What is the goal of all this work that we do for clients?

Writers have a peculiar craft. We put together words to form coherent sentences that serve the purpose of a larger idea. That’s three levels of thinking that you have to keep in mind simultaneously. Right now, for example, I’m in down in the minutiae of constructing this sentence, word by word, but I am also thinking about the roadmap of where I’m going.

The old analogy of “the forest and the trees” is particularly appropriate for writers. When we’re too focused on the tree (i.e., this sentence I’m writing), we can’t adequately see the forest (the larger idea I’m trying to express). And now I’m asking you to see not just the forest, but the national park we’re creating together.

What is the goal of all this work that we do for clients?

To help orient us, to show the big picture of what we are doing, I want to fix two goals firmly in your head. Thinking about these goals is like being able to zoom out to the Google Maps satellite view of the forest at any time.


The First Goal: Building Their Business

Our first goal of writing for clients is to build their freaking businesses. I hope you’ll pardon my explicit language, but I want to drive home the point that content marketing is about building a freaking business.

All marketing is about building a business, but this is a fact that many marketers forget. We once had a client who told us that he didn’t care whether our work brought in any new customers. “Don’t write anything about our particular company, or try to sell our readers,” he told us. “We’re just trying to build awareness of our industry.” He didn’t keep his job for very long.

The reason we write content is to draw in more potential customers for our clients. If our client sells medical billing software, we’re writing content to help bring in more medical billing specialists. We write about things that they find interesting, useful, or funny (because as we all know, medical billing specialists have a fantastic sense of humor).

Most of the time, the content that you write will be a prospective customer’s first exposure to our client. They’re doing a search on some medical billing problem, they find your article, and they get their solution. So your first job is to keep the customer reading through the entire article, which you do through analogies, stories, quotes: all the sticky tricks in your writer toolkit.

At the end of the article, your job is to get that customer to click the Call To Action. If you don’t ask them to do something at the end of the article, they’ll just hit the “back” button and be gone forever. In traditional marketing lingo, this is called getting them into the “sales funnel.” In sales-speak, it’s called “getting a lead.” Once they’ve clicked the CTA, that’s as far as we can go.

If your article is a tree, then our client’s business is the forest that you’re planting.


The Second Goal: Making Content Better

But if our only goal is getting prospective customers into the sales funnel, then we’ll start seeing all kinds of spammy behavior (like most internet advertising). So our second goal is to make content better. This means making our clients’ websites better, making the internet better, and making the world better.

This may sound so idealistic as to be impossible, especially when you’re writing about medical billing software. But take this article. I do not hope to transform the world with this single blog post. One tree does not make a forest. But if I can use this article to bring a little clarity, to express a few ideas that might be a little helpful, it does change the world in a small way.

Taken over time, a collection of articles like this one really could have a transformative impact. They could change the way you think about your work, and the way we do business. They could build not just our clients’ businesses, but our own. They could transform your own writing career. Never underestimate the power of your ideas to change the world.

Each piece we write for clients, then, is an opportunity to make the world a little better. We can approach writing as drudgery, as another 500-word slog through the fascinating world of medical billing software … or we can approach writing as a creative act that can transform our clients’ businesses, and our own.

There’s a virtuous circle here. When you focus on building a client’s business, you build your own reputation, and that ends up building your own business. When you focus on making content better, you make your own career better. All good work comes back to you in the end.

That’s the forest. Now start planting trees.

Sir John Hargrave is the CEO of Media Shower and author of the upcoming book Mind Hacking. This post is free to distribute under CC 4.0: if you like it, share it.