Corporate Marketing

Corporate Marketing Writing Tips for Startup CEOs
Startup CEO? You Need These 5 Writing Tips for Corporate Marketing

You’ve got a great idea for a new business. You know you can translate that idea into a product of the highest caliber. But you may not have expertise or experience with marketing, public relations, business plans or grant proposals. Without those, your excellent product is likely to remain a big secret. The common denominator for all those disciplines is good writing.

You don’t have to be Shakespeare to write a press release or website copy, but you do have to adhere to basic good business writing rules. When your company is bigger, you’ll be able to pay someone on staff to listen to your ideas and boil them down succinctly to their essence. But until then, you’re either on your own or you have to pay an outside expert to help. In this blog post, I’ll lay out five tips for good business writing that will help you do it yourself.

  1. Don’t be intimidated. The effort to say something perfectly can obscure the big picture of what it is you want to say. It’s frustrating when you try over and over again to write the same sentences and aren’t satisfied with the results. Good writers generally start by simply putting the essence of what they want to say into words without worrying about writing it to the best of their abilities. Then they go back and improve the writing. You should do the same.
  2. Think carefully about your audience. It’s made up of various groups, and each group has different needs and attitudes. You can’t approach them in the same way. To be persuasive, you need to understand and focus on those needs and attitudes. The arguments you use in your writing to persuade one group could leave another group cold.
  3. Eliminate promotional language. This may sound counter-intuitive if you’re trying to promote yourself, your company or your product/service. However, promotional language turns people off much more than it convinces them. Facts convince readers. Go through what you’ve written and ask yourself, “Can I prove it?” If you’ve made statements that you can’t prove, go back and revise them. Example: “XYZ widget will be the best new widget since the introduction of widgets 10 years ago.” That statement is your opinion, not a persuasive statement. Delete sentences that make that type of general claim and include the facts that differentiate your product from others, such as “Unlike other widgets, XYZ widget is made entirely of steel and holds up to 500 pounds.”
  4. Less is more. You’ll lose most of your audience right away if they’re presented with long and detailed text. Don’t go off into unnecessary tangents. They may be interesting to you, but they cloud the overall picture you need to present. Stick to the main points you want to make and the necessary evidence for each point. After you’ve put your thoughts into writing, go back and delete unnecessary words, sentences and concepts that aren’t central to your point of view. Then do it again.
  5. The process of writing about your company and product will force you to hone in on what’s important about your business and differentiates it from competitors. You’ll learn to tell your story more quickly and more powerfully as a result.

By Lucy Siegel

Lucy Siegel LLC

startup marketing consultant
Why the World Needs a New Startup Marketing Consultant

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

…an Exclusive Interview with Lucy Siegel by Lucy Siegel

Q: What is Lucy Siegel LLC? Is this your third public relations agency?

A: Lucy Siegel LLC is my third entrepreneurial venture, but it isn’t a PR company. It will provide marketing communications strategy, planning and training services. The clients I’m interested in working with are startups and foreign companiesin the early stages of developing a foothold in the U.S. These are companies that could really use
help from a startup marketing consultant. I’ll also be working with other small to midsize companies.

Q: Aren’t people catching on that consultants merely borrow your watch and then tell you what time it is? And then send hefty bills for their supposed expertise?  

Lucy Siegel, startup marketing consultant

Lucy Siegel, Principal, Lucy Siegel LLC

A: What you’re saying can be true at times. But there are situations where consultants bring expertise that their clients lack. They can also provide independent, neutral input that company insiders can’t. Sometimes it saves money in the long run to spend some upfront to make sure you’re taking the appropriate actions.

Q: How many consultants will you have?

A: Just me. I’m the queen bee and the worker bee both. When you hire Lucy Siegel LLC, you’ll get Lucy Siegel.

Q: What’s the difference between hiring Lucy Siegel LLC and hiring an agency to provide marketing services?

A: Clients will hire me on a project basis to consult on and help plan their marketing communications and PR programs. I am not a day-to-day provider of marketing or PR services, but I’ll help match up a company to the right agency if a client wishes, or find an internal staff member or freelancer, which may be a better solution sometimes than an agency. I look at the circumstances and choose the best fit for each individual situation.

