I vacationed in beautiful Honolulu last week. To stay away from the sun’s rays for a few hours, I traveled to the fashionable Ala Moana shopping center. I was curious to see whether Nordstrom, one of my favorite stores, would feature Hawaiian designers.
From the parking lot, I followed an elevator, steps, an escalator, and signs to Nordstrom. When I arrived at the store entrance, locked doors and this sign faced me:
Closed until March 11? How could that be? I was there on March 5 hoping to buy something special.
Like me, other people walked away, surprised and disappointed. But I knew that Nordstrom had been open a few days earlier because my daughter told me she had stopped in. That sign and others just didn’t make sense.
It turns out that the locked doors and signs inviting shoppers to return in a few days were on the NEW Nordstrom store. In another section of the shopping center minutes away, the OLD Nordstrom stood open for business.
What do Nordstrom’s signs have to teach us about business writing? They don’t answer readers’ questions. Readers are wondering not only Why are the doors locked? They want to know Can I shop today? If so, how? Where?
When we don’t consider our readers’ questions, we often lose sales and opportunities. Nordstrom did not intend to turn away business from the many travelers who did not know about the old Nordstrom location. Yet not providing more information caused readers to assume that they could not shop on a busy Saturday when they were ready to spend money.
As a business writer, if you forget to tell readers the time of an event, they may skip the event rather than do research to find out when it begins and ends. If you hide pricing, readers may choose another company’s website rather than dig for prices. If you overlook a reader’s stated question in an email, you may slow a process that you hoped would sail along.
Think about your readers’ questions. Also think about what you want readers to do. Nordstrom no doubt wanted shoppers to “Join us opening day” AND to shop at the old location as along as possible. Adding the sentence “Shop at our location at _______ until then” would have sold more products and satisfied more customers.
The story ends happily for me: Persisting until I found Nordstrom in its old location, I bought new tops from Hawaiian designers Lynn Sakutori and Allison Izu.
Have business writers let you down by telling only part of the story? I welcome your comments.