Is Proper Grammar Still Important?

Typos and grammar gaffes make your business communications look unprofessionalIn texting and social media, speed and sincerity are valued over grammatical accuracy.

But proper grammar is vital to conveying a professional message, even in social media. Typos and mistakes can turn prospects away. That’s why it’s crucial to have at least one other person review all of your company’s communications before they are printed, published or posted. Whether you use a colleague or a professional writer or proofreader, that second pair of eyes will help spot mistakes and identify any areas that are unclear.

If you want to brush up on your grammar skills, there are a number of great online tutorials and tools, including the Purdue Online Writing Lab. I also highly recommend The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White. This short little book is very readable and will help make your writing clearer and more concise.

Do you have a grammar or writing question? Please let us know in the comments — we’re always happy to help!

The 5 “Ws” of an Effective Social Media Strategy

Clients often ask, “Should we be on LinkedIn? What about Twitter and Google Plus? And I’ve been hearing a lot about Pinterest and Instagram — should we try those, too?”

The answer is, “Maybe.”

Social media is exciting and it can be a very powerful marketing tool. There are a lot of social networking sites, with new ones appearing all the time. But while these sites are free, it costs you time and effort to maintain your company’s presence on them. And an ineffective presence will work against you.

The key to deciding where and how you will invest your time online is to start with a well-defined social media strategy. And you can do this by thinking about those “5 Ws” you learned back in school.

WHO: I’ve already written about the most important component of a social media strategy: focus. Before you take any other steps, you need to decide exactly who your target audience is.

WHAT: What information will your audience find valuable and engaging? Only about 20% of the content your business shares through social media should be promotional. The rest should provide information that’s useful to your prospects, whether it’s industry news and insight, how-to information or tips.

WHERE: Where does your audience spend their time online? Pinterest is a fun marketing tool, but it won’t do you much good if your target audience doesn’t use it. Or you may find that your B2B prospects spend a lot of time on Facebook, but only for personal use. Do some research to see how your industry is using social media, and poll your customers to see where they want to engage with you online.

WHEN: Determine how often you will blog and post to your social media outlets, then create an editorial calendar to make the process as easy as possible. Plan out your topics and messaging at least two weeks in advance, and be sure to note key events you can tie into, such as holidays or upcoming trade shows.

WHY: After you’ve answered all the other “W” questions, step back and ask, “Why?” Periodically assessing how your social media fits into your overall marketing plan and why your audience will find this information helpful will go a long way in keeping your strategy efficient and on track.

 

All effective social media starts with a well-crafted strategy. Please contact us if you need help creating or implementing a powerful social media strategy for your business.

Business Lessons from the DMV

Make it easy to do business with your companyI had to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles the other day.

That sentence probably just made you picture a long line of irritable people, an endless wait and disgruntled employees.

It actually wasn’t that bad. My local DMV has a number of procedures in place to reduce the wait, including numbered tickets (like a deli) and signs explaining their processes.

But it could have been better. The online information about what types of identification would be needed was confusing. When I walked in the door, it wasn’t immediately clear what step I needed to take first. And that endless wait did exist… at the information desk.

So while I waited, I thought about ways businesses can make their processes faster and easier for customers, whether in a store, online or over the phone.

Here are some ways you can make it easier for customers to do business with you:

• Tell customers what they need to get started. Take stock of what customers need to initiate business with you, such as measurements, product specs or their tax identification number. Make a simple, clear list and post it in a highly visible place on your website.

Make the steps clear. People at the DMV were confused about what they needed to do first. Fill out a form? Take a ticket? Spell out exactly what you want customers to do first and make that information easy to find. A FAQ page on your website is a great place to spell out your processes, or create a “Getting Started” link you can post on your site and email to prospects.

• Provide progress updates. If customers are on hold, let them know how many callers are ahead of them. If you want them to fill out an online form or survey, include a progress bar or let them know how many questions they have left.

Be transparent. The line at the DMV got longer around lunchtime. If there’s a time of day when wait times are shorter at your company, let your customers know so they can plan accordingly.

• Make it easy to get help. This is perhaps the most important step of all. Make it very clear how customers can get help at any point in the process, whether it’s calling for advice or clicking for an online chat. And make sure someone is available to provide information quickly.

Today’s customers are more time-pressed than ever. If your processes are confusing or difficult they will just go to a competitor. Making your processes clear and easy to follow will help you gain customer loyalty and repeat business.

What process improvements has your business made? Please share your tips in the comments!

Are You Making This Social Media Mistake?

Effective social media strategies require focusThe most important component of any effective social media strategy is actually quite simple. And yet many companies overlook it.

That’s because social media is exciting. It’s always changing, everyone’s trying it, and it’s tempting to just jump in and get started.

But that’s a big mistake.

Before you create a social media plan, set up company accounts and pages or take any other steps, you need one very important thing: focus.

You need to determine:
1. Who you are trying to reach
2. What type of information they will find valuable

That’s it. The answers to those two questions should guide all your social media efforts. While it’s good to share information that shows your company’s personality and fun side, 98% of what you post should be helpful to your target audience.

Your prospects and fans are busy. If you get too far off topic or clog their Facebook or Twitter feed with posts about every song you listen to, workout you complete or sandwich you eat, they’ll simply stop following you. (Unless you’re music critic, personal trainer or chef, of course.)

If your company is already active in social media, you should review your messaging periodically to make sure you’re staying focused. The online world moves fast, and it’s easy to get off topic. In fact, a good rule is to stop before you post anything and ask yourself, “Will our audience find this useful?”

And if you want to share your views on politics or sports, post the latest photos of your dog or cat or kid, or note that you had pizza for lunch, set up personal accounts for yourself on Facebook and Twitter and share away.

Social media holds a great deal of potential for companies who approach it correctly. Stay tuned for more posts to help you maximize your online efforts!

The Power of Clear Communication

Welcome to the Clear Sky Writing blog!

When it comes to marketing, we believe there’s nothing more powerful and engaging than clear, straightforward writing. So we’ll be sharing ideas and tips on how to communicate clearly to make your message stand out.

Check back often for posts on the latest and greatest in social media, strategic marketing, effective business writing and much more. Or even better, use the “Subscribe to Our Blog” feature on the upper right side of the page to have our posts delivered directly to your inbox.

Got a burning marketing communications question? Or maybe something you’d like to learn about social media? Please leave a comment — we’d love to hear from you!