I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy!Tash

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What contact details to give?

If you are looking for something online, what form of contact details do you like to see? What difference does it make to you if it isn’t there?

I have often read about offering a range of contact methods to give clients options and their preferred choice. I believe in the value of certain options being offered, too. So it was very interesting to read Danielle Keister’s view on contact details.

Her argument is that someone who really wants your services will use the contact details your provide; if they won’t follow your system (in her case, completiong of a specific form to get a quote, etc) then this forms a process fo weeding out clients you didn’t really want in the first place.

I like the concept – it is impossible to please everyone so I can make my business run the way that best suits me. My contact pagedoesn’t include my mobile because I don’t think anyone’s writing project is so important I need to be contactable all the time, and it doesn’t include my email address to avoid spam. On the other hand, it does encourage an email contact form as the preferred means of contacting me.

I could delete my phone number from the site altogether, but I think there is a certain credibility attached to having a phone number available. Please tell me if you disagree!

My postal address is rarely used by anyone I don’t have an existing business relationship with, but I include it because it helps identify my location – I know I hate not knowing where a business is located if it isn’t clear (my .au domain and about us page do make it clear I am in Australia, and my exact location isn’t very relevant to clients so the contact page is less critical for me).

Away from my website, I generally use my URL and email address for contact information.

And I guess it works as the majority of clients and prospects do contact me by email – at times I wonder why I have a business phone at all!

Do you offer all your contact details or do you tailor it to your business preferences? How does that work for your business?

Details count…

I wonder how any writer can downplay the importance of the details – if we all ignored grammar and spelling, our writing would become impossible to understand.

I’m the first to agree that spelling correctly and noticing the small aspects of grammar and flow are boring  – there’s no way to make them sexy or as appealing as catchy headlines or flashy imagery. But that doesn’t mean they can be ignored for good communication and good marketing.

Here are some reasons:

  • details show care – many customers will think “if he can’t be bothered proofreading or checking details, how do I know he can be bothered doing the details when working for me?”
  • details affect meaning –  using the wrong word (consider boy and buoy or assistants and assistance) or moving a comma can make a huge difference to the meaning. In business terms, some of my corporate clients are bound by regulations so little details are important to avoid legal and/or financial consequences – for them (and many businesses) details have to come above marketing
  • errors distract from the document – you want people to read the message of your business writing, not get distracted by lots of errors. As soon as someone notices an error or has to reread it for understanding, they are distracted and your message is diluted.

Personally, I wouldn’t consider using the services of a writer who states (or demonstrates!) spelling and grammar aren’t important in what they do – it’s like a doctor not worrying about the boring details of dosage in prescriptions or an accountant disregarding careful arithmetic!

We’re all human and the odd mistake can slip through, but they should be infrequent rather than acceptable.

To me, grammar is the foundation for good writing – if something is done well, you won’t notice the grammar but the message is clear. Do you notice bad grammar and poor spelling?

Set your sights to the details

Although we may use the word sight a lot more often than site or cite, it is worth knowing the difference between them!

Cite: to mention or quote a document or legal result.
He cited Judge Brown’s findings from case 32.

Site: a relevant place or piece of ground. It includes a construction site (where building works are taking place), a sacred site (a place of significant meaning to some people) and a crime site (the area where an activity took place, in this case an illegal activity).
They chose the best site for their sleeping tent.

Sight: the ability to see and what is seen.
Sight is one of the five senses.
It was a magnificent sight from the lookout.

Site is easy to remember if you think of a site being a place where you can sit.

Running effective surveys

FIlling in a form by handAside from the content of the survey itself, it is very important that any surveys or feedback forms are well prepared in other ways.

I just answered a survey that included at least three of the following mistakes and it has left with me with the impression that those business owners don’t care about details or consistency – so why would I trust them with promoting my business (their apparent service)?

