How Borrowing an Idea Saved Thanksgiving for One Company and Created a New Type of Food for Everyone Else (and four ways you can win more clients)

Writer typing on laptop

The railroad tracks stretched over 1,346 miles from the East Coast to Nebraska …

And the train with all its carts attached traveled this same route for several days.

The train had to continually move … otherwise, the goods inside those carts would be ruined.

What was the train carrying?

Frozen turkeys … 260-ton worth.

The refrigerated cars only stayed cold when the train was moving … so it had to travel back and forth from Nebraska to the East coast.

When the train stopped so did the refrigeration. And if that happened, then all those frozen turkeys would start defrosting. And if that happened … well you can just imagine the mess it would make (not to mention the stench!).

But why were frozen turkeys on the train to begin with?

Well, at the time it was the only thing the executives at Swanson Food Company could think to do to save the turkeys until they solved their biggest problem.

And that was what to do with all those turkeys!

See, back in 1953, Swanson had ordered the turkeys ahead of Thanksgiving knowing that moms across the country would buy one for the family meal.

Except for that year, they didn't … not at the rate Swanson had anticipated. So they wound up with an overload of turkeys.

If they let the turkeys go to waste, the company would lose a lot of money. Putting them on the refrigerated rail cars was simply a way of buying time.

Luckily Gerry Thompson, one of the company's salesmen borrowed an idea that had been previously developed by Brooklyn-born entrepreneur Clarence Birdseye.

Clarence invented a machine for freezing packaged fish that would wind up revolutionizing the commercial storage and preparation of food.

Maxson Food Systems of Long Island liked his invention and used it to sell the first complete frozen dinner to airlines in 1945.

Knowing meals could be served this way, Gerry Thompson suggested the folks at Swanson add other holiday staples, such as cornbread stuffing and sweet potatoes, alongside slices of the already frozen turkeys.

NOW they could sell it as a complete turkey dinner. His idea worked so well that in 1954, the first full year of production, Swanson sold ten million trays.

So what lessons can you take away from this story to help advance your writing career?

Lesson #1: Borrow ideas from other niches.

Sometimes the easiest way to come up with a new idea for your client is to borrow what works from other industries. Just like Mr. Thompson did by borrowing the idea of frozen foods that were used in the airline industry.

For example, case studies are used often in B2B marketing, which are feel-good "before and after" stories. But they're useful in ALL industries … so, offer to write a case study style testimonial that proves how well your client's product or service works.

Lesson #2: Every client is stretched for time.

Your client is busy running their business, overseeing their staff, and managing the money. And they might not have the time or resources to stay on top of all their writing projects.

For instance, maybe the blog posts on their website aren't up to date. Or maybe they haven't gotten around to writing the next issue of their newsletter. This is where you can step and offer to take on those projects they haven't been able to get to.

Lesson #3: Show them new opportunities.

Some clients aren't aware of the opportunities they are missing with talking with their customers.

For instance, they might not know that writing emails to their existing customers is an ideal way to stay in touch, talk about new products and services, or address concerns.

You could offer to write those emails for your client. In fact, email writing is one of the easiest projects to take on and it pays well.

Lesson #4: Be a problem solver.

The fastest way to increase your writing income is to think of yourself as a problem solver. Once you get to know a client, you'll start to learn about other areas of their business where they might struggle.

Maybe the emails they are currently sending to customers aren't getting good open rates (the number of people who open the email). It might be because the subject lines are dull. Or the content of the email isn't engaging. As a writer who focuses on writing emails, you could offer to write new emails for your client that increase results.

Something to keep in mind …

When clients see you as more than a writer and more of a consultant … a strategist … a problem solver, that's how you ratchet up your writing income.

And thinking this way is really a simple change of mindset.

Yes, at heart you are a writer. But you're a writer who wants to be your client's partner. Someone they can turn to for ideas and for help.

Someone they'll be thankful to have on their team.

The AWAI Method™

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The AWAI Method™ combines the most up-to-date strategies, insights, and teaching methods with the tried-and-true copywriting fundamentals so you can take on ANY project — not just sales letters. Learn More »

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Published: April 2, 2024

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