Hidden Secret #4: Don’t Write; Solve Problems for Your Clients

By Gordon Graham | February 27, 2017

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Hidden Secrets for Success

A businessman silhouette outlining a maze

When you solve problems for your clients, you’ll become invaluable to them.

Today, I have some advice for any copywriter engaging a new prospect. And a story about a time when I used this hidden secret to land a client worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It all started when I visited a startup in Montreal that did barcode scanning for systems like Oracle and SAP. The company only had 10 employees, so I met with the founder/CEO.

But I didn’t ask what they needed written. Instead, I asked, “What’s your biggest business problem?”

The CEO did a double take. He hadn’t expected that one. But he told me the company’s biggest challenge was standing out in a crowd of vendors. Even though his company had a more powerful product with dozens of happy customers.

Then I asked, “Who are your prospective customers?” This time he shot back, “Why do you need to know that?” I replied, “The more I know about your customers, the more I can help you.”

That seemed to satisfy him. As we talked, he said he’d like to find a way to showcase the company’s successful installs. Clearly, they needed customer stories, but had no one to write them.

So I proposed doing some of those to start. And I knew a designer who would give them a professional look.

I was supposed to be talking about a three-week update on a software manual. I ended up working with the company for three years, taking a full-time job as VP of marketing, traveling all over, and getting a $25,000 bonus when the company sold the business to a larger competitor.

Over the years, I helped create many case studies, a website, a newsletter, and numerous white papers: the B2B content that attracted dozens of new customers and generated millions of dollars in sales. Eventually, I had a marketing team of eight people, plus several contract writers.

And all that grew from me asking those two strategic questions at our first meeting.

This story has a postscript. Another writer showed up the same week I did. But he asked the typical question, “What do you need written?” After looking at the company’s materials, he proposed doing a style guide to help all the publications sound the same.

Now, I have nothing against style guides. I’ve created them, and I’ve used them. But how would a style guide solve that company’s critical business problem and help it stand out from the crowd?

That CEO picked me over the other writer for one good reason.

I didn’t present myself as a junior whose best idea was making a style guide. I engaged him more like a consultant who was there to help solve his biggest business problems. So he was willing to invest in what I proposed, over and over.

During your next interview with a prospect, why not try out some more strategic questions? Ask them about their marketing challenges. Find some juicy issue you can help with.

Engaging a prospect at a higher level will enable you to add far more value. And that will earn their respect and their repeat business.

Here’s to your copywriting success, powered by strategic questions!

This article is part the series: Hidden Secrets for Success