"Writing the text is the final 10% of what I'll do for a project" - Me, when asked about copywriting
A common question I get asked is ‘so what do you do when you sit down to write?’. So, I wanted to write up the answer here.
Having studied and worked as a mechanical engineer, I approach writing a site with the same methodical nature as designing a piece of hardware. It's about as far as you can get from sitting down and making up some nice words.
Now I find it safer to assume I know nothing about the customer, so thorough research serves as the most important step.
This is to uncover the motivations of…
This can be uncovered through a combination of sending out customer surveys using the Ask Method, along with picking up the phone and actually talking to them.
It's important to note that the language is just as important as the reasons at this stage, so everything is documented & transcribed where possible. For example, I want to take better photos isn't the same as I want to be able to capture to vibe at family events.
Now again, I don’t want to assume anything about what you’re offering.
So, I’d want to take the time to get to know your product or service. If it's software, I'd want to register, set it up, put it into practice, discover it's charms and quirks, and generally make sure I understand what you're selling.
This way I can be confident I’m accurately talking about what’s on offer and why it's great.
Well, I now understand your offer and your customers. But, we still want to make sure we've identified the most compelling selling points
The answer to this lies in your USP (aka your value proposition), as it is these key aspects that your site is there to communicate.
I prefer to use a method taught to me by a fellow copywriter, where the challenge is to come up with every response possible to ‘if I’m your ideal customer, why should I choose you over the main alternative?’
These can then be scored for appeal and exclusivity to see which few come out on top.
N.B this is an over-simplification as the method would be an article in itself, but hopefully you get the gist of it.
Having all of this information in my head is useful, but I want you to be able to refer to it without me. This might be when writing pitches, emails, or to get new staff up to speed in understanding your user base.
So, the gathered info will be brought together in a Motivations Report.
This will be a highly enthralling read, including your user motivations, quotes of the language they’ve used, and the USP that’s been generated.
And now I write!
Even now, I won’t just sit down and start spewing out sentences.
Your copy is there to serve as one side of a conversation, giving the information required by the reader in the most helpful order.
To plan out the copy, my first step will be to write out the questions that I expect your visitors are asking themselves, as this is what the copy needs to answer. This can be a sequence like;
These questions must be flow together both within a single page/email, as well as across the whole site or email series, so the whole thing will be planned out as one unified system.
With these laid down, some answers can be sketched out, written in very plain English (or what I call schoolyard sales speak) to check it’s compelling before muddying things with more eloquent language.
Then finally, this can be turned into full phrases and sentences!
Confident that the copy is being built on solid reasoning, we can now flesh things out. Where possible, this will use language taken from the customers, and images that naturally support the USP being conveyed.
Happily Ever After?
Everyone loves a good A/B test, so this new copy can be tested against your old site.
For further improvements, I can also provide variations of key elements such as headlines to determine further ways to optimise your copy, and ensure it’s reaching through to your target audience.
Off to the Pub
So there you have it, the overview of how to write words without the guesswork. All that then leaves is to finally head off to the pub for a well deserved pint.
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