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Business writing

Why read this? : We look at how to get the most out of your business writing for marketing and e-Commerce. Learn its role in brand identity, brand activation and customer experience. We also share tips on writing for your target audience, and the structure and process of business writing. Read this for ideas on how to boost your business with better business writing.

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Business Writing

How this guide raises your game :-

1. Understand why and how to use business writing to support your brand identity, brand activation and customer experience. 

2. Learn how to use purpose and structure to improve your business writing.

3. Follow the process of drafting and editing to sharpen up your business writing. 

Business writing is written for a clear purpose. It’s to help persuade customers to engage with and buy your brand.

Learning how to create, commission and craft business writing which speaks for your brand is key to bringing your brand to life. 

Great writing is part of building brilliant brands. It helps your brand stand out, improves your customer interactions and persuades customers to buy your brand. Which is what you want, right?

This guide explores the role business writing plays in marketing. We’ll show how to build structure into your business writing to make it sharper and smarter. And finally, we’ll share the key steps of the business writing process, with a focus on drafting and editing.

Fountain pen writing on lined page

Ready to test your knowledge?

What’s your starting level of knowledge about business writing?

Take the 2 minute, 5 question Three-Brains business writing quiz and see how much you know about business writing already.

The role of writing for marketing

Business writing plays a key role in marketing. Its main uses are in :-

  • brand identity : your writing tone of voice brings to life your brand’s essence, values and personality. It defines the words you say, and how you say them, and helps you sound consistent. It helps customers know who you are, and that you’re relevant to them. 
  • brand activation : business writing underpins activities where your brand talks to customers. For example, in your advertising and on your website. It’s key to how you deliver your communication objectives. 
  • customer experience : for customers, your business writing is a big part of how they experience you. You use it to share information and engage customers at key points in their journey
A triangle that shows business writing and marketing at the centre, with links to brand identity, brand activation and customer experience at each point of the triangle

Writing and brand identity

Our brand identity guide shows how your brand consists of intangible and tangible assets. You make the use of these assets mandatory (rules) or optional (playbook). 

Writing plays a key role in each of these. The words you choose and how you say them positions your brand with your target audience. They reinforce what your brand is and what it stands for. 

What you write in key areas like your packaging, website and advertising brings to life your brand’s essence, your values and your personality.

Your brand’s writing style is called its tone of voice

Brand identity asset classification examples

Consistent use of tone of voice helps create familiarity. It creates strong associations in customers’ minds. They recognise and remember what you sound like. This helps customers feel like you’re having a face-to-face conversation with them when they read your writing. It’s like your brand’s talking directly to them. (See our tone of voice, and making your brand sound right articles for more on this). 

Brand book

As per our brand identity guide, tone of voice goes into your brand book guidelines. This outlines how to write and design for your brand, and how to bring the brand values and personality to life. 

It should include examples of Do’s and Don’ts for anyone writing for the brand. These show previous examples that “fit” and are “on brand”, and also what would be rejected. The aim is to get a consistent writing style in everything the brand does.

For example, how formal or informal should the writing be? Are contractions OK? (e.g. we’ll vs we will) What about specific brand or category terms and names? How they should be used? Be specific.

Brand identity book contents

Setting these tone of voice rules makes sure your brand sounds consistent in all its business writing. You make sure all your brand activation activities meet these guidelines.

Writing and brand activation

Brand activation is what you do to bring your marketing mix and marketing plan to life. And there are lots of business writing areas involved in doing that. 

The most obvious area is promotion. This is how you communicate your brand. And at heart, writing is clearly about communication. 

As per our marketing communication guide, the role of communication and promotions is to move customers through the brand choice funnel.

Your business writing objectives usually relate to specific stages of that funnel.

The brand choice funnel - trust - aware - consider - trial - loyalty - repeat purchase

Trust and awareness

Advertising copy is the main business writing tool you use to help build trust and make the customer aware of who you are. It’s about crafting attention-grabbing, relevant and credible messages. 

You use headlines, slogans and short impactful pieces of writing so customers notice your brand. And you support those with your credentials and origin story to show you’re genuine. 

Get this wrong, and you risk losing customers at the first hurdle. There are many challenges and lots to learn in this area. But get it right, and it gets customers interested in finding out more about you.

Consideration

Once you’ve got their attention, the next business writing job is to persuade customers your brand is worth their consideration. There are different ways to do this, depending on the target audience and what they need. 

