It was a dreary portable unit that reminded me of my fourth grade classroom. There were old signs strewn about, vintage pictures on the wall, and a make-shift desk in front of me filled with papers and a clumsy laptop that looked way too heavy to want to carry anywhere.
“I know your passion is marketing writing, but there are other things I need you for. Can’t you help me train my staff in customer service and teach them how to ask for more online reviews? I know you’ve done it in the past.”
I squirmed in an oversize office chair that felt like it would break at any second. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard the question and I hated saying, “no.”
My professional background consists of digital marketing first, customer service second, sales third, management fourth, and finally – finally my home in writing. Fifth time’s a charm!
I used to use this background to sell what I do for a living – write. I used to think my customer service and marketing mindset would be valuable to my clients. That’s all a lie. I used to think that the only way to justify my business was to describe EVERYTHING I’m good at and all the years I have been working so I could earn the trust of the person in front of me.
“If they can only see I’m have more experience than ‘just writing’ they’ll trust me more!”
I would put my profession and myself down with thoughts like this on a daily basis.
Today, I learned a valuable lesson.
As I twitched and moved awkwardly through the conversation I realized something. For the entire first year in business, I made the fatal mistake of assuming people knew the importance of hiring a writer. After all, I’d built up a client base relatively quickly through referrals. People need what I offer. It seemed like people could figure out the reasons to hire someone like me on their own because they already had.
Still, like any good copywriter, I tried to differentiate myself. I tried to find an angle that would let me win the trust of the person on the other side of the screen.
I chose what so many businesses choose – experience.
I have a somewhat interesting story. Skip the next few paragraphs if you’ve read it.
I started my career overseas in Denmark where I worked under one of the top entrepreneurs. While there, I struggled to get a work visa. Together with my boss, I fought, battled and cried my way into the immigration office where I’d eventually sit and watch the person stamp my passport with an innocent looking circle that meant I was kicked out of the entire EU for 6 months.
So, we went back to the drawing board and fought (and fought and fought) again until I got in. Six months later, family matters brought me home, but that experience was one I’d never forget. It made me grow up faster and it taught me a lot about marketing a business and marketing myself.
My story is unlike most others writers out there. I had the background to make me a valuable player and I had the writing capabilities to make marketing messages effective.
So I did what every company did – I undersold the importance of the actual service I provided and oversold the importance of my experience in the business world as a whole.
As I took a deep breath in that damp portable office building, I realized what a mistake I’d made.
The man I was meeting with had openly expressed his desire to retire soon. He wanted to build a business that would afford him the ability to hit the tennis courts more often and give back to animal-supporting charities. He was a great person with a heart of gold, but his priorities and my profession didn’t align.
He wanted someone to handle and oversee all aspects of his marketing from the customer interaction to the online stuff. I’d done that before but I’m not doing it now.
When we left, I said I’d see what I could do for him. He didn’t like the answer, but it was honest.
As I drove home, I realized what shot me in the foot – I sold my experience more than I sold what I could do for my client through marketing writing. He didn’t get it and that wasn’t his fault. It was mine.
When I got home from that meeting, I plopped down at my desk and opened up my laptop. It was time to revamp my site.
I started from ground zero.
That evening, I wrote page after page describing the many reasons people hire a writer. As I dug in deep to the copy, I realized that most of the people didn’t approach me for the reasons I thought they did. Most didn’t know what they needed until we started talking.
And the same goes for your business.
Experience doesn’t sell. Your reader doesn’t want to hear your story. She wants to hear her story in your copy. She wants you to show her how you’ll make her the next best version of herself with the work you provide…
… because what you offer is valuable. Don’t discount it by trying to be a jack-of-all-trades. Sell it by finding the core group of people you’re born to work with.
Is it time for you to have a copywriting power session and erase the experience from your website?