How To Structure A Business Story… And Why!

You are about to write a business story. How are you going to structure the fundamentals of your story?

  • Is there a villain – a Antagonist?
  • Is there a hero – a Protagonist?
  • Are you trying to instill opportunity, or happiness or sympathy for your product, service or fundraiser?
  • Will your story have an outcome that you define, or are you going to leave it for your audience to decide?
  • Whose moral values are you expressing – and what moral values?

It’s true… business story writing is difficult. Even when writing business stories these are important decision to make before you begin – or be ready for many rewrites and lots of frustration. Often these stories are written – or at least edited – by committee. If you don’t have agreement on the structure fundamentals you will be handicapping yourself and your reputation.

Your Competitive Advantage

Business stories are likely your best (and often underused), competitive advantage because you have an exciting, creative way to share with customers / prospects why they want your product/service.

Stories are fantastic for sharing information, for entertainment, for history and helping others learn. But hold on – why do we use stories? Use business stories because humans love story telling. We do it all the time.Business Story Telling

  • We tell people how our weekend was – that’s a story.
  • We tell people about the project we are working on at work – that’s a story.
  • We tell people about the sales call and what the clients need are – that’s a story.

We likely began using stories when we were cavemen (cave people?), and began sharing stories about good places to hunt – or bad places for predators – or the tribe down the lane who had fire and was making S’mores.

Create Excitement To Be Remembered

After you’ve determined your story fundamentals, plan your pace. If you have a hero, do they come from behind and certain failure to do the things you want him to do? How can you build the tension – the excitement?

In the story of David & Goliath your excitement and interest grows because David looks like he is going to lose the battle. Then, when he rises from failure to win over Goliath we cheer and feel great. This exciting pace creates exciting stories (and your products, services or cause), will be remembered.

A good story is going to stir your emotions. High impact engagement where you get caught up because it’s likely rooted some type of conflict / challenge.

Use Metaphors To Engage Imagination

Another element you can use to keep a clients interest in your business story is a metaphor. Consider what metaphors can you use to create pictures / images in your clients imagination? You can use that metaphor to also evoke emotion. For example, here’s a 2 line story: “Looking up at the seemingly never-ending staircase, Richard thought this must be the stairway to heaven. After a deep sigh, he lifted his cane and took his first step”

Tell me:

  • Is Richard old or young?
  • Why is Richard using a cane?
  • Is he standing tall or hunched over?
  • Is Richard determined, excited or resigned? What did it mean when he sighed?
  • Did you feel sympathy or curiosity?
  • What colour is his hair?
  • What nationality is he?
  • Are the stairs in a house or office building – or are they floating in clouds?

Our imaginations can fill in most of the detail… and they likely did as you read my 2 line story… and this is a good thing. I’ve given you just enough information to help you make it real… for you. However, I have to be careful not to give you too much room for creativity because I don’t want you to make a decision I don’t want you to make.

For example – if I’m not careful you might decide Richard is young, lazy and irresponsible… which is a problem if I’m writing a fundraising letter and I want you to feel sympathy because he is a young army veteran who has been injured in service to his country.

Conclusion

Business stories are great ways to spread crucial information to one or to many. We can’t help but love stories – we welcome information and remember information much better when it is wrapped in a good story. Stories let us feel.

Happy communicating, learning and business story writing.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting

If you enjoyed this Business Communication blog post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew is founder and President of Bruce Mayhew Consulting a Professional Development firm that excels at quickly and easily tailoring programs to meet the unique needs of our clients and their employees. In addition to being an effective professional development trainer, Bruce is a popular conference speaker, writer and has been featured on major TV, Radio and Newspaper networks ranging from CTV to Global to The Globe & Mail.

Connect with Bruce on Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin.

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Mindfulness, Time Management and more.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

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How To Avoid Using The Word ‘But’

Do you avoid using the word ‘but’?

I was teaching a business writing skills workshop a few weeks ago and a participant said she avoids the word ‘but’ at all cost and wanted my opinion… so… here it is.

Most people avoid using ‘but’ as an attempt to avoid being negative… or to soften the delivery of a message. But, most often changing that one little word isn’t going to help much… especially if the actual structure / tone of the message is negative. The better solution is to use positive, benefit driven language.

