Email clichés we love to hate. And why.

Do you sometimes groan when you open an email and find it starting or finishing with a cliché that may be well-meant, but comes across as being as genuine / friendly as a cornered rat? And that’s just in your day-to-day eCorrespondence. It gets even better when it’s spam.

Email cliches we love to hate. And why.

Friend, foe, or someone trying to sort out my penile erectile dysfunction

In this run up to the Holiday Season when we’re focusing less on hard-nosed business and more on its lighter (but nonetheless important) aspects…do you agree with the following? [Read more…]

What can you blog about? Seasonal topics

small_2493066577In this article we look at business blog ideas based on seasonal topics and how to use them in a more interesting way.

Some seasonal aspects are obvious – Holiday Season gifts … winter checks for your car … time to submit your tax return … etc. But there are more subtle uses for the seasons when it comes to choices for business blog ideas. [Read more…]

Your FAQ page: how to make it help sell your business

Your FAQ page: how to make it help sell your business

Your FAQ page can help sell your business,
but you need to answer real questions.

I really get angry sometimes when I read Frequently Asked Questions pages that don’t answer potential readers’ questions … only questions the site owner would like to answer. Get over it, kids – if you want to come over as honest and open regarding whatever it is you offer, you need to answer the questions potential customers, stakeholders et al really are likely to ask. Warts and all. Not what you’d like them to hear.

BUT: do you need an FAQ page in the first place?

Well no, maybe not. I don’t have one here on HTWB, but in my case of course there isn’t a complex or detailed story to tell.

Where I think an FAQ page is very useful is in the case of products and services that do have a complex or detailed background. That can be for one of the following, and no doubt several other, reasons:

The product/service has many very similar competitors – FAQs can help you differentiate it in a factual and probably more believable way.

The product/service is complex and you don’t want to clutter your main sales/descriptive text with too much technical detail – FAQs allow you to explain the technical issues in a tidy, easy-to-refer-to way.

Particularly with a new business and/or product service, an FAQ page is a useful place to reaffirm your “pedigree” by using questions and answers that highlight key credibility issues.

FAQs can provide you with a helpful “catchall” that covers a relatively random range of topics in one place, and can supply a suitable repository for topics that you can’t quite place anywhere else.

Correctly structured, an FAQ page can deal with numerous queries that might otherwise tie up you and your staff in responding to emails that are not necessarily useful leads.

FAQ and Help pages – are they different?    

On some websites and in some print publications you’ll see that these two functions often are combined. In some ways I can see the point of doing that, but unless you have very few issues to address, overall I think it’s better to keep the two separate.

That way you can split off anything negative from the positive points. Negative or potentially negative “FAQs” – e.g. “what if my order doesn’t arrive” or “what do I do if the goods arrive damaged” – are better contained in a “Help” section. That leaves the FAQ page free to deal only with positive, benefits-led factual information.

Your FAQ page: how to make it help sell your businessHere are my top 10 tips for creating good FAQ pages:

1. Forget what you think your readers/customers/prospects want to know – go out and ask them. Encourage them to be truthful even if it means posing you questions you can’t answer immediately (go and find out the answers quickly though!)

2. Develop your questions and answers based on that reality. Use the questions as asked by your readers/customers/prospects if you can, otherwise make them up based on your honest
interpretation of what readers want to know.

3. This may seem obvious, but make sure your answers really do answer the questions. The questions are not there to provide a jumping off point for a sales pitch or technical essay – you have a duty to provide a sensible answer right away.

4. Even if your product/service is aimed only at consumer markets, in general it’s better to keep your FAQ answers positive without being overtly “sales” orientated. The place for sales copy is elsewhere on the website or printed material.

5. To ensure that your answers do support a sales message, however, focus them – in a factual way – on how readers benefit, not on what features your product/service offers.

6. Keep your writing style conversational, even if the question/answer is very technical. Use believable words and phrasing, based on the way people in your target markets talk. Almost more than anywhere else, the FAQ page is NOT the place to use pompous language and “corporate speak.”

7. Keep answers reasonably short. If you need to go into a lengthier explanation, link to somewhere else where readers can get the full story. Long blocks of “answer” are off-putting.

8. If your product or service is highly technical/complex consider offering two FAQ pages – one for general business purposes and one for the “tekkies.”

9. Make it easy for readers to contact you direct if your FAQ page doesn’t answer their questions – there’s nothing more frustrating than not finding the answer you need and then having trouble getting that answer by email or telephone.

10. Before you publish your FAQ page, run it past a selection of your readers / customers / prospects and ask them to perform a “reality check.” You may find they come up with some very helpful ideas for improvements and edits.

More help with that FAQ page … and beyond:

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

photo credit: photosteve101 via photopin cc

9 ultimate quiz questions for your favourite know-it-all…

Know someone who knows it all? Here’s the ultimate quiz for people who know absolutely  everything…

Ultimate quiz questions from How To Write Better

And interestingly enough, these are not trick questions. I’m told they are straight questions with straight answers.

Bonne chance… [Read more…]

Poets Corner: swearing in the 21st century

HTWB swear jarMuch as we focus hard on business writing here on HTWB I am encouraging us all to think poetically, partly of course because currently I am writing a book of incredibly disgusting verse.

This is to amuse us all over the winter Holidays and other occasions when conventional prudery tends to take a back seat.

But actually my poems aren’t that filthy. Honest. And here’s an example to set us in a good mood for the weekend… [Read more…]

Help from your new Content Strategist: what I’ve been doing for 10 years…

The term “Content Strategist” sounds awfully pompous if you live in modest-speaking Milton Keynes, England. But having been doing this job for the last 10 years working with SMEs and Micro Businesses (helping them determine what and how to communicate to their markets in the first place – not just writing it for them) I finally caved in and renamed myself. I am now a..

CONTENT STRATEGIST!

Help from your new Content Strategist: what I've been doing for 10 years...

When I’m not being a “content strategist” I ride and help judge horses. (NB: here the horse is on the right.)

But enough already with the self-congratulation. Here’s how my meagre offering works out in practice, and how it helps smaller businesses to avoid much of what the bullsh*t merchants and so-called social media gurus shove down our throats every day. (Did someone mention “common sense” in the world of digital marketing? Thought so…) [Read more…]

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