Q: Small and midsize companies don’t have tons of money to spend on marketing and PR in the first place. Why should they hire a startup marketing consultant like you when they’ll also need to hire the resources to do the day-to-day work? Isn’t that just an extra layer of expense? 

A: You’re assuming they know what kind of marketing resources they need. This is not a good assumption. Startup founders may be brilliant experts in some areas, but many of them have little or no experience in marketing or communications. Companies frequently ask marketing agencies for services they think they need but that aren’t a good fit for their needs. It’s up to the agency to advise the client about what will and won’t work for them. As a PR agency owner, when I felt our services weren’t a good fit, I advised potential clients to use the budget on other kinds of marketing activities.

Q: Why are some companies not good candidates for PR?

A: That’s a blog post unto itself. But to answer briefly, it depends on how you define PR.  If corporate leaders are looking for media coverage of their company and/or products, and there’s nothing that differentiates them from competitors, it’s very hard to interest the media in covering them.  They’re not doing anything that’s newsworthy. Sometimes it’s a matter of timing: at times I’ve been asked to arrange media coverage of a product that isn’t yet available – not even to journalists and bloggers. Unless the product will be really revolutionary, or comes from a big company like Apple, consumer media aren’t likely to agree to cover it until it’s available to purchase.

However, the definition of public relations is much broader than media relations. It encompasses social media programs, content marketing, events, speaking engagements, community relations activities and more. But most of the time, when a company is looking for a PR firm, they want media coverage. Many business people think media coverage is the be-all and end-all of PR. Whether or not their companies or brands are of interest to the media, they want to be in the media. Some agencies will try to dissuade a potential client from spending money on something that won’t bring results and will try to sell something else that would be more helpful. But many agencies are too hungry for business to just walk away when a client asks for something that can’t be done. They say they can do it and pray that somehow they’ll find a way to deliver.

This situation isn’t limited to PR, it’s the same with other forms of marketing communications.

Q: Are you saying that agencies can’t be trusted to do what’s right?

A: The problem is, too many agencies will take on clients they can’t help because they need the revenue. The thought process isn’t usually a cynical one; generally they’ll convince themselves that with luck they’ll be able to succeed, even though in their hearts they know it’s very unlikely.

Q: How can company executives protect themselves so they don’t waste their marketing budgets?

A: There are a several ways:

  • Add an experienced, savvy marketing executive to the staff to take charge of marketing and communications. The problem is, many startups that should begin marketing activities aren’t yet in the financial position to hire someone with the proper experience.
  • Go to an “integrated marketing” agency that provides a wide range of services rather than a single-discipline agency that only offers one type of service. Most single-discipline agencies are biased towards the service they offer, whether a potential client needs it or not. But integrated marketing agencies are more discipline-agnostic, since they provide a range of marketing services and can provide a proposal based on the best mix of services for a particular client’s goals.  However, integrated marketing agencies are profit-making businesses, too, and most of them are unlikely to advise a potential client that the time isn’t right to start working with them (and this is sometimes the best advice). There’s also the issue of budget. Most startups and small-to-midsize companies without senior marketing professionals on staff don’t have any idea how much they need to spend to make an impact. There’s just as much to lose by spending too little as spending too much. If the budget is too small, there won’t be enough activity to make an impact and the budget is just wasted.
  • The third option is to hire a marketing consultant to work with the company’s executives to develop a proper marketing strategy based on the budget available, and to recommend the best resources to carry out the strategy.

If I were the CEO of a startup or a new U.S. subsidiary of a overseas-based company, I’d rather spend a relatively modest amount to get help from an unbiased marketing consultant than risk wasting a significant amount of budget on marketing solutions that won’t work. As my website says, there’s no GPS system for reaching a marketing destination, and in many cases there aren’t even maps available. It’s a waste of fuel and of time to get in the car and drive if you don’t really know the way. Hiring a guide to draw a map and give directions is eminently sensible.

By Lucy Siegel, Lucy Siegel LLC