Like It or Not, You Need to Be a Writer
8 steps to better brainstorming
By HB Publishing & Marketing Company staff
To build credibility, a professional like you should publishing articles on hot-button topics that are near and dear to your clients. OK. Writing’s not easy for many of us, but if you can stay focused and brainstorm the right way for just 30 minutes, you’ll be well on your way to being published. We have 8 steps below that can really help you unlock your “Inner Writer.” We’ll get to those in a minute.
Establishing credibility with your clients, prospects and potential business partners is the most effective form of marketing you can do. We’re not talking about tweeting, tagging photos or “Liking” something on Facebook. We’re talking about building the kind of credibility that actually pulls prospects to you and makes them want to work with you. Best of all, being published means you no longer have to push yourself on prospects to get their business. One of the most powerful ways to establish credibility—real credibility—is to publish an article that demonstrates your expertise in solving a problem that your clients face every day.
- According to research from Russ Alan Prince Associates, 91 percent of affluent investors say an advisors’ expertise is a key consideration when deciding whom to work with.
- Inc. Magazine says industry expertise is the second most important criteria for finding a CPA. Only “having the right credentials,” ranks higher.
- According to Law Practice Today, “…as clients get more sophisticated, they increasingly seek lawyers with strategic expertise and practice concentrations.”
Most financial, legal, accounting and insurance professionals are very smart people. Not many are professional writers. While you might not think twice about posting to social media, a blog, an online discussion forum, or a newspaper website, writing for publication—especially for your peers—can appear daunting. Sure, you can hire a freelance writer to help you. But the fact is, writing for publication isn’t as challenging as you might think.
8 Steps to Better Brainstorming
The whole point of the 30-minute article approach is to GO VERY FAST and let the creative right side of your brain run free. That way it won’t get shut down by the more rational and judgmental left side.
The process involves 8 key steps. Go ahead, let it rip!
8 Keys to Better Brainstorming
1. Name the issue. Start by writing down your client base’s biggest challenge or concern. It might be preserving their wealth, minimizing income taxes, handling a complex estate planning issue, making sure they’re adequately insured or protecting their wealth and their family members from lawsuits. Don’t overthink it–write down the really big issue that first comes to mind.
Remember, don’t write down the biggest challenge you personally face—just focus on your clients’ biggest concerns.
2. Identify the problems. Write down three problems or adverse conditions that result from the main challenge or concern you first identified. These are problems that you hear your clients talking about all the time, creating anxiety. For example, what to do if the slow growth economy suddenly goes into a tailspin, if they’re ready to retire and don’t have anyone to turn over (or sell) the business to. Suppose their CPA is not getting it done, but they’re not sure if it’s worth the hassle of firing her?
3. Address the obstacles. Now ask yourself: What are the major obstacles that my clients must overcome (or bypass) to solve the three major problems they’re facing? These might be difficulties approaching the question (as in how they would begin to solve it every day) or tactical obstacles that tend to arise along the way.
Suppose your clients don’t have a high tolerance for risk, but they already know they’re behind on the retirement savings goals. Suppose they’ve been with the same CPA for 20 years, but know their CPA is not hungry enough to stay current with all the new tax regulation and is not saving them you as much money as another firm might?
4. Propose the solution. Next, write down the steps that will help your clients reach their ideal outcomes. Quickly write down a word or phrase that describes each step (you can return later and flesh out the content with more detail or add charts and graphs).
This part is relatively easy–it’s the same process you use every day to solve particular problems for your existing clients. You should not offer generic advice. Instead provide solutions that you actually have delivered in these situations.
Depending on how you work, you might provide simple how-to steps of the solution that build on each other. You could offer a list of helpful resources or client case studies so prospects know they’re “not in it alone.” If nothing else, take your readers through a sequence of instructions that can help them solve the problem. This will confirm that you have a defined and proven way to address the concern. This is what will further establish your credibility as a go-to problem-solver. Don’t brag about your process or solution and certainly don’t flaunt all your awards and accolades. Readers will assume that since you wrote (or at least bylined) the article, you can deliver what you describe.
5. Illustrate the issue. Next, think of a personal experience that illustrates the problem your article is focusing on. Try to touch on emotion and reason in response to the issue. For instance, describe a hypothetical example of a client who did not have his antique car collection appraised for over 10 years and was in for a rude shock when a freak hailstorm decimated his museum-like garage. He had insurance—but not nearly enough. Using examples like this will establish a strong connection between you and your readers and put real world context on the framework of your article.
A brief story or anecdote from your personal experience—say what you learned growing up on a farm or your first job waiting tables–can turn a seemingly vague or academic concern into a real-life issue of great importance. Usually this anecdote is best used as the “hook” at the start of an article to draw readers into the broader ideas and solutions you will discuss later on.
6. Conclusion. Sum up your article with a few concise sentences about what you’ve shared with them and where they can go for more information and help (i.e. you).
7. Key Takeaways. Read your article again and pull out three or four BRIEF bullet points that summarize what the reader will learn if they’re willing to invest a few minutes of their valuable time reading what you have to say. The Key Takeaways should go right at the top and help you “sell your content” (see No. 8 below).
8. Sell the Content! Finally, choose a compelling title for the article. If you go back and skim through what you’ve written, a good title should jump out at you. Focus on action verbs and something the reader will learn that they didn’t already know. Pretend the title is the subject line of an email. Would a busy prospect open an email with that line? If not re-work it until you’re at least 99 percent confident that they would open.
Finding Your Voice
Believe it or not, these eight steps shouldn’t take you more than 30 minutes and they will result in a strong rough draft, which you can then improve. Once you’ve finished an initial draft, take a break from it of at least one hour—preferably don’t look at it for at least a full day. Then go back and read it closely, analyzing your “voice” as well as the actual content. Do you come across as authoritative, decisive, professional and personable? Are your words accessible to the average reader?
Keep it real. Writing in your own voice gives your article energy and veracity. Your writing will be much more natural and reader-friendly as though having a conversation with a trusted client, colleague or prospect. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just keep if real and focus on providing valuable information that only you have. You’ll also make a strong impression with an editor as well as with your readers.
Again. Try to avoid last-minute deadlines. Some people love the adrenaline rush of deadline pressure, but you’re not doing breaking news for the CNN website. You’re trying to delivery carefully thought out information that should have a very long shelf life. Go back the next day and rewrite anything that needs to be finished. If necessary, beef up the article until it’s around 1,000 words or so. You should also enlist someone in your office (or a freelance writer) as a fresh pair of eyes to read your article and make editing suggestions. Check your ego at the keyboard and accept their “constructive criticism” like a grownup.
Congrats. You may not be a professional writer (yet), but you’re using your writing to enhance your profession. You’re not only being published with byline attribution, but you’re driving qualified traffic to your website and LinkedIn profile. People are commenting, sharing and citing what you have to say. You’re getting more invitations to write, speak and teach than you ever thought possible. And best of all, you’re getting qualified client leads and referrals from other professionals.