For example, you can write educational or entertaining blogs. The marketing benefits of blogging are all about interacting with customers and reinforcing your positioning and brand identity. A good blog experience makes customers more likely to consider your brand. (See our writing blogs guide and our editing blogs article for more on this). 

Writing for search

Great blog writing is supported by the adjacent skill of writing for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).

First, you do keyword research to understand what customers search for online. Then, you write about those topics to help solve those needs and to help you show up in search rankings. 

There’s a close connection to marketing technology. Tools like Yoast or SEMrush help you improve your chances of your writing showing up on search. Customers have to be able to find your business writing on websites and online stores for it to have an impact. 

Google hmne page on a Samsung phone lores

Trial and loyalty

Finally, your business writing has to persuade customers to try and buy your product. For example, you need your product page copy to persuade the customer to buy in e-Commerce. At this point of the customer journey, it’s all about writing great sales copy.

This also needs to build customer loyalty so you get repeat sales. Your best customers stick with you because they trust you to meet their needs. You drive that loyalty by talking with customers via your CRM activities like e-mails and social media. You use your business writing skills to keep these loyal customers happy and make sure they have a great customer experience. 

Writing and customer experience

Customer experience is about looking at each stage of the customer journey and making sure it’s as good as it can be. There are lots of specific business writing jobs to be done in this area. 

For example, the call to action on your advertising copy. The call to action is a clear statement of what you want the customer to do next. Visit your website. Click this link. Visit our store. Contact us. 

Great business writing makes this crystal clear. Customers know what they need to do.

Your website is a big focus area in customer experience. Great business writing makes it better for visitors. 

Customer Experience Journey Map

For example, clearly written privacy policies and terms and conditions pages help customers decide if you’re trustworthy and credible. Well-written Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) remove the hassle of having to contact you.

Use business writing to hit your business goals

Together, the business writing you use in your brand identity, brand activation and customer experience should all combine to help you hit your business goals and deliver your brand purpose.

For example, does the writing need to make customers think or feel differently about the brand? And if so, how? Is it to build their knowledge, or shift their attitudes? Is it just to get them to do something different? If so, what does that look like? 

If you don’t know what your writing is for, then your audience won’t know either. Your customers should be clear about what’s in it for them to read your business writing. 

Do it right, and you get their time reading your words, and the opportunity to influence their thinking, feelings and actions. There’s an exchange of value in business writing between you and the customer. It’s an example of reciprocity (see our behavioural science article for more on reciprocity) where the more value you offer customers, the more they feel obliged to do something in return. 

That’s where you find the value in great business writing. Do it right, and it persuades customers to think, feel or do something. You meet their needs. Solve their problems. You leave them with a better opinion of your brand or a clear next step (call to action). And the specifics of those you cover in the communication brief.

The communication brief

Writing a brief helps put structure into the task of business writing. It makes sure everyone works from the same page. 

That brief could be part of a bigger project like new advertising or a website. Or, it could be a specific stand-alone writing project, like a blog or article.

Whatever it is, a clear brief helps focus your business writing on the task at hand. So it does what’s needed for the business, brand and customer. 

It covers key areas of your brand identity like the essence, values and personality. As we showed above, these influence your tone of voice. 

Marketing Communication brief - blank template

The brief also covers the business, marketing and communication objectives. These set the goals and measures for the writing. These define how you’ll track the change in thinking, feeling or doing. And how you’ll evaluate the impact. 

The brief also covers the rationale. The benefit, reason why and reason to believe from your positioning which support the key messages. The key evidence to make your messages credible and believable. 

And finally, the brief sets the project scope. How long the writer has to do the work.  The budget for writing it. And who approves the final output. 

From a business writing point of view, there are a few extra considerations in a writing-specific brief. For example, the media context i.e. where and how the writing will be read. It should specify any word count limit, for example. Or any specific guidelines from the media supplier

Word count limits

For example, if the writing’s for a print advert, you’ll have limited space to work with on the page or poster. It’ll need to fit around photography and / or graphic design elements. You may have a minimum and / or a maximum word count. Even if it’s on your own website, you may still have limits depending on how your Content Management System (CMS) works.

Spoken video content

If the business writing is to be spoken as part of video content, then you have to factor in how it sounds when read aloud. (As opposed to written on the page).

Video viewers have short attention spans. Spoken business writing has to be concise, and sound natural. Not stilted or awkward sounding.

