simple

So how do you tell a business story, and still keep things simple?

Get rid of all those fancy words

Despite what you may think, fancy words do not a storyteller make. Fancy words can alienate your customers.

If your customers have to think about what a word means, they won’t hang around.

● ● ●

They don’t want to feel stupid, and you don’t want them to feel stupid. Stick to the non-flowery, easily understood language that will convey your message, without sounding like you’ve swallowed a dictionary.

This:

Shelby was absolutely ravenous, but the options at the buffet were simply horrific, she chose a monstrosity of a quiche and consumed it half-heartedly.

can become this:

Shelby was hungry but didn’t like the buffet, so she reluctantly chose the flan.

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Get rid of the jargon

This leads on from the last point.

Unless you’re writing for your peers who really need to have jargon scattered all over the place, it’s best to just get rid of it.

● ● ●

Your customers don’t want to wade through paragraph after paragraph of ‘special’ words. There’s a reason the Oxford Dictionary gives the word ‘jargon’ as ‘a form of language regarded as barbarous, debased, or hybrid.’

Getting rid of jargon can be a great way to simplify your writing.

This:

Dave took out his Meisterstück Le Petit Prince Solitaire Doué LeGrand and taking his 75% post-consumer Fourdrinier-produced block proceeded to draft a relinquishment of professional vocation.

can become this:

Dave wrote his resignation letter.

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Stick to the point

Get rid of the waffle. When you’re passionate about your business or your product it’s easy to go on and on and on …

● ● ●

As heartbreaking as it is, your clients probably don’t want to know about every tiny detail. Even when you’re using storytelling as a means of communication.

This:

Jemima first had the idea for the business while cooking a meal for her family. She’d just been to the supermarket and they didn’t have any nice jam, so she went to the upmarket delicatessen and found that theirs was way too expensive and had loads of fancy ingredients, some of which she’d never heard of. Then, when she was cooking she realised that she had way too many pieces of papaya and mango (her husband didn’t like mango at the time). Rather than try to figure out whether to bin them or not (she really doesn’t like waste), Jemima realised that with the left-over unrefined sugar in the pantry, she could make her own jam – she remembered her grandmother giving her a recipe for exotic fruit spread when she was a teenager. That was when the idea for Jemima’s Jolly Jam came about.

can become this:

The idea for Jemima’s Jolly Jam came about when Jemima realised she could make simple, delicious homemade jam using her grandmother’s recipe.

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Get rid of all those long, meandering, never-ending sentences

When you’re writing for your business, the full-stop is your friend.

Don’t have one long sentence when it can be broken down into a number of concise, easy to read sentences.

● ● ●

I’ve had to contend with sentences that James Joyce would be proud of. I think my current high point was a sentence of around 360 words. Think of your clients. Don’t do it.

This:

When Philip was sitting at his computer and it wouldn’t start (it had broken), he was wondering whether or not to hit it with a hammer or turn it off and on again, he did that anyway and it didn’t work, so he decided to go for a coffee, as coffee solves all problems. He went to the coffee machine, that was broken too, oh my goodness what a day this had become, so he chose the next best thing – doughnuts. He then had to decide whether to go for the ring doughnut, the jam doughnut or one of the fancy doughnuts on offer that had sumptuous fillings and sprinkles of edible glitter on top. When he found that our establishment also serves great coffee he knew that he had found his tribe. Thanks to his computer breaking he was about to find his happy place, a place that he would come to time and time again, and not just when his computer decided to break down. He was also happy when he realised that Daphne’s Doughnuts welcomes freelancers with a two for one coffee offer, free WiFi and a plug for your laptop.

can become this:

When Philip’s computer broke, his quest for coffee led him to Daphne’s Doughnuts. He had trouble deciding from our vast doughnut menu. But he knew he had found his tribe when he saw that we serve great coffee. He was about to find his happy place. Daphne’s Doughnuts welcomes freelancers with a two for one coffee offer, free WiFi and a plug for your laptop.

