Content, stories and reputation: Building your business with some writing skills

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There’s a lot of hype about “content marketing” these days. Blogs, white papers, presentations, stories — the goal is to tell enough of your story that you engage current and potential clients to consider your business for further opportunities.

The challenge is that while you have achieved skills in your trade or profession, writing and communications may not be your highest priorities. Of course if your market is technical decision-makers, you don’t want to get soft, fluffy, and lack substantial (and high-enough) level information. Yet you won’t get too far with dry-as-bones materials designed to be suitable for a specifications document rather than an effective marketing piece.

How do you find great writers/communicators? An obvious prerequisite is that you or the selecting person/committee should have some fundamental knowledge of good writing. It is hard to judge what is good unless you have enough knowledge to effectively evaluate quality.

Recent experience has reminded me that relations, referrals, and first-hand knowledge will virtually always produce the highest and best results.

I was tasked with finding a content writer for an industry association and initially set out to search for talent using the websites for writers associations and (to catch a wider net), UpWork.com. Initially I set a ridiculously low payment rate, figuring if we could discover someone willing to work dirt-cheap (but with genuine qualifications), we would succeed.

Response was (not surprising) dismal, so I upped the ante, offering compensation at full North American professional writers rates. Interestingly, the response proved only slightly higher and the actual qualifications were hardly better than for the smaller group willing to work for virtually nothing.

Finally, with my deadline approaching to present the committee with the search results, I realized that I may have ignored the people closest to me — freelancers associated with my own business and with Ottawa Renovates magazine. I contacted the two writers, and both immediately agreed they were interested in the opportunity, and they would work for fair rates.

When I presented my findings at the committee, a member suggested a third professional local writer, who also has expressed interest.

So now, we have gone from zero to three qualified candidates, all within days, and because we looked close to home and built on the relationships we have.

Since most people purchase our own services through referrals and relationships, it certainly makes sense to follow the same concepts in our marketing services procurement practices. Sometimes the best answers are right under our noses.

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