By Melissa Walsh
What’s nonsense business language good for? Absolutely nothing.
Yet we see it on many websites, especially those of technical and industrial suppliers. True, despite poor webcopy, these companies manage to stay in business. The rationale is, “We’re doing fine. No need to hire a professional to communicate who we are and what services and products we provide.” So the leaders of these companies choose to continue communicating to potential business partners and customer prospects like Mr. Spock instead of humans living on planet Earth.
Certainly, this thinking leads to lost opportunity not calculated in an annual report.
Instead of relying on a professional writer to develop website and other promotional copy, these business thinkers task the intern, low-level sales or operations employee, or maybe even the technical writer to pull something together in the spare time of their 9-to-5 day.
The result is business jargon strong in hyperbole and weak in information. The copy is convoluted, wordy, dry, ineffective business speak that means little to a prospect seeking to understand what the business does and what differentiates it.
Here are examples of nonsense business language:
Businesses who do not understand the value of investing in good writing post this nonsense on their websites, and likely in other communications pieces. A website is a window into a company. Yet too many companies present robotic nerds talking nonsense business jargon in the parlor.
Good communication, formal and informal, breathes and has a human rhythm. Words should be short. Phrases should be succinct. The message should be authentic and stick to the reader’s memory. It should awaken, alert, and inform. A business should feed a message to a reader like a pass in sports — direct, vibrant, and crisp.
In the chapter “Business Writing: Writing in Your Job,” from his book On Writing Well, William Zinnser recommends being “yourself when you write” for business. For company leaders, this means knowing your company and its branding and presenting it sensibly and like a human in your business-to-business and business-to-customer communications. “You will stand out as a real person among the robots,” Zinsser says.
When written communication isn’t a core strength of a business, that business must bring on board a professional writer or writing team who can present the company’s strengths clearly, avoiding nonsense jargon.
© 2015, Powerplay Communications
"A website is a window into a company. Yet too many companies present robotic nerds talking nonsense business jargon in the parlor."
By Melissa Walsh
So you’re responsible for your company’s new business development. After browsing RFPs, you come across a statement of work that directly aligns with your company’s products and services. Confident that your company is positioned to meet the requirements, you’re faced with the challenge of planning your company’s response. And because your company doesn’t maintain a proposals department or retain a proposal writer on staff, you’re on your own.
Should you request company personnel to write the proposal? Write it yourself? Or should you commission a freelance proposal writer?
Though business executives function as the experts that cultivate the ideas of an RFP response, they are not proposal writers. Nor is the new sales guy willing to work late qualified as a proposal writer, or the admin who wears many business operations hats.
Writing is a craft and a trade. Like most other trades, writing is technical and complex. Just as your company invests in engineers, technicians, and sales staff, invest in paying a proposal writer.
A professional writer will use rich, exact language that is not elaborate, and will follow Chicago Manual of Style convention for proper proposal format and style. A quality writer will also perform a key consulting role in assisting you develop the references, appendices, graphs, and exhibits, adding to the robustness of your proposal and the differentiation of your company.
Your role is to feed the writer with subject-matter expertise, numbers, and statements about your company’s mission and value in the marketplace. As simple as ABC, you will team with the writer to build an RFP response that is active, bold, and credible.
Compose your response as you would an oral presentation, with audience focus. You want your listener — your reader — alert and interested during your pitch. Though a formal response to an RFP demands a formal written proposal, do not over-formalize your proposal text and become unnecessarily boring. Present active, not passive, statements about why your company is the right provider to fulfill the requested scope of work.
Active proposal tips:
Bad writing: The service-level agreement (SLA) will be negotiated by the parties.
Good writing: The parties will negotiate a service-level agreement (SLA).
Be precise. The Executive Summary may be the only section that the prospect reads for determining first-round candidate cuts. Therefore, it is critical to get the prospect’s attention with a compelling Executive Summary lead that radiates confidence. Your lead should direct the prospect to what differentiates your company from the others represented in the proposal slushpile.
Lead with your company’s branding statement or rephrasing of your tagline. In the first sentence of your Executive Summary, answer this question for your prospect: “Why is your company the strongest candidate for performing the specific scope of work described in the RFP?”
Bold proposal tips:
Bad writing: “Our business has trained staff to serve our customers well.”
Good writing: “We train our staff in customer support.”
Proposal credibility requires professional presentation and quality content. Using other “c” words to elaborate: create content that clearly communicates your company’s competencies for completing the contract. Proceed with building your proposal with active statements that are simple and concise.
Credible proposal tips:
Good writing: [Company Name] enhanced information technology (IT) and administered changes to networking protocols.
Even if you pay a writer to develop a proposal that is not selected for contract award, your investment is not without return. A professional writer brings you the value of finding the correct words and beneficial content organization and structure for communicating your company’s features, benefits, and strengths. It is content that your company owns and may repurpose for responding to the next RFP that intrigues your new business development interest.
© 2014, Powerplay Communications
Raised in the Motor City, Melissa Walsh is a content solutions guru with a background in reference publishing, journalism, teaching, and applied engineering. Her identity is shared as a writer, mom, history nerd, and hockey player. She also knows how to turn a wrench and use a scantool.