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Keep it pretty (vacant)

Simplifying your message doesn’t need to be just simplifying your writing.

Make sure your page, whether it’s a web page or a printed one, isn’t fussy.

● Use plenty of white space

● Use a font that’s easy to read

● Stick to only a few colours

● Use subheadings

● Use a decent line space – don’t have cluttered blocks of text.

You’ll notice that this blog has broken a few of the rules mentioned here ... kind of proves the point, don’t you think?

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Keep it relevant

The easiest way to simplify your writing is to keep it relevant and to keep it easy to read. If I doubt, leave it out.

Read everything out loud. If you stumble, so will your readers.

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If you don’t feel confident, and want some help simplifying your writing, you can contact me directly to chat about how we can help your business.

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Why storytelling builds connections with your customers

Keiss Castle, Caithness

If you’ve read my last blog post, you’ll know why storytelling helps you stand out from the crowd.

This week we’ll concentrate on why storytelling builds a connection with your customers.

magic comes from storytelling

Whether you’re a service-based industry or a seller of products, you’re going to want repeat customers.

Creating a connection ensures that once you have the custom you’re more likely to keep it.

An example of how connections can be built

Connections through storytelling can be built, earned and organically grown.

For example (yes, it’s been a hellishly long week, so I’m going to use a real-life, right now, example):

I’m sitting, writing this on my HP laptop, wearing a Redbubble T-shirt and drinking a rather fine Cardhu and I’ve just been looking at a Kickstarter campaign that came to fruition a couple of days ago.

question mark in a light bulb

 

The product

I have no connection whatsoever with HP and have had no need for customer service from them. I bought a swanky 4K laptop thinking it would be great for using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, along with a few other things (hellooooo Netflix). To be honest it’s ok, but a bit meh for the price I paid. There’s no story, just cold, hard cash and a product. Will I buy from them again? Perhaps, but I’ll do my homework first and will probably go with where I can get the best deal for my requirements.

computer laptop blank screen NaNoWriMo

 

The service

Now, my fabulous Redbubble T-shirt. I have a connection with them, and I’ll be completely honest here, the design I’m wearing is one of my own. I’ve been connected with them for around ten years. Their customer service is excellent (for both selling and buying) and they’re quite a quirky company. Their offerings are excellent quality and they’re on my wavelength. The connection with them is not a personal one, but their ethos is spot on … it’s a company that builds a community of artists and helps artists reach customers – their story is their artists. I’ll definitely buy from them again (I’ve already bought a fair number of their offerings and haven’t been let down once).

red bubble

 

The drink

That rather fine Cardhu? I was introduced to it by my father-in-law, who happened to be a warehouse manager for Diageo. When I was 18, and drinking rubbish, he introduced me to good whisky. So the connection with Cardhu is a roundabout one (I don’t just drink Cardhu, my favourite whiskies are numerous depending on what type I fancy, but it’s always a single malt, straight-up without water). However, Cardhu is an easy-drinking malt, was founded by a smuggler (now there’s a story!), and has a lovely bottle (yes, I’m a sucker for nice packaging). My connection is a family one and one of taste. I’ll be buying more. But the only personal connection is through family and a sense of nostalgia.

whisky being poured into a glass

The campaign

Finally that Kickstarter campaign. It was for Prickly Thistle and their ‘Build the Mill’ project. While I have no personal connection to Clare Campbell and the rebel makers, I feel like there’s a connection. I haven’t told my husband, he’s a Donaldson linked to the McDonalds of Sleat (if you don’t know the story, look it up). Clare and the team are bringing textiles and tartan back to the mainland Highlands. And their story is one that fuels their campaign: it’s one of passion, craftsmanship and the wild Highlands. Add to that I live ‘up the road’ (two hour’s drive away, but in the Highlands, honestly, that’s nothing) so for me the connection is real.

Keiss Castle, Caithness

 

Has storytelling helped?