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 4.10.09 PMUsing Positive, Benefit Driven Language

To overcome negativity, it’s best to rewrite the sentence using positive, benefit driven language; for example:

Before: “I know you would like a raise, but if you miss your annual targets you won’t get one.” 

After V1: “I will be able to give you a raise but first you have to hit your annual targets.”

or… without using ‘but’

After V2: “I will be able to give you a raise as soon as you have hit your annual targets.”

The positive message makes everyone feel better – and it has nothing to do with avoiding using the word ‘but’. In addition, I believe that when we write in a positive, benefit driven manner our reputation will benefit.

Using Positive, Benefit Driven Language AND The Word ‘but’:

This sentence sounds quite positive to me – and manages the readers’ expectations while also outlining a promise.

I’m happy to share business writing best-practices, but to be good at positive language you’ll have to practice.”

In addition to benefit driven language sounding better, benefit driven language is also much more scarce… which is an opportunity for you to stand out.

So, now that we’ve discussed that you don’t need to avoid using ‘but’, if you are still committed to that goal here are some alternatives:

  • ‘Remove the word all together – skip it’
  • Except
  • Besides
  • However
  • Nonetheless
  • Otherwise
  • Unfortunately
  • Instead 
  • While
  • On the other hand
  • Meanwhile
  • Although
  • Nevertheless
  • Still
  • Though
  • Yet
  • Having said that
  • In view of the aforementioned issues

And don’t forget the opportunity to use ‘and’.  ‘And’ is a favourite most everyone enjoys using because it’s a simple replacement. In addition, ‘And’ is also a great alternative because it suggests a positive perspective (often prefacing a ‘but’) with the constructive/learning/observational area of the communication.

Happy business writing and communicating. 

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts. If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

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12 Tips You’ll Learn In Effective Email Writing Training

Email writing training is one of my favourite topics. I often write about the impact of good (and bad), email writing on our professional success and reputation.

The Risk Of Email

90% of most business communication is by email. We try to build and maintain relationships using this one-dimensional, sensory deprived mode of communication that was never designed to do what we are using it for. Email was designed for the United States Defense Department in 1971 by Computer Engineer, Ray Tomlinson as a way to  send a simple (note the word ‘simple’), message to another person across a network.email3

Email has gone far beyond sending a simple message. Not only are we using it as a project management and relationship-building business communication tool, in many ways we are using email to replace conversations – displacing many phone and face-to-face conversations. For example, it’s not uncommon for business associates:

  • To never meet or speak with each other… and to only communicate by email.
  • Who sit next to each other to do most of their communication by email.

But it’s important we don’t forget that our email behaviour will help make or break our reputation.That’s why email writing training is an important investment in our success. Email writing training teaches us (and our coworkers) the skills we need to communicate efficiently and professionally… and to get our work done in a positive and resourceful manner.

A while ago I wrote a Blog post called Top 10 Email Etiquette Tips and Team Training there, I outline 10 Email Do’s and 10 Email Don’ts. And while I believe email writing training is better for you and your associates, I’d like to share with you 11 more Do’s and 1 more Don’t:

Email Do’s (+):

