The small business guide to writing business letters

The small business guide to writing business letters

No matter what type of business you run, there’s a good chance the most common type of written communication your customers receive from you is a letter or email.

So how much time and thought do you actually put into writing them?

Whether it’s straightforward transactional mail (such as advising a change to your business, or to go with an invoice) or a very important sales pitch, you’re writing to them for a reason – and if you want to achieve that objective, the way you write matters. It’s also yet another touch point with your brand, an opportunity to make the best possible impression.

So here are some simple dos and don’ts for writing business letters:

Do:

  • Start with your objective. Is it to inform, persuade or engage? Do you need to make them aware of a specific issue, or emphasise the key benefits of taking up your offer?
  • Write down, as rough notes, the key message points you need to get across. If it’s an invitation to an event, this may be when, where, what and how much. If it’s a letter introducing a tender or proposal, it might be the three things that set your business apart.
  • Think about who will actually read this letter. What is their main concern, what matters most to them, in terms of your key messages? Put yourself in their shoes – how much time do they have to read it, and what do they stand to gain by reading it?
  • Get straight to the point. When you begin writing, start with the most important message first. If you don’t grab their attention in the first paragraph, they may not read the second.
  • Make your call to action very clear. If they need to complete paperwork by a certain time, give them that deadline and tell them where to send it to. If you’re promoting a special offer, close with a sense of urgency – stocks won’t last, this offer is only valid until the end of the month. A handy hint for sales letters: the PS is often the first (or second) thing they’ll read, so always put one in and use it to nail the most important benefit or instruction. 

Don’t:

  • Forget the email subject line. This is the first thing they’ll read, and it needs to very succinctly summarise the key message AND avoid the spam filter.
  • Send the first draft. Re-read your email or letter at least once – if it doesn’t make sense, it won’t be answered or acted on. Read it out loud to make sure it sounds like the real you, or get someone else to read it with fresh eyes.
  • Make assumptions about the reader. They may not remember meeting you, they may not understand that acronym or technical term, and they may not have the same level of interest in your business as you do. Be clear and think about every paragraph from their point of view.
  • Say more than you need to. Long wordy emails tend to get deleted, and in most cases there’s very little reason why a letter should go for more than one or two pages. If there is a good reason for it being longer, split up the key messages with sub-headings and use bullet points (for lists, steps in a process, critical dates) to make it quicker to read.

Change a few habits, and see the impact

This process isn’t as long-winded as it may sound – it’s really just a case of changing a few habits. Instead of writing an email and hitting send, stop and think. The time you take to get it right could make all the difference to what happens next.

 

You may also be interested in our previous post The small business guide to writing brochures and flyers. Visit us next week as we look at the do’s and don’ts for writing e-newsletters.

Do you have any tips to share?   We’d love to hear from you so please leave us a comment below.

 

Comments

  1. Great tips. Mine will be in email form. I must remember to proof, & proof & proff. see- proof

  2. Beth Niebuhr says:

    Nice, clear instructions on writing a business letter. I think that too often people don’t take the time to make their letters and/or email messages as good as they deserve to be. You’ve told them how!

    • Vicky Savellis-Grant says:

      Thank you Beth. Indeed it’s important to invest time and thought in drafting letters as this helps build a positive impression of your business.

  3. Great tips that should be obvious but sometimes are forgotten. My Fave is get to the point, especially with emails. Businesses get many, many emails a day and don’t have time to read long, drawn out messages.

  4. Good points… I do tend to be wordy at times.. but what I do isn’t something to just say… do this because of that. It usually entails explaining something. People can get lost easily. But well stated!

    • Vicky Savellis-Grant says:

      Indeed we still need to provide enough information but you are right people tend to switch off quickly. Thank you Kristen.

  5. Sonya says:

    A great post, thanks for the reminder with these tips. They can be easily forgotten.

  6. Yakini says:

    Thank for the business letter tips. It is these little things that we continue to forget about.

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