Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Writing for your business: How do you start a conversation?

In a quiet moment last week, I was tidying up the files on my computer and came across something I’d downloaded a couple of years ago and put on the to read pile. Some headings caught my attention, one of which was about the nature of Web 2.0. Even if you aren’t comfortable with these computer terms you’ll probably know what they mean because of how you use the internet. They were talking about the differences in the way our lives are now bound up in using the internet compare say with even five years ago. This has huge impact on how you write for your business.

When I first started networking years ago, I didn’t feel too confident about walking into a room full of strangers and establishing myself as a credible business person. So I decided to ask for help from people I could see were comfortable doing it and then to take some training.

Like any other skill networking needs practice unless you’re one of those naturals. What I’ve also learned is that even the natural networkers work out what they do that gives them results and concentrate on the successful techniques they use.

You may be wondering what all this has to do with writing for your business but the truth is that you can transfer networking skills to your writing when you have decided who you want to approach.

These are the main tips I’ve been given about networking and all of them can be applied to writing.

1. Prepare before you write

At many networking courses, the speaker has reminded us that networking is just that. Working. Not socialising, enjoying the lunch, though of course that’s part of it, but working.

And I’ve talked in different articles about the need to do your research… before you start to write. The clearer you are about your reader, the more likely you are to make contact with them.  With networking, if you know a particular contact you’d like to make will be at the event you’re attending, it’s best to do some research about their company, their possible needs and how you could find a solution for them.

That’s also essential with your writing. You could meet two companies networking who might need your services, but not quite in the same way. So when you write you might talk with two people who have needs for the services or products you provide but would buy for different reasons.

You have to be able to include flexibility for people when you’re asking them to buy, particularly online. Payment plans if you’re offering a high end product or service. Ways to access your material if you’re offering information products. It will vary according to what you sell.

2. Make sure you’re not selling but building relationships

We’ve all met them at networking events haven’t we, those earnest people who are convinced that they and only they have the answer for you and can’t understand why you don’t sign up instantly.

Your conversation should be about the person you’re talking to. Not you. And even if they ask you about your company, you should tailor the information you give them to what queries they may have brought up. Not a blanket assertion that you’re the greatest.

If your focus is on them, then they’ll be interested.

3. Follow up on your contacts

That’s where often we fall down isn’t it after events? We arrive home with a pile of business cards, some notes and an honest intention to do the follow up tomorrow. Or at least within the week.

Then other things intervene. A problem with a supplier, a difficult customer or anything really. And it takes discipline to put those on one side and stop firefighting long enough to do the follow up.

But all the business gurus tell us that is where the business is won or lost. And it’s the same with your writing. Takes a lot of discipline to keep up with monthly updates, whether print or online. Takes a lot of positive thinking when you don’t receive any feedback, good or bad.

Many times I’ve thought of giving up on mine. I’m no different from you in that regard. Except that two or three times a year, that’s the way I acquire a new client. Because I’ve been talking not at them, but with them, sharing what I’ve been doing, my ideas and my tips.

We all like to see major progress in our business development such as the big contract that will keep us going for months. Often we overlook the smaller steps we can take that may not in the first instance pay off. Longer term though they can produce results in loyal clients and repeat business.

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