  1. Say Hello, Good Morning or Good Afternoon. This is the easiest way to remove an angry tone from your message. It’s also polite and helps build relationships. Disregard this if you send the same person 20 or more email each day.
  2. Get to the point. After saying Hello or Good morning, your first sentence should be your key point or action item. Once you’ve explained that, you can then provide the background information. Get to the point is a time saver for you as you likely write a shorter message which also saves your reader time.
  3. Always reply to email, especially if someone is waiting for the information you have. I’ve talked extensively about this in my blog post called Email Etiquette: Should You Reply To My Email? If you need more time, manage their expectations by letting them know how much time you need. It’s polite, time efficient and builds relationships when you reply.
  4. Be careful with Reply All. If there are people listed in the Cc: field, pause. If they need to know, make sure you use Reply All. If they don’t need to know then Reply to only those people who do.
  5. If you’ve been asked two questions be sure you provide two answers. If you need more time for one of the questions, provide the answer to one and let them know how much time you need for answer two.
  6. Format your email. This is often overlooked which is very unfortunate because formatting makes your email easier to read and understand… and easy to read email get replied to more quickly. So, use paragraphs and bullets extensively.+ vs -
  7. Attract your readers attention using your email subject line. If your email subject line is one or two words it’s likely not going to get them interested. ‘Sales Meeting’ is poor… while ‘Friday’s Sales Meeting: Location Change’ is much better.
  8. Identify Attachments. When you identify you are sending attachments it reduces people’s concern that you message might be spam or corrupt. It also ensures people don’t miss the attachment (which happens often). When sending attachments try to name the files something appropriate. File0001 & File0002 mean nothing vs. Q12014Sales & Q22014Sales let your reader go directly to the attachment they want to see first.
  9. It’s often easier to phone. It’s difficult to describe detailed situations by email. It’s impossible to brainstorm. If you have a complicated message, discuss in person or by phone and then summarize your conversation in a simple email message to make sure everyone agrees. IF you have bad news, a face-to-face conversation or phone call is a far better solution even though you might feel a bit uncomfortable.
  10. Walk away if you feel frustrated or angered by an email you received or some other influence (like finding the photocopiers jammed… again), don’t write an email and don’t click Send… to anyone. Go for a walk – take lunch – write out your frustration on a pad of paper – do a 3-minute breathing meditation… do anything but don’t click send. Whatever you write will likely have a disagreeable tone to it… which is never good.
  11. If your email ‘chain’ is getting long, it’s very efficient to take a moment to summarize. What has been decided? What is still outstanding? Can some people be removed from the email chain? If you don’t summarize long email it is easy to miss important items.

Email Don’t ():

  1. Never write an email you would not want on the front page of a newspaper. One tip I suggest during my Email Writing Training is, “If you wouldn’t be proud to send the email to your mother – re-write it.”

Conclusion Supporting Email Writing Training:

Effective Email Writing Training will help you:

  • Get to the point – quickly
  • Reduce mistakes caused by misunderstood email
  • Stop abusing To… Cc… and Reply All…
  • Avoid writing hostile, bossy or rude email messages
  • Write email messages that are easy to respond to
  • Support corporate values and personal values
  • Support teamwork
  • Be more confident and more relaxed at work

Bruce Mayhew Consulting helps you communicate positively and professionally. Increase productivity and enhance all relationships – from clients to co-workers to suppliers.

Happy communicating, harmony and email writing training. 

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If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

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Email Etiquette: Should You Reply To My Email?

I’ve sent you an email and am experiencing dreaded email no reply – should you reply to my email? Panic is setting in. What should I do? I’m likely experiencing some of these 8 panic points:

  • Did you see my email?
  • Am I low priority and you’ll respond later?  If so… when is later??
  • Did your server block my message?
  • Did my server block your response?
  • Perhaps you are working on a response – so I should wait?
  • Do you need more time?
  • Did I upset you – was my request inappropriate or was my email tone harsh?
  • Perhaps you did see my email and don’t care.

Help!

What’s The Email Etiquette? Should You Reply To My Email?

This email etiquette question boils down to Are people supposed to respond to every email, even if it’s only to say Yes, No or Thank you?

The most common reasons I hear of why people say we should not reply to some email is:

  1. They are being efficient – saving time.
  2. They are saving space on the companies server and back-up systems.

OK… I understand both of those points. Sure – they might save 5 seconds by not responding, but I think the cost of me assuming any of the above listed 8 panic points is way more costly to our business and our relationship. I think the question has to be examined considering the risks and the opportunities.

The Risk Of Not Replying To Email 

All you have to do is lose one piece of business, miss one deadline – or show up to one meeting that the other person doesn’t come to to easily waste 30 minutes or more in preparation and travel time to experience the benefit of replying first-hand.

For example, after waiting two days for a reply from a supplier, Meredith Heron, in-demand interior designer and owner of Meredith Heron Interior Design describes a recent experience, I emailed a tile supplier two business days ago. Nothing. My clients are committed to investing in quality products and love to do something unusual and truly creative. At this point, I’m taking my business somewhere else. Without doubt, not replying will cost this supplier dearly in lost revenue now… and likely for a long time in the future.

A quick reply, saying ‘I’ll have an answer for you tomorrow‘, ‘Yes‘, and/or ‘Thank you‘ is polite and a simple, time efficient way to be build relationships AND be motivating. 

And, for all the 8 panic points listed above, if I don’t get a reply to my email I really don’t know it was received (read receipts don’t work because they can be cancelled by the reader).

