I’ve been helping more self-employed professionals build business with writing recently: articles, blog posts, ebooks, and more. To explain to them the type of editorial content professionals need to write in order to attract and land clients, I coined a new acronym, REAL:

R = Relevant
E = Educational, Entertaining, and/or Evocative
A = Authentic
L = Leads to trust

Working with these elements, I’ve realized that they apply to more than just writing. In fact, they apply to any sort of marketing a self-employed professional does.

Whether you are writing copy for your website, posting on social media, placing a follow-up call, or giving a talk, you need to consider the four REAL elements.

Relevant – What you write or say must apply to both your audience and what you’re trying to sell. Posting cute kitten videos to Facebook isn’t enough to turn your social media presence into paying clients, unless you’re a videographer or cat sitter. An occasional off-topic post or conversation is fine, but the majority of your written, spoken, and visual content should be directly relevant to your target audience’s needs and your business.

Educational, Entertaining, and/or Evocative – All your communications with prospective clients should fit into one (or more) of these three categories. Remember, they must still also be relevant!

  • Educational: These communications inform your audience about principles, skills, facts, or resources relevant to their needs. Make sure communications of this type deliver immediate, practical value to your prospects. They should always be aimed at helping people achieve goals and solve problems.
  • Entertaining: Communications in this category make your audience laugh, feel good, or daydream. You might tell stories or jokes, share amusing or positive images, or open people’s horizons.
  • Evocative: Words and images of this type trigger your audience’s emotions, such as awe, delight, or concern. They might stimulate deeper thinking and exploration. Or, they can inspire, motivate, or evoke empathy.

Authentic – Whatever you tell or show prospective clients must be presented in a voice that’s true to who you are. Sending prospective clients a long sales letter that includes hard-sell phrases you would never use in a live conversation is inauthentic. When you try to use other people’s words to sell yourself, you’re likely to chase away the very clients that are the best match for your personality and working style.

Leads to trust – Consistently producing communications based on the elements above encourages people to trust you. They know you aren’t going to annoy or bore them by talking about irrelevant topics, and that they’ll get value from every read or conversation. They’ll also be confident that they’re seeing the real you. When prospective clients trust you, they’ll hire you.

Start getting REAL about your marketing. Include the four REAL elements in your blog posts, marketing emails, networking exchanges, and sales conversations. Relevant, authentic communications that are educational, entertaining, or evocative will build people’s trust, and therefore, build your business.