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I used to do quite a lot of work for a printing firm a few years ago.

Quite often a client would ask them to produce a brochure to promote their business.

So their design studio would create a nice looking brochure, put in dummy headings and fill chunks of each page with ‘lorem ipsum’ placeholder text.

Then they’d ask me to write the words, as though they were some sort of afterthought.

It was at this stage I’d discover that, though the client had been asked what they wanted their brochure to look like, they hadn’t been asked in any detail what they wanted to say or who they wanted to appeal to.

Which left me with two choices.

Find out what the client really wanted and make the studio adapt their design to what I subsequently wrote. Or try and shoehorn copy into the boxes they had already laid out.

Neither was satisfactory.

The studio didn’t want to go back to the drawing board because that cost them time and money. I didn’t want to produce words that didn’t do the right job, because that would cost me repeat business. The client just wanted an effective brochure in double quick time and generally wasn’t keen to spend extra time on it.

In other words, we all had competing interests but because we didn’t do the work in the right order we ended up serving no-one’s best interest.

It was a classic example of putting the cart before the horse.

Not working in the right order when you team up with other people is a problem that plagues many businesses.

It’s not just start ups and SMEs that suffer, it can be international firms too.

For example, I once wrote a website for a global company that employed tens of thousands of people.

Once again, I was presented with draft designs of the website to shoehorn my text into.

When I asked during a briefing interview whether they had done any keyword research – the words and phrases they wanted to target for search engine purposes – they guiltily admitted they’d forgotten to get their internet marketing department involved.

And there was one section of the website – a service with a name I didn’t understand – which I queried. “Is that what the service is called in your target market?” I asked. The reply: “No. We don’t know what they call it, so we’ve decided on this.”

I had to point out people wouldn’t find a service with a name they didn’t understand, recognise or use.

We solved the problems in the end but it took a lot of duplication of effort to get us working together in the right way.

So, if you are in business, take a close look at how your people work together – whatever work they do. Are they working together to achieve a common goal, moving from one logical step to the next? Or do they have different goals and different working practices that are conflicting with those of the other people they are working with?

Because if it’s the latter, you need to act – it’s costing you time, money and the results you’ll be getting won’t be as good as they should be. And when that happens, it can cost you clients or customers.

Needlessly.

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About Ben Locker

Ben Locker is a copywriter who specialises in business-to-business marketing, writing about everything from software and accountancy to construction and power tools. He co-founded the Professional Copywriters’ Network, the UK’s association for commercial writers, and is named in Direct Marketing Association research as ‘one of the copywriters who copywriters rate’.

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