Example: A Situation To Consider

You receive an email from your very busy boss asking for some important information. She has outlined her needs and has asked for the information by 6PM Wednesday… the night before her meeting.

On Wednesday you have to leave by 3PM… it’s a lot to get done, but at 1PM on Wednesday you email your boss what she requested.

Now it’s 2:15PM and you have not had a confirmation from your boss that:

  1. She received your email / information
  2. The information is what she needs

Panic!! For many of the 8 reasons listed above you begin to worry because your professional reputation is on the line if she’s not happy.

Your reputation is on the line.

Example Cont’: Your Reputation Is On The Line

You want to make sure your boss is supported, so from 2:15 to 2:45 you meet with your assistant and your bosses assistant and show them where all your back-up files are and the key elements that you addressed when putting together your bosses request. This way:

  • If your boss didn’t get your work you have peace of mind to know that they have access to it.
  • If your boss needs to make any adjustments you’ve done the best you can to bring them all up to speed.

What Did Happen was… your boss saw your email and you did a great job… but you don’t know this.

The Problem…

By not taking 5 seconds to email you back “Thank you, this meets my needs perfectly.” your boss has lost a perfect and easy opportunity to show you that you are important to her and the company. Instead, you have now:

  • Stressed out yourself, your assistant and her assistant
  • Kept yourself from doing some Important Work for at least the last 30 minutes
  • Kept your assistant and her assistant from doing their Important Work for the last 30 minutes

So, what do you think? Should we send a response to all email? 

I believe silence to email provides too many opportunities for errors, disappointments and expensive assumptions to be made.

Certainly – if someone send you a “Thank you” it’s 99% likely that you don’t need to send a “You’re welcome” message.  That is wasting time. Otherwise, if you are wondering “Should You Reply To My Email?’ Yes, I recommend erring on the side of safety… even (or especially) if it’s only to be polite, give me a pat on the back and say “Thank you“.

Happy communicating and creating workplace harmony. Thank you!

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Email Management / IM Management: 4 Easy Productivity Tips

Are you wondering how to increase your productivity? You are not alone.

The average business professional will send and receive between 50 and 200 email each day… or more… and IM (Instant Messaging) is quickly on the rise!  If you try to manage your email and IM without a strategy, your concentration and your performance will suffer. That’s where a few Productivity Tips will be helpful.

1. Don’t Reply Each Email And IM As They Arrive

Trying to reply to each message as it arrives breaks your concentration on your important work and likely impedes your ability to meet your other important work objectives. Replying to each message as it lands also establishes an unrealistic (and in many cases unmanageable), customer service expectation.

Question: If your train your clients and co-workers to always expect an answer in 5 minutes, what will happen when you need an hour of focused concentration, get pulled into an hour-long meeting… or decide to have lunch?

Answer: If you suddenly make clients and co-workers wait more than 5 minutes for a response, their impression of your job performance (and your brand reputation), will suffer… only because you established unsustainable service expectations. They will also likely send a harsh message to your boss – which further hurts your reputation.

Getting to your year-end review and saying that you responded to 25,000 email within 5 minutes but missed your sales or service goals will not get you the raise, bonus or perhaps promotion you want.

2. Address Your Messages Wisely

Your email and IM frustrations are only part technology challenges – part of your challenge is a psychological impulse most of us have. What I mean is that you and I instinctively want to respond when someone asks us question – or even when given the opportunity to ‘add an opinion‘.

Solution 1:  Stop asking. Too many of us add too many people to our To… and Cc… In a recent story, called Email: A psychological defence course, Tom Stafford explains four key psychological principles that hold us hostage to our email.  If you Cc… people who don’t really need you will likely get their feedback… either too early or not at all.

Solution 2: Stop answering. You are likely being sent email you don’t need to reply to… so refocusing on a favourite Time Management habit I have is to ask, “Is this important work or busy work?” If it is busy work it gets moved to the bottom of my pile because I focus on the important work first.

By being very strategic about asking and answering, you will be able to decrease the number of email and IM that come to you… and decrease the incoming volume of your coworkers. You’ll be a productivity HERO!

3. Identify Times To Send Email / Receive Email

The next Productivity Tip that I recommend is to identify times to send / receive email. This tip means you’ll be able to be strategically responsible to your inbox (clients, service providers, co-workers), as well as your other job responsibilities.

