Friday, October 11, 2013

The Secret to Writing Better Business Descriptions:
Sometimes You Have to Break a Few Coconuts

My son has a writing assignment at school: The commercial airplane you're on lands on an island, and you get four survival items. Show how you survive for a week. My son claimed on reported climbing a tree to pick a coconut, breaking it open, and drinking. Survival was *that* easy. I felt like a few details were missing.

Breaking the coconut with bare hands didn't work.
The difference in producing text that offers a vivid image and producing text that leaves people with questions depends on the details. For example, I am shopping for a hotel in Myrtle Beach.

One hotel offered this description:
The 33 acre oceanfront Few-Words Resort offers vacation condo rentals with nearly 700 feet of white sandy beaches and crystal blue waters directly on the Atlantic Ocean. A water park with 375 foot lazy river and wet deck, four outdoor pools (one beach front), two indoor pools, three health spas complete with steam rooms, saunas and jacuzzis, combine with two of the Grand Strand's finest lighted tennis courts, a basketball court, game room and Free wireless internet access to offer every guest a vacation to remember.
I have questions—Where can we eat? Is there shopping nearby?—but I have a basic picture of what I will find. I might click around and see what else I can learn about this hotel.

The next hotel uses too many words but doesn't say enough:
Discover the beautiful Lots-of-Words Hotel in Myrtle Beach, SC. Your spot in Myrtle Beach to escape on a vacation with no commitments. Only sun, fun and plenty of relaxation. It’s how a vacation should be. And it’s why Myrtle Beach vacationers return year after year. [Four sentences in and I know nothing about the hotel. I should be able to assume all of these things when booking a beach hotel.] Explore the Myrtle Beach hotel that boasts about its comfortable rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, whirlpools and the breathtaking views of the Myrtle Beach coastline off its private balconies. The Lots-of-Words Hotel in Myrtle Beach, SC has everything you need to get away from it all. And it’s right here in beautiful Myrtle Beach. [Ocean views, but is it on the ocean? Close to shopping? Not sure. Close to any museums? No idea.]
The worst part about this description is that it's not over yet. This hotel offers another paragraph, reminding me of the students who can take a five-page tightly written paper and turn it into a ten-pager just by adding a lot of empty text.
This oceanfront Myrtle Beach hotel is perfectly located in the center of sunny Myrtle Beach. With to two family amusement parks within walking distance, The Pavilion to the north and Family Kingdom a few blocks to the south, there is always an adventure waiting for you. Other nearby Myrtle Beach attractions include: Fishing Piers, Motor Speedway, Water Parks, Theaters and Shows, Broadway at the Beach, Factory Outlet Stores, Convention Center and many of the best golf courses in the country. The map of Myrtle Beach, SC will help orient and familiarize you with our convenient Myrtle Beach location. [Map? Yes, please. I have no idea what "in the center of sunny Myrtle Beach" means. But, I have to find the map on my own. No link. And are the sites other than the amusement parks within walking distance? Do I need to rent a car? The effort to determine if this hotel is right for us feels enormous. Also, is it necessary to mention Myrtle Beach 12 times in two paragraphs?]
This last description manages to capture energy, movement, and my attention:
The Finally-The-Right-Words Hotel has been a Myrtle Beach vacation destination for over 70 years. Cottages gave way to more modern accommodations years ago, but the personal service that brings guests back year after year has remained the same. This hotel is located just a few steps north of the exciting new Myrtle Beach Boardwalk Promenade and the Sky Wheel. It is the perfect place to rest and unwind in an uncrowded atmosphere, while at the same time be just steps away from the fun and excitement of downtown Myrtle Beach. This hotel offers 90 rooms and various suite layouts, providing accommodations for just about every need.

Settle into your comfortable accommodations, kick off your shoes, and glance over the vast, peaceful, expanse of the blue, south Atlantic from the privacy of your balcony. After a long day of taking in the Myrtle Beach sights and sounds, a cool refreshing dip in one of our oceanfront pools is the perfect way to recharge.
The ocean! Pools! Shopping! Food! I can see movement, action, people, and lots to do. The description is vivid. It’s not too long, and it’s packed with enough information to get me excited enough to explore this hotel further.

Describing a business or service may not be easy, any you may need to see it from the outside before you can write a good description.

As for my son, I knew he had never climbed a tree to get a coconut and I couldn’t replicate that experience for him, but I could swing by the grocery store and buy a few coconuts so he could practice cracking them.

Trying to crack open a coconut with a machete
This looks like he is slashing open the coconut. He tried to saw
open the coconut, and just as he started, I started yelling "No!"
I curtailed all the machete fun, but he still has all of his fingers
and needed zero Band-aids.
Our business descriptions need to include specific words to show the atmosphere, the amenities, the items for sale. What do people find outside or near your business? Sometimes promoting the restaurant next door will convince people to give your business a chance (the something for everyone mentality). How long will people be entertained or how fast is the service?
Success! Piercing a soft round spot on the coconut allowed him
to drink the liquid from the coconut without spilling it.
Writing too much about nothing or saying too little or being too vague provides no curiosity or incentive to find out more. Bring energy to your description by showing what people do while visiting your business. Descriptions do not need to be long, but they needed to be usefully descriptive.

What does your business description say? Is it time to crack open some coconuts and experience your business as your customers do?

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