So, my connection with HP is virtually non-existent, there’s no story and only experience: I have no brand loyalty.

With Redbubble the connection has been built over about ten years through being part of their story: I love their brand and feel part of it.

The Cardhu connection has been earned through knowledge, storytelling through family and a consistent quality: the brand loyalty is one of nostalgia.

And the Prickly Thistle connection is in its infancy and is being organically grown through following their story and becoming part of it at the beginning: I’m looking forward to seeing how the brand evolves and already feel part of it.

These connections are all helped through storytelling.

idea cartoon

 

How about you?

Stop right now and look at either what you’re wearing, using or eating.

Is there a connection? Do you feel an affinity with any company? What formed that connection?

We all want to find our tribe. Telling your story can build an affinity with your customers – build your tribe.

I’ll bet you feel more loyal to brands and businesses that you connect with and know their story. And customers will feel the same about your business.

So why does storytelling build a connection with your customers?

Stories are hardwired into human culture.

Oral traditions were passed down generation by generation. People would learn what was good and bad, right and wrong, where to find the best crops and when to go hunting.

Shared human experience is how we learn.

Arthur Rackham fairytale

Look at Aesop’s fables or the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. These have been passed down by generations, and we remember them.

If you can create a connection with your customers they will be your champions and will come back again and again. And they will spread the word. Their friends will tell their friends, who will tell their friends and their friends.

students talking

It can be stories about you, your business origins, how you run your business, why you run your business, who helps run your business, how customers see your business, how you’ve helped your customers. It’s endless. If you’re a good storyteller you can build that connection.

By creating your tribe you will necessarily leave out members of other tribes, but that doesn’t matter. Not everyone is the same or wants the same thing. You are building connections with your ideal customers. Your story becomes something they believe in or have empathy with, or even just accept.

How to build connections through stories

Connections are built by:

  • Reaching the hearts of your clients. Emotion is the way to go; make them feel that you’re right for them. Let them realise that your goals and beliefs are in sync, and you’re there to help them.
  • Reaching the minds of your clients. If you can get them to see themselves in situations where you can help them, the connection will evolve. Show that you can help and that they will benefit from it. Make your services the natural, logical choice.
  • Keeping your clients engaged. Just like any good story, a business’s brand story can make your clients want to read on, learn more and stay connected.
  • Building trust between you and your client. By showing your humanity, the crucial element of trust can be built. People like to deal with people, not faceless corporations. Your story and the way you work with it can help customers get to know the real you, and that builds trust (unless, of course, you’re a horrible, untrustworthy pile of human … but most people are wise enough to see the real you).

happy woman

Storytelling is the oldest form of information exchange

I hope you can see now why storytelling can help your business and create connections with your customers.

From morality tales, fairy tales, bedtime stories and stories around the campfire, we humans have grown up with the story as a means of information exchange.

You can use this hard-wired collective memory to help your business grow and flourish. Not through made-up tales, but through honest, interesting storytelling. Let people into your world and if you do it properly, and the time is right, you can convert stories into brand loyalty and into repeat sales.

Which brands do you know that use storytelling well? Let me know in the comments and get the stories flowing.

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Why a good story can help your business stand out from the crowd

Once upon a time there was a storyteller for businesses

This post’s going to be a quick one.

It’s been a very busy few weeks.

You don’t want to hear about what makes this freelancer tick, do you?

What I’ve been getting up to that’s a bit different to the usual work/play thing?

Or do you?

Once upon a time there was a storyteller for businesses

Do you really want to hear about the first week of Thurso Players’ Juniors annual drama workshop. The one we call Whoops! The one where around 30 kids ranging from 8–18 are helped to create sketches and skits that culminate in two full-length shows put on in our very own theatre, housed in an old mill. The one where the kids create everything themselves from start to finish in only two weeks. The one that builds confidence, friendship and leaves adults and children absolutely shattered, but very happy. The one where McVities Gold Bars are fought over, where there’s a recurring gravestone appearing on stage and this year some of the cast have written a devilishly catchy song?

reading

You may or may not want to hear about it, but I’ll bet it’s created a picture in your head.