I also try to only check once in the morning – more often in the afternoon. Why? Because I’m more creative in the morning – in fact most of us are (even if you don’t think you’re a morning person). Email responses don’t often require creativity… so, I use my creativity where it matters most – for strategic client work, customizing corporate training programs and writing.

If you are tempted to respond immediately you may wish to set your contact management system Send/Receive preferences to every two hours.

4. Use Email Contact Management Alarms, Filters and Folders

Setting up alarms for your top two or three clients (or your boss), so you ‘hear’ when a message arrives is a great solution and can lower your concern of missing an important information (all other email should arrive silently). This way, when you hear an alarm you can scan and prioritize your important message. If their email does need an immediate response then you should drop everything – otherwise get back to your strategy work (important work), and answer their message later.

Using filters or rules lets you automatically file email from each of your clients, suppliers or co-workers.  You may wish to reduce your inbox clutter by creating a folder for all messages you are Cc…’d on so you can read these email later (Cc…’s should be FYI not Action items). Do the same for secondary email like newsletters, blog posts or Google Alerts. Read these messages during time you’ve previously set aside for this purpose.

Conclusion

Notice that the first three Productivity Tips are personal habits – not technical solutions. Only the fourth leans on technology to help you manage your valuable time and productivity. Business Productivity Tips will never let you down. Also, remember to always consider how your message will either enhance – or hurt your professional image and reputation of the organization you represent.

Happy communicating.

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If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Having Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

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How To Send And Receive Less Email

This year most of my email training clients have had the same main request; they want their employees to learn how to email effectively so that they send and receive fewer email. And no wonder since the average business person sends and receives over 100 email every day… many over 300 every day.

Email was once seen as a tool that would increase efficiencies and competitive opportunity. Today email is a great business tool we can’t do without. But more and more we’re using it as a crutch instead of as a catapult.

Email Icon

The challenge is that the way we write email is decreasing our efficiencies, easily costing companies $3,000 or more PER employee every year in loss of productivity and opportunity lost… not to mention the loss to their personal and professional reputation.

How much time we spend emailing every day is astonishing. For example: if a person sends and receives 100 email during an 8-hour day (not accounting for lunch, breaks or meetings), they use email every 4.8 minutes.  If they send and receive 300 email they use email every 1.6 minutes. imagine…

Thankfully there are a easy steps we can all learn to use that will reduce email volume and be more efficient at work; here are just a few.

Use The Phone Or Walk Down The Hall

Sometimes even the most professional email is not the right solution. If we’re wondering how to email, the best strategy may be to pick up the phone – especially if there are issues that need to be brainstormed. The bonus is that conversations often build better business relationships and usually take less time.

Consider All Of Your Needs – And All Of Your Readers Needs

Too often we write email as a single thought – not a complete need or objective. Over an extended period of time (and countless email interruptions), we send email messages back and forth until we finally have discussed or shared (perhaps with some frustration), all the important points. When you write email, learn to bottom line your objectives and stick to the important issues – but cover all of them at once.

Write Great Email Subject Lines

Email subject lines are used as a primary resource readers use to determine if they will read your email now, later or never. Subject lines are also the first opportunity for you to make an impression. If you leave the subject line blank – or use a universal word like ‘Sale’ or ‘Meeting’, you risk being overlooked – all the time.

Value Your Values

Employees should know without hesitation the corporate and department values. They should also know how they can use these values to differentiate the company and themselves every time they write email or speak with clients, suppliers or their co-workers.

Conclusion

Email training is a fast and efficient way to turn email back into a catapult for your employees and business. When you know how to email, it’s a powerful business tool and a very sound investment.

Happy communicating.

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

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My Business Email (a rhyme – not a poem)

If someone told me yesterday I would be posting a business email rhyme I would have thought that they were off their rocker. Then last night happened.

To be very clear, I am not a poet. However last night I awoke at 11:30 PM with a pile of words rhyming around in my head. I learned long ago sometimes destiny needs to have its own way so I got out of bed and put fingers to keyboard. Soon after I crawled back into bed and was fast asleep having purged the words from my mind.

Long story short… with only a sparse attempt at editing, here is my business email rhyme (out of respect for all poets and poetry readers I refrain from calling it a poem).

