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The other day, I received one of my favorite e-zines, Timely Tips, from my friends at Shea Writing and Training Solutions. The e-zine provides tips on grammar and writing. The tip on ellipses reminded me that I am not a grammar expert. I associate grammar with formal writing, which is not my personal writing style. That thought led me to ruminate on writing styles in general.I am a storyteller at heart and my writing style reflects that. As a proposal writer, I lean towards a conversational tone. This allows the client to feel the bidder is talking directly to them. This approach has helped my proposals win, even when the odds were against us. After all, isn’t that what being client focused is about?It dawned on me that this approach worked because of the audience. Since the majority of the proposals I have written over the last few years have been for Texas clients, this conversational style fits the culture of the client. Would, however, the approach work for a client from Boston or England? Probably not.I realize I have considered a client’s culture instinctively, but I have never formally incorporated it in the strategy phase. Would consciously considered culture – not just the company culture, but also the individual’s culture, help define the writing and graphic style to use? Would knowing their background, education, and interests help increase client focus? I think so.So how would you apply this? Here are some examples of how it could be applied:

  • Client is located in McAllen, Texas -I would research how long they have been in McAllen, and research the regional culture. For this audience, the local culture is plain speaking. They view glossy graphics and high-end production as “they’re going to charge us more.” I would use a more informal, conversational writing style with clear, simple graphics.
  • Client is located in Boston – I would research if they have degrees from an Ivy League university, and what generation they are. If they were early Generation X or Baby Boomer, then I would use a more formal, business style tone. Graphics and production would be high end to show we are interested and willing to invest in the project. But if the client worked their way up to their position, I would do more research to identify the best writing style for them.
  • Client is late Generation X or Generation Y–I would research how they got involved with the company. Did they start the company or are they one of the thought-leaders? I would use a more informal, succinct writing style that does not come across as marketing and sales pitch. Graphics would be very sophisticated and modern.

Also, keep in mind the business market culture of the client. In my experience, oil and gas, and construction have cultures that are more informal and have a “give it to me straight” approach. Financial, legal, medical, and possibly engineering are more formal in their culture.With LinkedIn, it is easy to research individual client and company backgrounds. White papers from early in their career will also give you an idea of their personal writing style. Current white papers and blogs may not accurately reflect this if they are an executive or company owner. A staff member usually writes the articles for them. This would also help in defining the management culture of a company. After all, people hire people who are like them. You may find the executive team has similar backgrounds or all attended the same university.So the next time you are strategizing your proposal approach, consider the culture. And you’ll have the client say at award, “I felt you were talking directly to me.”