Stories and story fragments do that. And a well placed story can help you and your business stand out from the crowd.

Woman Reading a Diary --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

What types of story?

Different types of story can help your business stand out and create engagement with your clients, customers or audience.

  • Testimonials are little stories in themselves. And they don’t have to be boring (let’s admit it, some can be very formulaic). Have any clients shared incredible stories about your products? There are stories to tell that can place your potential customers in the shoes of your reviewers.
  • Employees and business owners have stories to tell – is there a story behind your business? Was it set up in a way your customers would like to hear about? Do any of your employees have interesting anecdotes they could share?
  • The genesis of your services or products – is there are story behind their origins? Why did you call you latest product what you did? Do you use special ingredients, processes or premises? What’s the story behind the story?

These are just three types of stories, but I’ll bet you can think of others.

Editors Highlighted Section of Book

Why stories help

Business stories provide an opportunity for connection with your audience or your customers.

You’re not talking about case studies and the like though *yawn*.

I’ve been a professional genealogist for around 20 years, and have been researching families and buildings for a lot longer than that. I graduated as a professional librarian in 1991. I’ve worked in local archives, a picture framer’s, a large art gallery and an art school library, a gift shop, a pub, a marine laboratory, had a very brief stint as a TV extra, and was an academic librarian before I became an indexer, editor and writer.

Over thirty-odd years I’ve learned something that connects us all.

Stories.

People love to feel a connection.

Wherever you go, people are telling stories or listening to them.

library full of stories

Your story is unique

No one else has a story quite like yours.

When you tell your story, you allow potential customers to see behind the business and to connect with you.

Now, it’s not always appropriate, and over-sharing is a definite no-no, but brand storytelling can convert interested buyers into brand advocates. Business storytelling helps you get your message across, but also builds a connection with your audience.

I’ll say that again.

Storytelling in business builds a connection between you, your services or products and your customers or clients.

Storytelling helps you stand out from the crowd, it gets people nodding and seeing themselves using your products or benefitting from your services.

Storytelling can help people make an informed decision about your business and product

Storytelling waves goodbye to stuffy, sell-sell-sell business practices.

Happy businessman designer

Examples of good storytelling in business

Good business stories are everywhere. You just have to open your eyes to see them.

Everyone knows Apple.  Their ‘Think Different’ campaign used emotion to create a huge following in the late 90s and early 2000s. Their adverts put users to the forefront – the latest adverts show Macs being used by musicians, creating sounds that move the world. They put simplicity and passion at the heart of their campaigns – so much so that unboxing the latest iPhone is an experience millions of people look forward to (even if their pockets don’t).

The latest round of lotteries use emotion in their story-laden TV adverts. It’s a saturated market. There are lotteries raising money for everything these days. They’re the little pink and yellow raffle tickets for the 21st century.

What better way to stand out from the crowd than by using stories to hook you in?

The poor unfortunate animals needing your money pull at the heartstrings (cue animal actors staring sadly at the camera, as a narrator tells their story of mistreatment and how only your money can help them). The health charities that promise to bring an end of suffering while you can win big and transform your life. The lotteries that help local communities, with the stories of areas they helped, getting you to dip into your wallet.

These are all stories that are there to deliberately engage you.

sad dog Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

So what’s your story?

If you’re looking for a way to engage, tapping into your unique story can help.

And there will be something unique to you and your business.

Are you an artisan maker who uses locally sourced ingredients? Why do you do that?

Is there something interesting about your production process?

Did you start up your business through passion or circumstance?

Is it a family business, a long-held passion or did you decide to do what you do on a whim?

Did you win one of those lotteries and use the money to pursue a passion for making purses?

thinking businessman

See, everyone has a story. Your brand doesn’t have to ‘Think Different’ like Apple, but brand storytelling can bring your business to life – for your existing customers and those you hope to attract.

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