You’ll need to keep your words simple and your sentences short so it’s easy for listeners to process each sentence.  

You have to think about the rhythm of the words more. How they sound when you say them.

Boy with short hair shouting into microphone in a plain white room

Other touchpoints

Business writing for packaging will also have space limits. Plus, you’ll have to include mandatory legal text about the products. For example, warning statements and contact information. Some categories like food or medicine also make you specify use by dates, ingredients and nutritional information, and allergy information. 

You have to make sure the business writing is crystal clear on website pages like your privacy policy and terms and conditions. There can be legal consequences if it isn’t. Great business writing protects your business. 

A clear writing purpose helps you define the expected business writing outcome. From there, you move on to the structure of the writing. How you’ll organise it so the customer follows the path you want them to.

Business writing structure

The starting point with writing structure is writing the beginning, the middle and the end.

So, the first thing the reader sees. The last thing the reader sees. And then everything else you write in between.

It’s not rocket science. But there is a skill to using each part of the structure well and joining them all together so your writing flows.

The beginning

The first thing your reader sees clearly matters. It sets the tone and expectations for everything else. It’s what hooks them into the rest of the writing. 

It’s a particular challenge in marketing and e-Commerce. Customers see and hear thousands of advertising and sales messages every day.

Your writing has to stand out. To cut through the noise from all the competing writing out there.

If it doesn’t, no one will ever read it.

Three stones stacked on top of each other to show balance

In the past, you had 30 seconds to land your message in a TV advert. Nowadays with streaming and on-demand, the viewer can skip after the first few seconds if the advert doesn’t grab them.

There’s been a big increase in short 6-second adverts thanks to YouTube. That’s 6 seconds to land your message. If you assume 2 words per second, that means landing your message in 12 words or less. That’s 5 words LESS than the sentence you just read.

Make an impact right away

So, your opening sentence or statement must capture attention. It must make an impact. You must make clear to the customer what they’ll get from reading or listening. Will it inform them how to solve a problem? Will it entertain them, so they have a great experience? 

The beginning of your business writing has to be sharp. So, be bold. Be creative. Make it clear what they’re getting. Make it clear why they should read more. 

The end

We’ll come back to the middle section as the end is the next most important part. It’s what the reader will remember afterwards. You want the end of your writing to wrap up your key points with a clear, simple outcome. It should help the reader think, feel or do something different with a clear call to action of what to do next.

For example, if it’s a click or a link to a website, make sure it flows naturally from the end of the writing. If it’s a specific behaviour, then use the end to encourage the reader to do that thing. Great endings in business writing are all about driving the next action. 

The middle

Obviously, the ‘middle’ of the writing structure links the beginning and the end. We’ve left it till last but don’t undervalue it. It’s important too. It’s where the biggest quantity of writing in terms of words, ideas and concepts sits. But because of that, it’s also the area where if you don’t get it quite right, there’s less obvious impact. It’s more forgiving of mistakes. Readers rarely give up halfway through. And your good points can make up for minor bad points. 

Think about the key points to land in this middle section. It often helps to write an outline. This outline should list the key points in an order which feels natural to the reader. When you do this outline before you write the detail, it gives the middle section a sense of order and logical progression from one point to the next. It stops you from writing a rambling series of unconnected points which don’t link back to the goal. You don’t want that. 

Drafts and editing

Writing is an iterative process. You start by writing a first draft, which is then reviewed in an editing stage.

This refines the draft and improves the writing to make it sharper, clearer and more impactful. There are lots of comments, questions and feedback. This draft – editing loop usually has several rounds before the writing is approved

Editing improves the quality of all writing. It’s a tough and detail-focussed skill. It takes time and focus to work out how to improve the writing. But before that, it all starts with the first draft. 

Write your first draft long

Having a clear purpose and brief is a good start to the business writing process. But you still have to start putting words on the page. And that isn’t always easy. It’s not always clear how and where to start.

Sometimes, the words will just flow. Ideas spark in your head from the brief. But other times, there’s the horror of the blank page. The horror of the mental block, and nothing coming to mind.

It doesn’t really matter either way. Because your sole job in the first draft is to get something down on paper. Something. Anything. Because here’s a golden rule of writing all good writers know. 

First drafts will be rubbish

Yep, the first draft is usually a stinker. Clunky, horrible and full of mistakes. But the second draft improves it. And subsequent drafts improve it even more. So, whatever the state of the first draft, it doesn’t matter too much. You’ll improve it. And a rubbish first draft is still better than a blank page. 

