I don’t mean to start off sounding like a bad infomercial for produce-saving tupperware, but many writers find that it’s difficult to explain to prospective clients why paying for a professional writer is worth what may seem like another burden on an already-stretched budget. For one thing, many companies already employ at least a few proficient writers who are often assumed to be capable of taking on writing projects on an as-needed basis. For another thing, our society continues to stress the importance of visual images, and it has become increasingly difficult to wrap our heads around the fact that the writing that goes into an annual report, sales letter, brochure or website is just as important as its design and its effectiveness in showcasing the company’s visual identity. After all, recent studies have reported that the typical visitor to a web page scans only one or two pages—if that—before deciding to purchase what is being offered or to move on to a competitor’s site. Couple that with cliché sayings such as, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” which, to its credit, is backed up with numerous studies that demonstrate the power of visual media, and it’s no surprise that writing is often overlooked.
So why does the work of a good professional writer pay for itself? Many copywriting blogs have exhausted this very topic, but those that I’ve read have all said the same thing: Good copywriters know how to write leads that translate into sales, generating more revenue than what was paid out for the writing itself. Some writers have likened their role to that of a Don Juan-esque character artfully seducing a potential buyer into a sale, while others proclaim to know how to wield the time-tested sales copy formulas that have worked like magic for generations.
And you know what? They’re right.
While I take personal issue with likening a potential buyer to an unsuspecting woman that must be lured into the sack (I’m not making this example up, I swear!), one can’t argue with the fact that sales copy that generates a profit is always worth the cost.
…there are other forms of professional writing whose efficacy may not be as immediately evident or as easily trackable as sales copy but that can have just as much an impact on a company’s bottom line as a swanky mailout package.
Take, for instance, a business plan. Any medium- to large-sized company should be investing in a new business plan at least every 3-5 years, particularly if the company has external shareholders who need to see more than just an annual report to know whether they wish to continue to support the company. Business plans, in conjunction with documents such as annual and fiscal reports, have the power to attract new investors and to maintain the support of existing ones. And while it’s not likely that you’ll ever hear a shareholder say that he or she invested in your company because last year’s business plan had some killer writing, you’ll certainly notice it if that plan fails to convince readers that your company’s management and marketing strategies, projections, and corporate profile make it a worthwhile investment. The same applies when you’re talking about strategic plans, proposals, and annual reports. In these cases, you’re not selling your product; you’re selling your company.
Jim’s a pretty solid writer. Let’s get him to do it!
Now that we have established that there is a direct monetary gain to be made from forms of professional writing other than sales copy, let’s examine other, less tangible reasons for which it’s important to not simply entrust the task of writing, say, an annual report to the marketing team or to the summer intern. First of all, professional writing is just that—a profession. There’s more to it than being a “good writer,” just as there’s more to being a mechanic than being “good with your hands.” You may think that the honor-roll summer students or the marketing gurus who are never stumped to find a good tagline may be perfect for the job, but you’ve got to be quite the writing expert yourself to know whether they’re really on par with the pros or whether they’re just better at writing than you (sorry!).
The marketing team can handle it. It’s not that busy these days!
Second, let’s suppose that there are oodles of top-notch writers in your office—yourself included—and that all of them really are capable of meeting your writing needs. Who will be doing their (or your) job in the meantime? Will you be bringing in other people to take over your “writers’” regular duties, or are you just piling the responsibilities onto the staff and setting the stage for future workload issues and grievances?
Stay tuned for upcoming blogs in which I will expand upon some of the ideas discussed in this post. In particular, I will soon share some tips to help you determine when it’s really worth it to invest in a copywriter (after all—not all writing projects need to be done by a pro); how to determine which copywriters are actually good (many aren’t), and of those that are good, how to choose the one that best suits your company’s specific needs; and why “lower-order” writing concerns such as grammar and punctuation can have a huge impact on readers’ responses to your written documents.