With emails filling our inboxes every day, why not try the traditional business letter to attract the attention of your reader?
One of the most fundamental, effective and traditional forms of communication still used in business today is the letter. Whether you’re writing to a potential client or investor, introducing a business proposal or requesting a grant from government, the simple letter can have a significant impact on the outcome you are trying to achieve.
When you write a letter you create an image of your business and yourself. Do you have a ‘can do’ attitude? Are you very formal in your communications? Are you technical? Do you have a professional approach? Is your business exciting and innovating? Your letters can communicate much more than what you think.
So, what makes a good letter? A good letter should be effortless to read. It should be factual, informative and relevant to the reader. It should clearly demonstrate the point that you need to make and provide the reader with an action that you want them to take. A good letter should grab the reader’s attention immediately, not waste their time.
Here are five simple tips to consider when writing your next letter:
1) KEEP IT SHORT
Business people don’t have the time to read long letters. When planning your letter ask yourself what is its purpose and what do I want to achieve? Make sure you can communicate this purpose in less than one page. If it’s longer than a page then you need to spend more time focussing on how you can succinctly articulate your message.
2) FOCUS ON THE READER
Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Tailor your letter to the reader and they’ll be much more interested in what you have to say. What are their needs? What do they want to know? Why would they be interested in my letter? What approach will influence their point of view? This approach also ensures you create interest and add value.
3) KEEP IT SIMPLE
The number one rule for clear writing is: keep it simple. Technical language and formal phrases will only clutter your writing and make it harder to understand. So avoid using jargon and technical terms unless you are sure your reader is familiar with this sort of language. For example use ‘regarding’ instead of ‘with regard to’, ‘for’ instead of ‘for the purpose of’ and ‘printer’ instead of ‘output device’.
4) USE STRUCTURE TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
It is often useful to introduce your letter with a heading (eg. Discount offer to existing customers). However, if you don’t feel that this approach reflects the personality you wish to convey, make sure that you get to the point early. Don’t leave your main reason for contact for the final paragraph. Some research also suggests that busy readers only absorb the first and last line of each paragraph. Use this to your advantage by keeping your paragraphs to three lines (or less), each beginning and ending with information you want to emphasise. Use dot-points, if appropriate, to really drive home your main points.
5) PROOF YOUR LETTER
Don’t send your letter without proof reading it. Computer spell checkers are very useful for picking up words you may have spelt incorrectly, but they aren’t foolproof. A single misspelt word will undermine your authority and position you as unprofessional on first reading. If you can, ask a colleague or a friend to do a ‘sanity check’ on your letter to make sure that your message is on target. Letter writing is one of the most cost effective and persuasive marketing tools. It is also a technique almost forgotten. Put your pen to paper and who knows what doors you might open.
Renee Hancock’s marketing and communications experience spans finance, government, education, not-for-profit, telecommunications and law. She has a strong background in public relations with six years consulting experience at two of Australia’s most prestigious agencies. She now works in-house for a leading financial services organisation and is completing a Masters of Marketing.