When you have specific professional knowledge and experience it is often the case that you will have to present a report, a new set of ideas, or a number of other things in writing. This is particularly the case in the business world. But, there is one thing many such experienced professionals tend to forget. And that is why it is so important to know your audience when writing a business message. For example, when we write an internal memo, we can sometimes easily forget that we need to write such a business message in a formal tone.

In situations like these, it becomes quite clear that writing any form of a business message requires that you know your audience the best you can.

As Business Writing Blog puts it, business communication comes in many forms and spans international borders, cultures, and demographics. “Therefore, you must know precisely who your audience will be—their background, demographic traits, their knowledge of the subject already, and their expectations of your presentation. So, whether you are writing an internal company memo or a PowerPoint presentation for a large conference, the key to success is in your ability to identify who your target audience is.”

In business writing—and especially in marketing strategy—the goal is to motivate your audience to take action. And you can’t successfully sell a product or pitch a new idea to someone until you know what makes them tick. What do they like? Dislike? Need? Want? What proof will they require to make a decision? How much decision-making power do they have? Are you sending your pitch to the right person? (Above source)

This post has been updated in September 2021. 

Why it is so important to know your audience when writing a business message – essentials

Whenever you need to prepare and present a business message in writing you try to reach practically every participant in your target audience. But, very often, we realize that we know much less about that audience than we really think. To that effect, Lumen Learning points to the so-called iceberg model.

“When you see an iceberg on the ocean, the great majority of its size and depth lie below your level of awareness. When you write a document or give a presentation, each person in your reading or listening audience is like the tip of an iceberg. You may perceive people of different ages, races, ethnicities, and genders, but those are only surface characteristics. This is your challenge. When you communicate with a diverse audience, you are engaging in intercultural communication. The more you learn about the audience, the better you will be able to navigate the waters, and your communication interactions, safely and effectively.”

Getting to know your audience when you write a business message is actually a very detailed process. Business Study Notes, call it a process of preparing effective business messages. According to them, the process of preparing effective business messages includes five planning steps:

  • Defining the purpose of the message;
  • Analysis of the audience;
  • Selection of the ideas;
  • Collection of all the facts related to these ideas;
  • Outlining & organizing the message.

The process of writing effective business messages

  • Defining the purpose of the message – What is the purpose of the business message you want to present? That purpose can be quite general or it can be very specific. “In case of general nature of purpose, the main focus is to make collaboration or provide information to the audience.” In such cases, “the control over message and participation of the audience is also limited.” On the other hand, in case the message has a specific purpose, the presenter of the message should already know about the target of the message. Also, how the audience will perceive the message. “The message in this specific case must be realistic and timely presented to the right audience.”
  • Analysis of the audience – Here, you need to imagine properly the views & interests of the receiver or an audience. “The receiver of the message is imagined with a complete picture regarding his personality, attitude, educational level, etc.” In many cases, there is more than one receiver. Then, you have to consider the common characteristics of the group of recipients. These characteristics can include a number of such elements. That can be the level of the receiving group, the relationship of the presenter with the group, the reaction you expect, and the size and the composition of the audience.
  • Selection of the ideas – You need to highlight the key ideas that you will include in the final message. You should list the ideas which you need to research and discuss before you formulate them. Then you convert the more important points and facts into the message. During this process, you should include a number of things. Those include the documents, research of the audience, possible viewpoints of the prospective audience, and discussion within your organization and customers.

why is it important to know your audience when writing a business message

More on the process

  • Collection of all the facts related to these ideas – You always need to collect updated figures and a number of facts and quotations that can be helpful to support the main ideas of the message. For effective communication, you need to show essential knowledge of the details of the product of the organization, and the policies and procedures. There, you have to make sure that the information is accurate and that it is relevant to the main ideas.
  • Outlining & organizing of the message – The order of the main ideas of the message is a very important part as it reflects the logical, organized & carefully prepared message that puts favorable effects on its receiver. If the message is not properly organized then the desired results cannot be acquired from the receivers through illogical & poor messages.

Harvard Business Review puts this process in a relational perspective. The stress the following points on how to write an effective business message:

  • Craft an emotional story – You may be tempted to stick to facts and figures to do the persuading for you, but great presenters know that the best way to hook an audience is through a story. This ‘story’ can be as simple as outlining the need, impact, and solution; the key is to present what’s at stake through a clear arc. But the more you can inject an emotional appeal or human connection into your narrative, the stronger and more memorable your case will be.
  • Lead with a need – In order to grab the attention of your audience from the outset, immediately identify the business need you are trying to address. Clearly articulate this need as soon as you begin, because no matter how well researched or innovative your solution, you won’t get support if the need isn’t apparent or convincing.

Further on effective presentation

  • Address your audience’s concerns – Addressing the individuals concerns of stakeholders in the room will go a long way toward winning your allies. Research past presentations and the outcomes to make sure you have your bases covered. You might also consider giving decision-makers a preview of your presentation ahead of time, and asking for their input. You can then salt their recommendations into your presentation, which will increase their investment in your success.
  • Find the right medium for your message – Well-presented data can do wonders for persuading an audience. But overwhelming slides with needless detail or trotting out tired visuals will also quickly lose your favor. Think carefully about the message you want to convey. Does a bar graph, table, or pie chart more effectively present your position? Are you able to circulate documents ahead of time, which might affect the data you want to emphasize in the actual presentation? Or will a unique, more entertaining route be more persuasive?
  • Don’t forget to connect – Making a human connection is the essential element of this whole process. It might also be worthwhile to use colorful metaphors, videos, or other multimedia to make your point stand out. But, very often, simpler can be better.
  • ‘Have an elevator pitch ready’ – time is of the essence, particularly in business. You have to make sure that somebody actually reads your complete message. So, it might be necessary to leave something out. You need to make sure that those are the least important points in your message.

Why it is so important to know your audience when writing a business message – who should do the job?

Based on the above, it becomes quite compelling why it is so important to know your audience when writing a business message. But, then another important question needs a resolution. Should you do it yourself, or should you enlist the help of a professional or professionals?

In business, a lot of things can ride on the reception of even a single email, let alone a detailed presentation or an advertising campaign. Researching and properly reaching a business audience in the writing form just might be the job for professionals. And there, another question arises. Should engage a professional agency or a freelancer versed in business writing?

We already mentioned elsewhere on our blog that it might seem easy enough to handle daily emails and memos in-house. But what if that email letter needs to convey some important business information, or that memo needs to convey some sensitive human resources material? Let us not even mention when you need to have some specific copywriting done detailed research analyses, reports, or specific business proposals and marketing campaigns.

A permanent writer might be a good solution, but only if your business is of the size that can sustain one or a few more permanent employees. Specialized business writing agencies can provide good results, but can often be outside the budget capabilities of many businesses.

So, possibly, engaging one or more freelance professional business writers could be the best option. This is particularly true since you can enlist their services on a task-by-task basis.