My business email
Get to the point
They answer Who, What, Where and When first
Then Why and How last

My business email
Are easy to read
My ‘Action Items’ found easily
For the reader and me

My business email
Use a ‘Subject Line’ that’s clear
There’s no question of purpose
So they’re read first and not… last (at the rear)

My business email
Use To… and Cc… proper
To… means ‘Read This Now Please’
Cc… means ‘This Is Not A Show Stopper’

My business email
Are short not abrupt
Care is important
Email can cause a reader to erupt

My business email
Consider customer service as key
Clients, suppliers and co-workers
Deserve quality attention from me

My business email
Let my values shine through
I remember to do
Everything I can do

My business email
Are used to confirm fact
I use the phone or my feet
When I need to brainstorm or chat

My business email
Know grammar’s a friend
I use bullets and commas
And periods to end

My business email
Use Hello, Please and Thank you
Young family lessons
Are business tools also

My business email
Address people by name
I build trust in my promises
And that trust is my fame

So there you have it my friends and followers. I hope this has brought you a smile… and perhaps an email writing tip. And if you get woken up in the middle of the night by a thought, know you are not alone. I may also be awake. Mine might be the other light that is on down the street.

Happy communicating.

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

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I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

Communication Skills: How To Write

We work in a communication age where we have remarkable tools that all but guarantee we can communicate with anyone at any time and at any place.

Do you remember when the promise was that these communication tools would improve our productivity so we would have the time to build valuable relationships with our customers? These deep customer relationships would also lead to long-term corporate profitability and employee satisfaction.Bruce Email Training iPhone Photo

How is that working out?

I bet you and your teams are busier and have more pressure at work (and unfortunately frustration), than ever before… and there’s good reason.

At one end of our pressure at work problem is global competition, which is greater than ever (you and I can’t do much about global competition). At the other end of our pressure at work problem is that we have never received training on how to use the technology our employers have invested in (heavily). The result is that most of us are using writing skills we learned to write essays at school to build and manage professional relationships (you and I can easily fix this in as little as four hours).

Lets Look At Two Email Examples.

Instead of building relationships based on mutual trust, understanding and need we default to writing unnecessarily long or surgically short messages that often frustrate and confuse our reader. Also, our messages are interpreted as abrupt and (unfortunately), self-serving.

Original Email Example 1: It’s Surgically Short

Please set an appointment to bring your car in for its Spring Service. We’ll also check your air conditioner. Your cost is only $15.95.

Revised Email Example 1: 

To maintain optimal fuel economy and save money on gas, please set an appointment to bring your car in for its Spring Service next week. This appointment includes an air conditioner test so that we can help you stay cool this summer. Your cost is only $15.95.

Original Email Example 2: It Lacks Important Information

Below are the orders that I need a status on. Please reply as soon as possible. I am trying to prevent the customer from cancelling.

Revised Email Example 2:

I would like your help to prevent the customer cancelling the following 5 orders.
Please confirm today if it’s possible for us to receive all 5 orders at our Galt Ave location by next Wednesday, July 13.
My mobile at 416 617 0462 if you have any questions or if I can help.

Questions:

  • Which manages your businesses expectations and makes the receiver feel cared for and respected?
  • Which manages the receivers’ expectations and builds long-term relationships?
  • Which makes the receiver want to take immediate action?

The Original Email Examples are both accurate – but they are cold and seem to be only about the reader. The Revised Email Examples are about the writer as well as taking care of and / or partnering with the reader.

The Solution

To be successful you have to focus on both a micro and a macro business solution.

It’s important to know your audiences aren’t sitting around. They’re busy trying to get what they need. So when you make contact you have to show them you are looking after their best interests… every time. To do this your messages have to fill their needs first.

Macro: Your marketing and advertising messages have to be honest, up front and uniquely yours. This includes all communication to prospects, customers, suppliers, and to each other. Everyone at your company has to act as a cohesive team and support the corporate brand.

Micro: Your one-on-one conversations (with prospects, customers, suppliers, and each other), have to be honest, personalized and relevant to your readers needs. Nothing fancy – just focused on their needs.

If you clearly care for your readers needs:

  • They will be impressed, do what you want and come back… and likely tell all their friends about you, your service and how happy they are.
  • Your stress, frustration will decrease. Your workload and email inbox will also decrease as you become more efficient and effective writing better business email.

