Grow Your Business; Show, Don't Tell

showLiving in a new place, introductions take place on an almost daily basis, so after the initial sharing of my name, the conversation always progresses to the ‘what do you do?’ portion of the program. For most people they can just state their job title and the conversation moves on.  For me, that question opens up a whole new conversation in itself. Once I state the fact that I own my own virtual assistance business, it is most generally greeted by a confused look followed either by an uncomfortable moment of silence or the question, What is that and just what do you do?

For a long time, I gave the routine answer, ” I provide administrative assistance to other businesses from my own home office.” Then recently as I was going through some old papers I ran across some assignments from a creative writing certificate course I took years ago. Splashed in red across the side of the page, adjacent to one of the paragraphs I’d written, were the words Show, Don’t Tell.  I recalled that as I got deeper into the course  that became my mantra, as I’m sure it has been for many other writers. The difference between writing that makes you yawn and writing that puts you on the edge of your seat is summed up in this phrase. It took me awhile to figure out exactly how to show something with words. But eventually I earned my creative writing certificate, meaning somewhere along the way I figured it out.

So what does that have to do with running and marketing my business?  Or more importantly, what does it have to do with you running and marketing your business? Everything.  That old homework assignment got the wheels turning in my head. If showing people was what grabbed their attention in fiction writing, wouldn’t it also make sense that it would grab their attention better in other things as well.  Like explaining what I do.

What if, instead of the routine answer above I responded like this, ” I currently have clients for whom I maintain blogs, transcribe classes and seminars to be converted into books and e-books, schedule conference calls, help with webinars, convert and format documents, as well as set up and maintain social media accounts. I’ve also designed e-book covers, installed WordPress and customized WordPress themes for blogsites, created e-mail newsletters and set up Ning and Wiki sites. In fact, I’ve even done real estate title processing, all from my own home office.”  Now tell me, did that grab your attention more than “I provide administrative assistance to businesses from my home office.”?

This same rule can be applied to more than just explaining what you do.  Apply it to your next blog post, the copy for your website or a press release.  It doesn’t require flowery prose or lengthy narrative like fiction writing. It does however require you to think about your audience and how your words are going to be perceived by them.  Too many people think that business writing has to be dull and boring. Break out of that mold and write for your readers.  Look to inform and yes, if you have the ability, even entertain them a little.

It seems the rule of Show, Don’t Tell applies to more than just fiction writing. Giving examples allows your audience, whether they are readers to your blog or individuals you meet face to face, to produce an image in their minds.  An image that will be connected with you and your business. And the images you impart could very well lead to increased business and profits.


Tina Marie Hilton provides online technology services to forward thinking businesses. She writes on her Tips from T.Marie business blog to share insight and information with other small businesses and entrepreneurs. It also makes her feel like that certificate in creative writing isn't going to waste completely.