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Are Poorly Written Communications Costing Your Company Millions?
Unclear, confused, and sloppy marketing materials, ads, e-mail messages, newsletters, and Web sites could be driving your customers to the competition...turning off your top employees...and flummoxing your most important business partners.
Consider these real-life examples:
   A thought-leading consulting firm created an expensive Web site to attract new clients. But unclear text links on the site's home page - with labels such as Mindspace, Mind Gym, and Creative Intercourse - left potential clients confused and uncertain. Net result: thousands of dollars spent, untold hours of staff time committed-and few, if any, new clients.
   The CEO of a major publishing company long known for its excellent employee relations was now laying off hundreds of employees. To improve morale among the survivors, the CEO sent an e-mail message telling them that while the layoffs would continue, the company was still a great place to work - a key piece of its corporate mission statement. The employees, however, didn't buy it: How could the company be great to work when everyone was at risk of losing their job? Net result: Morale fell lower than ever; the employee-friendly culture was replaced by a new, angry "Us vs. Them" mentality; and employee productivity plunged.
   A global mobile-technology company, wishing to enlist software-developing partners, commissioned written case studies that detailed the successes of several developers. But the documents, promoted on the company's Web site and in printed materials, failed to translate the case studies into clear benefits for other developers. As a result, the case studies were barely read. Net result: Wasted money, wasted time, no new business.
Sound familiar?
If so, then you too may be wasting big bucks on poorly written communications.
That's the bad news. The good news is that poor written communications can be identified and fixed. Let's look at several real-world examples - and how they could be improved:
Helpful Product Descriptions: TiVo
Does your product or services literature clearly explain what your products or services are, how they help customers, and how they differ from what the competition offers? Or does your literature leave those issues unaddressed, incomplete, or only vaguely implied?
The folks at could use some help. Here's what you'll see if you visit the company's Web site and click on the "What is TiVo?" link:
Well, what would you like it to be? Combine a TiVo box with the smart TiVo Service to get all of the entertainment you care about and make TiVo whatever you want it to be....
But wait,, I was hoping you could tell me what your product is -- not the other way around! Let's try this instead:
What is TiVo? Nothing less than a revolution in the way you watch television. With TiVo, you'll never again miss your favorite TV program...never again waste precious hours channel-surfing for 'something good,'... and - best of all - never again have to suffer through an annoying TV commercial."
Now, doesn't that sound like something customers might actually want-and plunk down their hard-earned cash for?
Persuasive Advertising: Mohegan Sun Casino
Sure, your ads are clever. But do they truly describe how your products and services benefit customers - and why they're better than those of your competitors? Here's the headline for an actual print ad for the Mohegan Sun Casino:
Every choice you make sends a message.
The largest portion of the ad is a photo of a closet filled with a dozen or so pairs of women's shoes. What's that got to do with a casino? A closer look reveals that the ad is aimed not at gamblers, but at events planners. In small type, the reader is told to make the "right impression." Ah, so they're suggesting that just as your choice of shoes sends a message to others, so does the location of your business event. I get it - I think. But let's remove the guesswork with this instead:
Mohegan Sun: Your Sure Bet For Impressive Events
The message is the same: "Impress the world by holding your events at our casino." But notice: Sure Bet as in what gamblers look for in a casino. Events as in what the ad is all about. That's clear, compelling, and call-getting.
Convincing White Papers: SAP
White papers are a great way to explain the more specialized, complex aspects of your business to potential customers, clients, and partners. With a typical length of 8 to 25 pages, white papers can be as detailed as you want. But they still need to be focused on the needs, concerns, and objectives of customers. Here's an example that, while not bad, could use improving. It's the first few lines of a white paper from SAP, the computer-software vendor, on a topic of great importance to its banking customers, Basel II compliance:
Regulators around the world require the financial institutions they supervise to hold capital against potential losses, a practice largely designed to protect depositors and investors and to maintain a stable national financial system. The dispute over how much capital is enough to promote safety and soundness has raged for at least the last 30 years.
That's certainly clear, but if I'm a potential banking client of SAP, what's it mean to me? Why do I care about the history of banking regulations? How about this instead:
For bank technologists, the regulatory proposal known as Basel II is a major rule-changer. Expected for passage in 2007, Basel II will allow banks to determine their own capital requirements for the first time ever. To get there, banks will need sophisticated new models developed on innovative computer systems. But many banks have not even begun to plan these specialized computer systems, let alone install and implement them.
That's still detailed and technical enough for the sophisticated audience it's intended for. But now the white paper is addressing the urgent, important business needs of real-world banking technologists who are considering SAP as a supplier and strategic partner.
Poorly written business communications could be hurting your company by confusing customers, demoralizing employees, and turning away partners. Instead, create clear, concise, and compelling business communications that will dramatically boost your sales...significantly lower your turnover...and meaningfully improve your partnerships.
PETER KRASS is the president of Petros Consulting (, a firm that helps clients improve written communications to attract, nurture, and develop excellent customers, quality suppliers, committed employees, and long-term partners. Call or write Peter at 718-398-5811,
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