You can’t just say you are customer focused; you have to live up to your brand promise all the time. You have to think different and act different to be different.

Happy communicating.

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If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

An Email Style Guide; Should Your Company Have One?

Since over 90% of most business communication and relationships are managed via email, now might be the right time for you to have an email Style Guide. In other words… create a policy guide that will do many positive things like:

Email Style Guide

    • Establish e-guidelines and expectations that help employees provide consistent professional service
    • Empower everyone to demonstrate your company’s unique style, products / services, brand
    • Unite your employees in a Team Building exercise
    • Support all levels of your company and your customers

And to add even more benefit, an email Style Guide is also a powerful orientation tool to introduce new staff as well as suppliers / contract employees.

As you consider this path, your first few questions will likely be, “What is the process?” and “What will we end up with?” Well the answer to both questions is quite simple. You can focus on policies that outline:

    • What People Can Do”  Or
    • What People Can Not Do

Because we live in a judicial society (more stick than carrot), the more common approach is unfortunately the later. My advice as a Toronto based consultant who provides email etiquette training, is that you choose the flexible approach and create a Style Guide that will be a positive influence and act as a guideline – not a rulebook. By focusing on “What People Can Do” you benefit by empowering your employees to make the right choices in many different situations.

Should Your Company’s Email Style Guide Be Custom?

Another question you might have is “Can I buy an off-the-shelf solution?

To answer that question you need to look internally. Your products / services are unique. Your customer service is unique. Your mission, vision and values are unique. The way you do business and your unique value proposition is different from your competitors. Your customer mix and their needs are unique. So, should your email Style Guide be unique?

The way I am positioning this you already know I believe your email Style Guide should be unique to your company. Here is more detail why.

Your brand reputation is one of your most valuable assets – and because you and your employees communicate 90% of the time via email, it’s one of the most visible ways to live your brand… every minute of every day.

Using another company’s Style Guide is like moving into a neighbours home. Even in Toronto that just isn’t done. In a business environment, if you use policies that are not your own you force a disconnect between your core competencies, your customer service and your customer expectations. That disconnect will be felt every minute of every day by your employees and your customers… and that will result in you losing both employees and customer from frustration (both of which negatively impact ROI).

With virtually no more work this is also your opportunity to define your companies unique style for all electronic based communication be it email, email marketing, presentations, websites etc. Because they are all in the electronic world – they all pretty much follow the same guidelines.

By building your own email Style Guide you will also get maximum team-building benefit by seeing this process as a unique organization-wide opportunity. The benefit is to let all employees have impact – to allow everyone to join together and build a document that represents all that is best about your company / employees / product / service. That said, most companies will want to establish a design team, (a body of people who will collect and evaluate employee feedback with the corporate culture and corporate mission and vision for the future).

What Should Your Email Style Guide Include?

There is no definitive email style guide rulebook that must be followed to the letter. Every company is unique and as I suggested I believe your email Style Guide should be designed to match the unique corporate culture.

But, it’s nice to have a starting place, so the following offers a sample of email etiquette categories to be addressed.

1. Support The Visual / Readability:

    • Agreed upon email signature structure
    • Social Media references and graphics
    • Agreed upon fonts, colours and layouts

2. How to Support Your Brand:

    • Tag line
    • Demonstrate corporate values and customer service promise
    • How to treat ethnicity, gender, religious or racial references

3. Structure /  Composition:

    • When to use To, Cc… and Bcc…
    • How to quickly address the essential information (get to the point)
    • How to manage multiple topics and / or multiple audiences

Conclusion

As you plan your email Style Guide and who will help you with this important project I offer you this one last tip.

In most cases when someone reads your email they are making a choice to invest their valuable time and talent. In almost every case the decision to read or not read your email is based on your email etiquette and the following:

    • Your past email reputation (for being relevant, to the point, well written and polite)
    • Your subject line
    • What they see within the preview screen  (which is usually only the first few lines of your message). In fact – many people even answer based on those first few lines only

Make sure you create a helpful guide that everyone at your company uses to demonstrate they respect their audiences time as much as they respect their own time. If they do, your employees – and your company will be rewarded with respect, loyalty, better work relationships and greater ROI.

Imagine work being easier. Imagine work being more productive.

Happy communicating.

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

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