Where were you on “Super Saturday“?
As Mo Farah crossed the finish line to achieve that historic 10k gold medal, I was leaping around my lounge, in an adrenaline fuelled frenzy of joy and elation!
And with the emergence of this new breed of role models, it seems the summer’s Games are set to achieve Seb Coe’s ambition to “inspire the next generation“.
But if you’re more likely to face a race to get your next sales letter out on time, how can exploring the performance of a world class endurance runner help you?
Let me explain…
1. Set your goal
Mo Farah’s performance in the 10k was simply stunning.
But to achieve that gold medal goal, Mo needed a strategy. From his intensive training regime, special diet, mental preparation and practice races, Mo needed to ensure he had the experience and capacity to deliver big when it mattered.
And the same applies to your business writing.
Whether your goal is to sell more products, grow your authority or build your audience, you need a tactical strategy to make it happen.
The tactics you use will depend on your business objectives but could include:
- Blogging to direct traffic to your website
- Social media to forge relationships
- Face to face networking to meet new customers
- Sales literature to explain your offer etc…
2. Craft your plan
World class endurance runners don’t just show up at the start line and hope for the best.
Instead they have a clear plan for achieving their goal. In Mo’s case, his American coach Alberto Salazar said the plan was:
And that’s precisely what Mo did. Throughout the race he maintained a strong position, but wasn’t aggressively pushing for the lead. Instead he held out and stuck to his race tactics which saw him “kick” at precisely the right moment. As a result he delivered a mesmerising sprint to the finish that saw him accelerate past and overcome his competition.
And so with your writing.
Start with a goal.
- What must that piece of writing achieve?
- What specific action do you want readers to take after they’ve read your words?
Next construct your plan.
- Draft up a rough outline of key points.
- Write your subheads to signpost your reader and form the backbone of your message.
- Get a strong start. You’ll need a compelling headline to capture the attention and imagination of your audience because what you say will determine who follows you into the rest of your “race”.
- Don’t get sidetracked. Avoid waffle, stay focused and take the shortest route to get your message across.
- Keep your reader’s orientated. Runner’s use the lap count down and the last lap bell. Reader’s use your subheads, bolds, italics and other emphasis tactics.
- Aim to leave an impression with your audience that lingers after your reader has finished.
3. Practice, practice, practice
“What you put into it is what you get out” – Mo Farah.
In the lead up to the race Mo worked hard. Exceptionally hard. In fact he was running 120 miles week in, week out. It’s that kind of aggressive commitment to a goal that makes world class success possible.
And you need to do that with your writing.
Writing is a skill that gets better with practice. And yes it is hard work! So be prepared for those days when the words don’t flow and your writing sucks! And if it helps, although the A-list bloggers make it look easy, their inspiring, challenging and thought provoking articles are the result of hard slog, practice and persistence.
So if you want to write well you need to practice. Practice makes you better.
With practice you’ll gain confidence, develop a better technique and achieve more impressive results.
In fact, the more you write, the more material you’ll be able to reflect back on. In truth, I cringe at some of the stuff I wrote early on in my career, but its that history, dedication and ability to reflect that’s made me better.
4. Deliver a polished performance when it matters most
Despite the pressure and expectations of a nation, Mo delivered.
In fact, like all of the elite athletes we’ve seen at this summer’s games, you could say he made it look relatively easy!
Mo ran 10000m in just 26 min 46.57 secs and tactically it was a brilliant race.
So don’t be fooled.
That perfect advert, compelling sales letter or thought-provoking article posted by your competitor was unlikely to have been rushed out. Instead it’s the result of a huge amount of behind the scenes work.
The lesson here is whenever you publish anything, make sure it’s your best. And don’t try to short-cut the outcome. Don’t skimp on your planning and preparation. Do that and your published work will suffer.
You can make mistakes behind the scenes, but proofread and edit your work carefully to ensure your reader’s get the polished end product.
5. Develop the confidence to know you can do it
To excel at sport you’ve got to develop an unshakable mental belief as well as the physical strength, stamina and endurance.
Athletes often use visualisation.
Athletes see themselves running a perfect race and this fuels their confidence and belief that they’ll be able to do it in reality.
First you’ve got to believe in your product / service, and then you’ve got to believe in your writing. If your message is incongruent, your target customer will find you out and your credibility will suffer.
6. Get a second opinion
Top athletes don’t train alone. They hire a coach.
In Mo’s case he moved his family to Oregon to train with Alberto Salazar.
Salazar helped Mo improve his race. For example they used shorter-distance races to work on his “kick”. This tactic allowed Mo dominate the closing lap and deliver a mesmerising sprint finish.
Consider getting expert help for your writing.
Often you can be too close to your business to see what’s holding you back. A writing coach (formal or informal) or a copywriter will offer fresh eyes and a different perspective and help you identify what’s working and what needs tweaking. Your bottom line (and influence) will benefit.
7. Harness your personality
We’re in love with Mo and the nation has backed him (and the rest of Team GB) with overwhelming intensity.
And so to in your business. People buy from people they know, like and trust so use your writing to help you achieve that.
If you run a very small business you need to take account of your likeability factor. So let your personality shine as it could be one of your unique selling points.
8. Engage your audience
80k people packed the Olympic Stadium on “Super Saturday” and countless more were watching at home. The audience were fully engaged and as the laps notched up we were on the edge of our seats!
When writing for your business, you must keep your audience close to your heart. You too need to keep them engaged and interested
Mo was quick to acknowledge the role that the crowd played in his victory and in doing so made the win about us and not just about him. As such we felt close to that gold medal and our interest levels exploded.
When writing hone in on what’s in it for your audience.
- What are they going to get out of reading what you have to say?
- How will they benefit from acting upon what you want them to do?
- Why should they buy, download, visit, click, phone, email etc.
If you haven’t got a compelling case, your audience will tune out and turn off.
And don’t dismiss long copy.
It’s true the 10k doesn’t give the instant gratification you get with the 100m sprint. Instead of just under 10 seconds we needed to wait nearly half an hour for Mo’s victory. However that was fine because we were entertained.
The lesson here is well written long copy does work. So don’t dismiss its use in your business.
9. Tell a story
Tell a good story and you’ll captivate your audience and get customers talking about your business.
In the lead up to the Games he became the first contestant to beat The Cube.
Then he became the first UK runner to win the 10k Olympic crown.
Next he let us share his moment with his family. It was fascinating watching his young daughter and heavily pregnant wife join him on the track to celebrate his achievement.
Think about how can you weave stories into your business writing?
Consider testimonials, tales of customers benefitting from your products and services, analogies and anecdotes to make your point. Emotions to generate a response that goes deeper than a superficial read. As is the power of words to make an impact, anything is possible…
10. Stay hungry
An Olympic gold may be the pinnacle of an athletic career, but top athletes don’t get complacent. Of course they celebrate, but before long they’ll be reflecting on what went well and where they can improve for next race.
They’ll want to break records and sprint faster, jump higher, run further…
You too need to reflect on your performance.
How can you be your best?
How can you improve your writing? Do you need to work on your headlines, focus on your storytelling or improve your call to action?
Get complacent and the competition will outsmart you.
Instead stay focused on improving, and you just might achieve the equivalent gold medal for your business.