So before you make a survey available to your customers, check how it presents and do a test run to see it really does work – better yet, get someone else to do the test run for you.

  1. Be careful of what you make a compulsory questions/answer. If a compulsory response isn’t included, the person can’t submit their survey and may get frustrated and move on which means you don’t get their feedback. And most people won’t tell you they had this problem, either.
    So if you do make a question compulsory to answer, ensure there is an answer for everyone so all can answer – even if one answer is “don’t know”, “prefer not to answer”, “none of the above” or similar.
    And if you give a range of answers including ‘other’, make sure that ‘other’ is an acceptable answer. I have done surveys where I can’t submit unless I choose a response instead of ‘other’ – forcing me to choose an inaccurate answer as well as my true comments.
  2. Most small (and even larger) businesses use a third party to run surveys. This generally means the survey appears more professional and can be easier to use – for example, not many businesses can afford the programming to do an online survey each time. While this is a valid practice, minimise the third party as much as possible.
    For example, if you complete this business branding survey, which is run on a third party survey site, you will be directed to the host business’s website once you click on ‘submit’. This way, the business itself is being promoted and gains more traffic from people doing the survey. The other option is to let people go to the third party’s homepage once the survey is complete.
  3. Brand the survey as much as possible. If the survey is a serious part of your business, it should continue your brand. That means add a logo, use your corporate colours, use the same style of writing, use your corporate fonts and use relevant images as applicable. You may not be able to make it match your web template or change fonts, for instance, but brand it as much as possible.
  4. Keep it as short as possible – you probably want responses from a range of people, not just the bored and those who love surveys, and busy people don’t have time for long surveys unless they see a potential benefit from it.
    Be careful with the number of questions – if one more question or comment will create a new page, review it. Someone scanning a survey will see there is another page and decide it is too long which would be a pity if the next page was only one question – or worse, if the next page is simply a “thanks for doing our survey” message.
  5. Look at the presentation – is there too much text so it looks complicated or time consuming? Does it look professional or just thrown together? Is there a nice mix of multiple choice answers and written responses, or just written responses? Does it look easy to complete?

Once you are confident you have good questions and a well prepared survey/questionnaire, the next step is to announce and promote it appropriately. Remember that many people won’t fill in the survey just because you want them to – you have to give them a reason to want to do it themselves.

And then make sure you make use of your survey results!

Use your words wisely!

Check details – and check again

Let’s face it not everyone will notice or care about a couple of small spelling or grammatical mistakes. But getting the details correct is absolutely critical.

Make sure you go back and check details in your work – whether it is something you have written, a professional wrote for you or a graphic designer has worked on for you. Ideally, get someone else to check your document just for details.

If in doubt at how easy it can be to make such mistakes, here are some real life examples…

  1. A marketing flyer for a local shopping strip where each shop added their ad looked great except for one little detail – they spelt the name of the suburb incorrectly! And I know because I saw the flyer in circulation so it went out without being corrected.
  2. A course registration form included a second page with the following under the header:
    Invoice Date: 18 December 2008

    Event: Course Name, Melbourne – 20 February 2008
    Obviously, prompt payment isn’t an issue with these people!

  3. A business sent out invitations to an event that cost them a lot of money to arrange. The invitations were sent out stating a day and date that didn’t match so they risked many people not turning up.
  4. 500 business cards were printed with the wrong mobile phone number because no one checked the original source. Luckily, the problem was noticed before any cards were given out.
  5. 100,000 letterhead were printed before anyone realised the disclaimer mentioned another (related) company name. Could you afford this sort of reprint?
  6. a book on small business quoted someone but used the wrong first name for her, which put her offside and made it hard for readers to research that woman
  7. the male CEO of a Melbourne company was named in a photo in an industry magazine – however, the photo was a woman and the article was not even related to the CEO or his company.

So while you won’t be alone with such mistakes, your credibility is better if you take the time to make sure details are present and correct. The cost of not checking can be huge.