The words you use have the power to influence your audience: choose them carefully.
Just 13 percent of firms with fewer than 25 people have a full-time dedicated marketing person, according to Zweig Group research. For those firms without, these responsibilities most often fall to the president/CEO (46 percent of firms) or a principal/partner/vice president (38 percent of firms). Even with a talented marketing team at your disposal, if you have a leadership position in an AEC firm, chances are you’re going to have to do some writing. Here are a few tips for making your writing process less painful so you can get the best results possible:
- Before you start writing anything, think about what it is you want to accomplish. This sounds like an obvious and oversimplistic statement, but once you open a blank Word document, you’d be surprised at how quickly you can forget the end goal. If you’re writing a cover letter for a proposal, your job is to capture the interest of your potential client, convince them to keep reading, and ultimately make them want to work with your firm. If you’re writing copy for the “about” page on your website, you need to make sure you’re clearly communicating the things that define your firm in a memorable way.
- Know your audience – clients are people too. Put yourself in the shoes of the person who is going to be reading what you’re writing. How many other things will they read that day? If they already know your firm has done projects in 32 states and has a strong team in civil, don’t restate that; say something else! Does the reader have a particular problem or challenge they are looking to solve with what you are presenting? If so, lead with that! Show you understand what your target is going through by concisely explaining the issue and then presenting a compelling solution.
- Differentiate. Peruse the websites of some of your competitors, you’ll likely see some of the same sentences used over and over. These are the statements you don’t want to use. I promise your firm won’t lose a job because you don’t say you “provide cost-effective innovative solutions.” Don’t be afraid to show off your impact in figures – use case studies, testimonials, and data points.
- Make a visual impact. Lead with a powerful headline. Use bullet points, numbered lists, and bold statements appropriately and effectively. Don’t clutter the page or your sentences. If you cut unnecessary statements and words from your sentences, those left behind will pack a greater punch!
- Be authentic. You and your firm have a unique personality; don’t be afraid to show it. Use words you understand, believe in, and could use in a conversation. Although you shouldn’t be repetitive, don’t pull out the thesaurus and select words your client may have to google to understand properly!
Effective writing, especially on websites, proposals, and other promotional materials, has a lot of room for improvement in our industry. Those who put forth the effort will see returns on the investment.
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