No, really. When you know how it's done, it's just like cycling or swimming or... Ah, but you had to learn and practise those, didn't you? Well, for those of you still looking for a little guidance on what constitutes effective business communication, here it is: the first in a series of guest posts I'll be posting throughout the coming months.
For this series of articles, expert writer Matthieu M. has kindly agreed to put together for us some thoughts on what works and what doesn't. And because January is a busy time for most of us, part 1 looks at how to get straight to the point in your letters and emails. So simple, really...
3 Steps to Writing an Effective Business Letter
Say you’re contacting new suppliers to work with your business, or contacting anybody for a business matter. You want to get fast responses and good results. This article will explain three key steps to write a killer business letter, poignantly draw the attention of its recipient, and incite a rapid response.
- Step 1: 90% of your letter is the first line. In today’s world we lead incredibly busy lives. The recipient of your letter probably gets tons of letters, emails, and social media messages every day. If your recipient is like me, he/she probably skims through emails and letters glancing at each one for around 3 seconds to see if it’s important to him/her. The first line of your letter needs to be direct and to the point so that your recipient knows it’s worth reading. If you start your letter, “We are an internet fashion retail business that has been in the industry for over 5 years…” it is more likely to be thrown in the trash than read and replied to. A better introductory phrase would be “Our business would like to order at least 500 men’s winter coats.” This sentence immediately shows the recipient that you mean business. He/she will be intrigued and will keep reading.
- Step 2: Clarity, clarity, clarity. People are far less likely to respond to your letter if they’re not sure what you’re saying. Be crystal clear about what you want. The sentence, “We would like to know the pricing of your men’s winter coats” communicates a general message, but the sentence “We would like to know how much it would cost to order 100 of your brown men’s winter leather jackets” tells the recipient exactly what you want. If you write a clear and concise business letter, you will get a clear, concise, and timely response.
- Step 3: A call to action. You’ve written a clear and concise letter with a poignant headline, but what is your recipient supposed to do with it? Finish your letter by telling your recipient exactly what to do next. Don’t say “please contact us at email@example.com for more information.” Request that your recipient do something specific, for example, “Email the prices to us at firstname.lastname@example.org before January 12, 2016. We are interested in purchasing as soon as possible.”