Remember the movie Glengarry Glen Ross with Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey, and Alec Baldwin? While it certainly isn’t the most uplifting of films, the famous line still lives on: “Always be closing” (please note that this link contains R-rated language). Now, regardless of what type of industry you’re in, there’s some truth to this. After all, your business is only as good as your customers—in your case, patients—and thus, every business decision you make should ultimately be about moving prospective buyers further along the sales funnel.
But most of us don’t operate with a hard-sell mentality—actually, we’re just the opposite. We soft sell. We do things like provide educational resources, a welcoming front office, and a platform for questions and two-way conversation on social media. We sell not by pushing, but by providing value. And we do so quite frequently with the written word.
Whether it’s on your blog, Twitter, or the signs you place around your office, your words matter. In fact, they have power—power to communicate who you are, to generate emotion, to convey meaning—to market you and your practice. So, put thought into how you say what you say. Here are our ABCs of marketing writing to get you started:
There’s a time and a place to use industry-specific, über clinical terminology that has absolutely no meaning to individuals who didn’t go to PT school. Want a hint? It’s when you’re writing to people who actually went to PT school. Otherwise, find another way to communicate. As Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” When writing to your customers, demonstrate your expertise not by using the words with the most syllables, but by selecting the ones that are going to resonate most with your audience. Often, it’s the simple sentences (in active voice) that wield the most strength.
It’s important that you remain consistent—both in your message and your style (i.e., what you say and how you say it). Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t come at an issue or a challenge in different ways or that you shouldn’t adjust your message based upon the channel (e.g, 140-character tweets), but your general tone, stance, and style of writing should remain consistent. Otherwise, you risk confusing your audience and appearing flaky—or worse, disingenuous. Establish your voice (maybe it’s friendly, witty, honest, and intelligent) and make it stick.
You’re bound to make a mistake—whether it’s spelling, grammar, or just a confusing statement—every now and again while writing. And that’s okay. We all do. The key is to make sure that those errors are few and far between. So, double check your work. Reread your writing—out loud. Think of it from your audience’s perspective. Enlist a friend or colleague to do a final pass. Basically, just do your best to catch your mistakes before you publish anything.
There you have it: The ABCs of marketing writing. And here’s one more bonus tip from the pros:
Select a style guide.
Whether it’s AP (think newspapers), APA (think scientific journals), or Chicago (think books), choose one (we recommend Chicago) and adhere to it—and make sure it’s up to date. A lot has changed over the last 20 years. (For example, regardless of what you learned in typing class, single spacing after punctuation has replaced double spacing.) If you can’t decide which guide to go with or want to create your own, that’s fine, too. Even if it’s only in your head at first, there are certain stylistic rules on which you should have a stance (e.g., always use series commas because they aid in reader clarity, and never place spaces around em dashes because it breaks visual continuity and flow).
Oh, and if it’s been a few years since your last writing class, now might be a good time to brush up on your grammar. Speaking of which, if you didn’t click on the active voice link above, we strongly encourage you to click here now for a quick Purdue OWL tutorial on the subject. It’s a small change that can have a really big impact on your writing.