Essential business writing tips for new company start-ups: tutorial

When you’re starting a new business probably the last thing you want to focus on is what words you’ll use to write about it. So I’m sorry to be a party-pooper, guys. But party-pooper or not, I have some tips to share that will probably make quite a useful difference to the success of your business start-up. Bear with me, here.

So why does  business writing matter for new company start-ups?

Essential business writing tips for new company start-ups: tutorialThink about it: even if you’re selling horse manure, you need to communicate the fact that you sell horse manure to your potential customers and referrers. How do you do that, apart from maybe whispering it into a few folks’ ears at the local pub or bar?

Via what starts out, anyway, as the written word.

And because it can’t be along the lines of “I sell well-rotted horse sh*t for fertilizing gardens” – in any case, that’s not enough of a benefit to attract anyone other than a total hillbilly – you need to think about writing some words that go a bit deeper.

First and foremost: the name of your new business startup

No, I’m not kidding. Choosing a good business name is very important, if only because there are hidden trip wires along that journey.

The main trip wire is when people choose a wonderful business name that’s, er, wonderful, except it promotes all your competitors’ businesses as well as your own. E.g. you live in Kingston and start a company called Kingston Tires. There are 6 other companies in Kingston also selling tires. Get my drift? Assuming your name is Johnson, you’d be better off calling your business Johnson’s Tires of Kingston.

Another trip wire is confused branding. This happens when you get carried away naming services or product ranges and then finding yourself with a collection of brand names and no common denominator to give it branding oomph.

Someone I know in the UK is a good example of this; we’ll call her Helen G. A popular personal trainer and fitness expert, she has a brand name for her diets, another brand name for her fat-reduction program, another brand name for her general get-fit program, and yet another brand name of a franchised product she is promoting.

She spends her marketing life spinning all those plates when she could get a lot more bang for her buck by grouping them all under one umbrella brand name like “HelenG Health” with the others being “(product/service name) by HelenG.”

Matching your business start-up name to a domain name

If you do decide to use a clever name that works for your business without incorporating your own personal name in it, the next trip wire is seeing whether that’s available as a domain. Sadly if you have come up with a clever idea someone else may have too, even speculatively so they can sell it to you for a large amount. So be sure check this carefully.

Ideally for a business, you will want to use the domain and .com, and/or your own country’s suffix. If you can do it it’s a good idea to register as many of the alternatives as possible, to stop a competitor using them or worse, someone else buying them and then trying to blackmail you into paying them a fortune for them.

There is also the issue of names on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media platforms – these can be restricted in the number of characters allowed, so check them out before finalising your choice. For more about this and other elements of choosing a business name, I recommend this article by colleague Helen Reynolds on Copywriter Collective

And what about a tagline?

You don’t strictly need a tagline when you’re first starting out, but taglines are a great way to clarify, support and embellish the business name – and in the case of a business name that doesn’t immediately say what you do, it’s an essential.

I love writing taglines because they’re almost like poetry (which I have also started writing, as I hope you have noticed?) Much as I would love to write one for your business I would have to charge you a fee or my accountant will kill me! But they aren’t as difficult as you’d think.

The main issue with taglines is to ensure they state or at least imply a benefit to the customer – not a reflection of your ethos, mission statement, or anything like that.

So rather than use a tagline that says, e.g., “Johnson’s Tires of Kingston: a professional family business” – go for something like “Johnson’s Tires of Kingston: the experience to keep your wheels turning safely, for longer.”

Next: your new business start-up’s website

It’s very few businesses these days that do not need a website to establish themselves in the online world and so gain that basic credibility. Whether all you need is a one-page “brochure site” or an all-singing, all-dancing e-commerce site to manage enquiries, bookings, payments, fulfilment and everything else – your new business’s website is very likely to be your first need for written words.

Given that even a one-page “brochure site” is going to be one of your main windows on the business world, it’s worth getting it right.

There isn’t the space here to go into the whole story of web development and design, but here are a few brief tips…

Make sure your site is “words-led.”
All this means is that you plan out the logic of your site using words to describe which bits do what and go where. Although you may well need a web designer to make your site look pretty and will need a web developer if your site is to do any more than just be read, be warned that these people tend to be very vertical thinkers and what seems a logical flow to them often is not how your customers-to-be would see it.
Don’t be afraid to use your own logic to plan the site’s “architecture;” by now you will know your future customers better than anyone else, so you’ll know in your gut what will work.

Use the words and language your customers speak.
This applies, of course, to all your written marketing material. But on a website it’s even more important, a) because the internet supports a very informal, “me-to-you” culture and b) because readers’ attention spans are more likely to wander online than when they’re reading print.
Consequently words that speak to them in their own vernacular will keep them more interested than if they have to work at understanding them.

Make sure your site and words are mobile friendly.
Strictly speaking this is more of a visual issue than words, but it’s still something that needs to be plumbed into your (words-led) thinking right from the beginning. Around 80 percent of readers here on HTWB read it on phones and tablets. Fortunately this site is on a WordPress platform that is automatically mobile-friendly, but it’s worth making sure that whatever platform you use is, too.
Where words are concerned, avoid very long sentences and keep paragraphs short, and break up long sections with sub-headings and bold bits. These elements all help to make the text easier to read.

Email marketing, newsletters and blogging

There is plenty of information on the internet (and here on HTWB) about email marketing, so just Google it if you’re interested. However when you first start up your business you’re unlikely to have an email list, unless you pay out money to buy one or two. Non-marketing emails are important to get right, too – more about them here.

In an ideal world you will do better to grow an email list (if indeed that’s something that’s appropriate for your business) organically, which means making sure your website has a sign-up box on every page. To incentivize people it’s worth making them an offer of a free report, consultation or other goodie to dangle the carrot.

When people do sign up, you need to think about sending out a periodic newsletter. This is something that can partner as a blog post and as a email marketing piece. More about those here.

And of course if you decide to start blogging – which, depending on your business, usually is either a valuable or very valuable marketing tool – you’ll find a lot of help with ideas on that here on HTWB and also in my book, “How To Write Brilliant Business Blogs”Amazon UK here, here, plus on other Amazons and most other online book retailers’ sites.

Brochures, leaflets and other print

Rather than go on about each individual type of printed promotion you might use in your new business start-up, simply type what you’re interested in into the search box top right and you’ll almost certainly find some advice that will help you.

One piece of advice I would like to share here, though – and this applies to all and any promotional words, for whatever medium – is to learn the MAMBA principles of how to think through and then write effective marketing words. Click here for that story

There is also advice here on HTWB on how to write White Papers – useful particularly if your business is complex technically – and also how to write Reports (two-parter) and Business Proposals.

What else would you like to know about business writing tips for new business start-ups?

Share your thoughts and questions here!