The whole point is editing and re-drafting make the writing better. There’ll be a sweet spot in terms of the number of drafts where you just can’t make it any better. But to get started, just write something down that’s at least vaguely in the direction of your writing objective. 

You’ll often find once you start the first draft, it’s like breaking a dam. You’ll suddenly find words, ideas and concepts pouring out until you can do no more. And then you’ll read back what you’ve written and realise it’s (a) probably too long and (b) the structure isn’t doing what you need it to do. 

And that’s good. Because that’s where editing comes in. 

Editing makes your business writing next-level

Getting the words on the page is only the first half of the skill of writing.

Editing those words so they ‘fit’ together properly takes writing to the next level. Well-edited writing flows, inspires and informs. It takes that rubbish first draft and polishes it into something which sparkles on the page.

Editing aims to improve writing by correcting, connecting and simplifying. 

Correct

At the very basic level, editing lets you go back and correct spelling and grammar mistakes.

You should check all the points make sense and you haven’t contradicted yourself. Anyone who’s written a first draft and then gone back and read it later will recognise these as common quality issues in a first draft.

Connect

Next, editing when you have the full version of the writing, helps you connect the different elements better.

In the first draft, you don’t know for sure what the end will be.

Write without fear

When you edit the first draft into the second draft though, you do know what the end will be. You can refer to what’s coming more easily, or give hints if you want to create a sense of intrigue.

Simplify

And finally, editing helps simplify the writing. Simple is better for the reader. 

When you read something, your brain’s in an active state. It takes energy to read. That’s why you rarely read a book from start to end unless it’s very short. There’s only so much reading your brain can handle in one go. So to make it easier for the reader, the more you cut down your writing, the easier you make it to read.

It’s draining to read long sentences, with fancy words. Shorter sentences and simpler words are easier to process. (See our readability article for more on this). 

Editing tips

Whether you edit your own writing or you’re approving writing from an agency, get into the habit of correcting, connecting and simplifying. Simplifying, in particular, is where editors often add the most value.

When you edit, consider if there’s a simpler word you can use. Can you cut words and still have the same meaning? The shorter and punchier you can write a key message, the better for your reader. That’s not to say you should always aim for short words and sentences. Your brand identity might suit a more verbose and academic style.

But as a general rule of thumb in business writing, shorter is better. And editing is the key skill, which gets you to short and impactful writing. No one will thank you for using long words and over-elaborate sentences.

Active voice

Try also to write in the active voice rather than the passive voice. It keeps sentences shorter and sounds more confident and dynamic. Your sentence structure should be subject-verb where possible. This is much more readable. Look for variations of “is”, “are” and “were” attached to other verbs. These are often signs of the passive voice. See if you can flip the order around to make it more active.

Kill adverbs appropriately

You should also take care with adverbs. Adverbs are often not needed in business writing. Unless they change the meaning of the verb, try to avoid them. Look for words that end in “ly” and question if they add value to the sentence. If the sentence still means the same without it, kill the adverb. No one will miss it. 

This editing skill to go back and take words out can be a challenge. Especially, if you write and then edit your own work. You get attached to the words. They’re your words, your creations. You want to protect them.

It’s always a good idea to get someone else to read your writing and help with the editing. Get a different viewpoint and perspective. Professional editors can be invaluable sources of feedback to raise your writing game. It’s often what separates average writing from great writing. 

Conclusion - Business writing

This guide covered where to use business writing in marketing to grow your brand.

It has many uses across brand identity, brand activation and customer experience. Great business writing attracts and engages audiences. It persuades customers to buy and builds loyalty to your brand.

First, you need a clear purpose for the writing so it focuses on creating relevant content.

Then, you need a clear structure for your messages to help you guide the reader towards that end goal.

Man writing blue shirt

Finally, you need a good process for writing. You start with a first draft that you know will need more work. Then you edit to improve the quality. You want to make sure your business is clear and concise. That way, customers think it rocks rather than that it sucks. You know which of those outcomes you want.  

Three-Brains and writing skills

The Three-Brains team know a lot about business writing. We work with businesses to improve writing skills to create more impact with customers. How to get better writing out of freelance writers and marketing agencies, for example. And how to improve the effectiveness and clarity of your own business writing. 

Get in touch to learn how our coaching and consulting services can help you raise your business writing game. 

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