Writing For Leads Is Bad Business

    November 25, 2007

Recently I re-read a business book (written by some PhD’s who counsel people to improve their careers), and each chapter struck me as salesy — as if it were primarily crafted to speak to the 1% of readers who might be likely to follow up as consulting prospects.

The first time through, though, I had not felt that way. It was a good read: they’d offered numerous cautionary tales and case studies along with ways of remedying certain career-killing bad habits. In short, they were dishing the dirt and it was an indulgent exercise in career suicide voyeurism, etc.

That must mean they got the balance about right. The first read didn’t trigger any defense mechanisms in me; it was only the second time around that I realized how shamelessly they were plugging themselves.

Now turn your attention to the articles you typically read in a trade magazine or online property in your particular niche. Know any authors who completely disregard the need to strike that balance? Authors who never add any outside perspective and who simply beat the drum tirelessly for their particular model, client list, technique, etc. are a tiresome read. You also wonder – if they’re so transparent about the sales pitch – whether they aren’t hurting business more than they’re helping.

So let that be the acid test. If some piece of writing seems to be a hard-hitting sales job on the first read (or, in a related vein, an exercise in treacly ingratiation), it’s akin to a spammy search result sneaking into the otherwise-organic paradise of SERP’s. It’s the type of thing that should be weeded out by editors and publishers, or at least subject to a degree of self-censorship. Time for some early New Year’s resolutions? "I shall write and publish as much content as feasible."