Business Development Series Posted by David McDermott

Are you “we” ing too much when you write?

This article demonstrates how to write client-focused marketing materials and proposals that get read. It addresses the problems we experience on a day-to-day basis where clients write too much about themselves.

How to write client-focused materials

When writing marketing materials or proposals, most professional services firms tend to write too much about themselves. They focus on their own interests and the features of their offering. However, to ensure your marketing materials are successful and proposals get read you need to first write or talk about what really interests clients.

This means learning to think from their perspective, not that of your firm. Second, you must present or write directly to clients using the terms, ‘you’ and ‘your’. The marketing research concerning client focus and direct use of language leaves no room for doubt, it’s time to move on from the indirect academic style.

Putting clients first

Demonstrating a keen client focus with the careful use of language can have enormous benefits in terms of trust and relationship building. To do this, you have to master two related but separate techniques:

  • Thinking like clients
  • Writing to, and for, clients

Thinking like a client

Before you can write from a client point of view, you have to think like a client.

If you really want to focus your writing, begin by asking:

  • What do they care about?
  • What motivates them?
  • What do they need and want to know?
  • What will generate a buying impulse?
  • What are they worried about?
  • What will reassure them?
  • What do they care about?

If you write from the point of view of your firm,  you may end up sounding completely self-centred, perhaps even arrogant – not a good way to gain trust or win business.

For example, many presentations and proposals begin with a self-congratulatory company profile, which often catalogues the successes and awards the firm has won. The sad truth is that almost no one reads this, and it sometimes has the exact opposite of the desired effect. For example, if an investment firm waxes lyrical about its plans to grow assets under management by 10% over the next year, people may just think it’s more interested in getting their money than meeting their investment needs.

If you want to capture your prospective clients’ attention, and ultimately win business, start with what the client wants to know about, not what you or your firm wants to tell them. The company profile, for example, does serve a purpose, which is to reassure the client that they’re buying into a solid and successful investment firm. But it’s a hygiene factor, not a selling factor unless features are followed by benefit statements.

When you do write a company profile, write it from a client perspective. Here’s a typical example of how not to do it:

GBFB Asset Management are a leading global investment firm, offering a comprehensive and global approach to managing assets. Our talented investment teams, clear philosophy and presence in key world markets are a powerful combination. Our success means that we now manage worldwide assets of £330 billion, a 10% increase in just two years.

This type of profile often leaves the reader with the impression that, as a firm, you’re either insecure and trying too hard, or you’re smug and self-satisfied. It doesn’t contain a single client-focused message.

So how do you fix it? Start by asking yourself what’s important to the client. Put yourself in their shoes, and then start to write. Omit or revise anything that’s not related to a specific client interest or benefit. Here is a suggested re-write:

With GBFB Asset Management you gain access to a leading investment manager, offering a truly client-centred approach to meeting your investment requirements. World-class, talented investment teams, guided by a clear philosophy, will tend your investments. Collectively they drive the investment process that helps us exceed your expectations.

Read the second part of this article for some tips on how to write and speak directly to clients for greater impact.

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