Should You Call Out Bad Content?

Two smiling businesswomen sitting at desk talking with laptop in front of them

What was the last piece of bad content you came across?

Was it the sales postcard from your gym? That newsletter from your local retailer? Or the real estate flier that arrived with the mail?

Most of us come across cringe-worthy examples of content, copy, strategy, and offers all the time.

When we do, it’s tempting to reach out to the company with our thoughts on how they could improve the content.

Maybe you could even get some work out of it!

But should you?

You could, of course. But this is something you have to do with tact.

Otherwise, you’ll just end up annoying the prospective client and wasting your time.

So here are six tips for turning bad content into good opportunities:

1. Consider your relationship

What’s your relationship with the owner of the offending content?

Do you have any history with the company? Are you a long-time customer?

Or did you just stumble across the content?

If you have a pre-existing relationship with the company, you’ll have more latitude to offer polite feedback. Feedback may (and only MAY) be more welcome coming from you (as a type of insider) than from an outsider.

But if you have no relationship with the company at all, the business owner is more likely to take offense.

2. Talk in person

This may not always be possible, but it’s better to have this conversation face-to-face (as opposed to over email).

Email is an imperfect communication device, especially when dealing with sensitive topics.

Even a phone call (scheduled in advance, so the business owner isn’t caught off guard), would be preferable.

3. Don’t call their baby ugly!

As I’ve hinted, business owners can take criticism of their content personally, so you have to be super careful.

Whatever you do, don’t call their baby ugly!

Let’s use an example. Say I receive a marketing email from my gym with an offer to sign up for one-on-one training. Unfortunately, the email is in desperate need of improvement.

I’m a regular at the gym and know the owner. After class one day, I could say something to the effect of:

“Hey, Samantha. I’ve been meaning to talk with you. I don’t know if you know, but I’m in marketing. I have some ideas about how you could get some great results from your email marketing by doing a just a few simple things. I’d love to sit down with you for 20 minutes in the next week or so and share these ideas with you. No pitch or anything. And no pressure. I just love your gym and really think this stuff could help you. What do you think?”

Notice I’m NOT saying, “Wow, that email promo was horrific! What in the world were you thinking, girlfriend? LOL! You really need to change this, fix that …”

Instead, notice I’m talking about how to get better results from their marketing.

4. Make specific suggestions

If the business owner agrees to meet and continue the conversation, come armed with some specific suggestions.

Don’t show up with a proposal that’s big and complicated and will take months to have any impact.

Instead, present three specific, concrete ideas that are easy to implement and will have an immediate impact.

The easier to implement and the bigger (and faster) the potential impact, the better.

And then see what they say.

5. Don’t pitch

If you do this right, there’s a good chance that when you present your ideas, the owner will ask you how you could help.

Only then should you offer to put together a proposal for your services.

6. Don’t make assumptions

Throughout this whole process, you have to be careful to not make any assumptions.

You’re not privy to the inner workings of the company. So it’s easy to assume that these content issues exist because the people involved don’t know any better. (“If they only realized how bad their content is, they’d surely want my help!”)

But business owners are often aware of these issues. Or at least they’ll know they’re struggling with this stuff.

Maybe they haven’t addressed them because they have no budget. Or maybe it’s simply not a priority for them.

Or they just don’t know how!

But don’t assume that they’ll be ready to take action simply because you’ve raised the topic.

Bad Marketing Doesn’t Always Make Great Clients

If it turns out that the company has little budget or content isn’t a priority, then the company probably won’t be a great client — even if the owner does agree to hire you.

You might be creating a client relationship where you’ll have to continually persuade the owner of the importance of your projects and argue over late payments.

But that doesn’t mean that you can never turn bad content, copy, strategy, or offers into a good opportunity.

Because if the company has a budget and marketing is a priority — and it’s only been put aside because the company couldn’t find the right person — then this kind of arrangement could work out well for you both.

This article, Should You Call Out Bad Content?, was originally published by B2B Writing Success.

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Published: January 7, 2021

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