By Jackie Barrie, Copywriter, Trainer & Author at Comms Plus

I knew I wanted to be a writer from about the age of 14. At that age, adults are always asking: "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

"I want to be a writer," I told them.

One well-meaning neighbour challenged me: "Then why don't you enter this writing competition?"

It was about the time the French and Belgian Congo was changing to Zaire (since then it's more-or-less changed back again). And she gave me the competition entry details together with a copy of the National Geographic magazine about the area.

I read the magazine, incorporated some of the detail into my story, and won the competition. The whole experience taught me the value of research. And now, the more background information I have about a company — its products and services, clients and customers — the better writing job I can do for them.

You might think you already know all about what you want to write, but you may need to do some research to put it into customer language and make your text stand out from your competitors’.

Here are some questions to get you started:

What do you sell?

• What problem do you solve or solution do you provide?
• Which is your core speciality?
• Which is most profitable (earns you most income for least effort or expense)?
• Do you have a range of price points (cheap, medium, high)?
• What market research have you done to prove there is a demand for what you sell?

Who are your clients?

• Who buys your stuff (there may be more than one group of target customers)?
• Which is your ideal client?
• Which is the most profitable type of client (either because they spend most per transaction or bring most repeat business)?

Who are your competitors?

• Who else might your customers look at as well as you, if they shop around?
• Who else comes up on Google for a search of your key terms?
• Might your customers decide to ‘do it themselves’ rather than pay you at all?

Once you’ve done your research, you need to organise the information you’ve collated.

One way is to draw a ‘mind map’ or spider diagram. Turn the paper landscape (to access the creative right side of your brain) and write your topic in a circle in the middle of the page. Then draw ‘arms’ coming out of the circle, and caption them with all your thoughts about the subject. You can add images or more lines to connect them together if it helps. You will end up with a visual ‘brain dump’ showing everything you want to include. You can then number each strand to turn it into a more linear piece of writing.

If you are more process-orientated, you may find it easier to write lists or outlines on a portrait format piece of paper instead.

Either way, it’s well worth doing this kind of preparation before you start writing.

Jackie Barrie writes without waffle for websites, blogs, newsletters, brochures, leaflets and speeches, in fact, anything to help your company make more money. She is the author of ‘The Little Fish Guide to DIY Marketing’ and ‘The Little Fish Guide to Networking’. Find out more at www.comms-plus.co.uk or 0845 899 0258.

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