In an interview in the January 2015 issue of Barefoot Writer Magazine, Master Copywriter and successful entrepreneur Mark Ford said, “Spend a full week — 40 hours — studying the company you want to work for.”
A week may sound like a lot of time to study a company, but if you truly want to land that company as a client or even work there full-time, that may be how long it takes to set yourself apart from the competition. Here are some ways you can make the most of those 40 hours, so you can make an amazing first impression.
Read articles about the company
“If I was going to research a company for 40 hours, I’d start off with perusing their website, then reading every news article and press release I could find through Google,” said Richard Denoncourt, a writer and Recruitment Manager at Robert Half Technology.
Find out what type of person works there
“Check out their staff on LinkedIn and see what kind of people they hire, and what those people studied in college and where they used to work,” said Denoncourt. “The last thing I’d do, if I was really serious about the company, is to reach out to people on LinkedIn that work there. I’d offer to take them out to lunch in exchange for some insider information on what it’s like to work there.”
Research the sales literature
Many writers will be interested in working with companies that have produced a lot of marketing materials and content. You could easily spend 40 hours studying past promotions, sales letters, and newsletter issues. It is worth your time spending 40 hours reviewing as much of that material as you can get your hands on before contacting anyone at the company. That way, you will have specific questions and ideas about how you can contribute.
Try the product
If you can afford it, actually buy and use the product they are selling. Putting your money on the line to purchase whatever the company is selling will put you in the shoes of their customers, and give you an inside look at what thoughts and feelings may be going through their minds as they make the purchase and receive the product. That experience may give you ideas on how the company can improve their sales.
If you don’t want to buy and use the product, realize that you may be competing against people who are intimately familiar with the product. And if you don’t want to buy the product, you may have a harder time selling it because you’re not convinced.
Study the customers
The more you know about the customers, the more likely you will come up with a fresh idea that will get their attention. Read the magazines and websites they do. Review customer comments online for insights into their language. Go to places they like to hang out. If you can, talk to actual customers, or at least people who match the profile.
Find out what the company’s challenges are
Companies that pay the highest fees also have more people approaching them for work. But marketing directors, and anyone in a position to hire you, isn’t interested in finding work for you.
Instead, they want you to find solutions to their problems. How can you do that if you don’t know what their problems are?
When you research a company, find out what their challenges are and offer solutions to those challenges.
People want to hire problem solvers, but it’s not enough to say, “I’m a problem solver” on your resume or in your information packet. You need to demonstrate your ability to solve problems.
Become the person they’re looking for
Before you approach your dream client and ask for a project, take a look at your website, your marketing materials, and (while you’re at it) the way you present yourself in person. Are you putting your best foot forward?
If you are applying to become a company’s new go-to case study writer, do you have case studies on your website? If you want to write sales letters, do you have a sales letter for your own services? Do your blog posts suggest that you can solve the problems your dream employer faces every day?
Demonstrate that you can do the work by employing the marketing tactics you want to do for your dream company.
Be like them
Study the company’s website and marketing materials, and those of other companies in the industry or niche. Is there a color or style that is used often? Try to make your own website, marketing materials, and resume follow that look and feel. This doesn’t mean you can’t be yourself, but it does mean that you observe what is going on and show that you fit in and you want to be a part of the culture.
Take a class
If you have your sights set on doing certain kinds of work for your dream client, be honest about the weaknesses you have, and take action by learning something you don’t know about or filling any gap you have in your resume.
Follow their requirements
Good companies looking to hire a freelancer attract hundreds of interested writers. One way they weed out lazy workers is by making the application process more difficult. Be sure you understand and follow the directions. If the process seems difficult, know that you have passed the first test by completing it.
Act as if you’ve already been hired
If you’re in a situation like AWAI’s Job Fair, where you want to stand out in a crowd of other writers competing for the same clients, choose one or two companies and start to write a sales letter or spec ahead of time. That way, when you meet the person on the other side of the table, you will have already researched their company and will be able to ask better questions.
The reason that Ford recommended spending a week researching a company is that doing so increases the chances of finding clients that value your work and are willing to pay higher fees. Spending 40 hours studying the dream client is the best way to make yourself into their dream writer.