Good Marketing: Keep Chewing Your Project

As a boy, I grew up on the edge of a small town. If I turned right, I could ride my bike to the local drug store for a cold drink. But if I turned left, I’d be in the countryside in two minutes.

Again and again, I left town behind because I was interested in nature. You might say that it was my niche back then — botany and butterfly collecting and observing animals and looking for fossils and wandering the woods took up my summers.

I loved riding my bike down small country roads. I’d always find something new to explore, from fields full of wildflowers to pastures full of cattle.

You’d be surprised how interesting cows can be. I’d often ride my bike past a field full of them, stop by the barbed-wire fence, and stand there, watching them. They’re interesting animals, with behaviors you wouldn’t expect.

And of course, they have a knack for rumination.

What is rumination? Well, there are two meanings: one literal, one figurative.

Cows ruminate when they eat. They eat grass or feed, chew it once, let it partially digest, and then chew it again. That’s called “chewing the cud.” Cows will sit around, quite happily, and chew their cud for hours.

They do it to extract every calorie from their food. If they didn’t do this, they’d starve to death because it takes time to digest grass.

While chewing, they seem to be thinking deep thoughts. They seem to feel philosophical when they’re chewing the cud. They appear to have something on their minds. That’s figurative rumination.

And I’ve found that to create good marketing, it’s important to keep chewing your project until every calorie has been extracted.

I don’t mean literally. I mean that it takes time to learn, review, think, and write.

Many corporate marketing roles favor speed over substance. They expect fast talking, fast thinking, and fast writing. If the work is 80% done, they want marketers to put the copy on the Web and move to the next project.

In those environments, rumination isn’t on the agenda and it isn’t valued. But rumination’s essential to quality.

It’s easy to get a project to 80%. It’s hard to get a project to 100%.

You can’t provide good marketing unless you’re willing to take the time to chew and digest everything about your project. The best ideas are rarely obvious and they often come when you’re not thinking about the project.

I’m not going to lie to you. Sometimes you can sell a client copy that doesn’t have great thinking behind it. But it’s counterproductive over the long term.

You want to be a trusted advisor in your niche — where everyone knows your name, knows the quality of your work, and knows what to expect. You want to be known for good marketing.

And that takes time and effort in three areas.

#1: Information gathering — this takes time. You have to gather background information, read it, puzzle over it, ask questions. You may find yourself exploring competitive marketing, or failed campaigns, or hidden technical details.

You’ll likely go back, over and over again, to your sources of information, looking for a nugget, a proof point, or a quote you can use to make your project stronger.

#2: Prep work — it’s best to sketch, signpost, and storyboard your work as you go along. I’ve been writing a short synopsis before starting the project.

That may feel like extra work to you, but it lets you put your thoughts in order, helps your client follow your thinking, gives you more opportunity for improvement, and often ends up enhancing your copy.

#3: Creating copy — pacing yourself is very important. Many writers I know write copy in 30-minute bursts, with breaks in-between. That’s a good idea as it’s hard to keep up quality over hours and hours.

But it’s also essential that you go back and review. Check your work for consistency and accuracy, and of course, for any obvious typos or errors. In the Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting, AWAI recommends a three-step “Copy Cleaning” system. I’d certainly suggest using that system.

If you want your business to be healthy, you’ll need to ruminate. It takes time — but it’s essential. Let me know how it goes in the comments.

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Published: September 24, 2012

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