All the time you hear copywriting gurus tell you “Research is 80% of the work!”, “Do the research first, and the writing will come.” and so on.
But why is it so important? What’s the point? Surely you can just crank out a pretty decent sales letter without having to go to all that trouble, right?
Well, not really.
Sure you might get lucky once or twice, or maybe a string of lucky successes. But sooner or later your gung-ho approach to copywriting is going to come back and bite you in the ass. And it’s not pretty. Especially so when you’re overconfident about your skills, and you leave a client thinking “What the hell just happened?”
Research IS important. It’s the heart of your copy. It’s the heart of your message. It allows you to find out everything you need to know about your prospect, your market, your product, competitors, and so on. It allows you to dive headfirst into the heart of what you need to know.
How can you sell something effectively if you don’t know who it is you’re selling to? How do you know your copy’s going to do well if you have no idea what the market is like, or how your product/service will play a part in it? Listen, there’s TONS of research out there waiting to be discovered.
You can find out pretty much anything you need to know, just by looking in the right places:
- Message Board and Forums
- Popular content sites
- Use tools such as google trends
And so on. But even BEFORE all that? A questionnaire.
Now, this is more geared towards us freelance copywriters who take on clients. Even so, there’s value in entrepreneurs writing up something similar for themselves to use. Anyway, back on point.
This is my secret weapon. Sure, not much of a secret. But the questionnaire I use has the power to get almost all of the information I need to write a compelling and powerful piece of copy. The first thing I do after confirming a project with a client is to send over my questionnaire.
I tell them to take some time to fill this out, and to give as much detail as possible. What’s the point if it’s just a list of bullets? That doesn’t help. The questionnaire is designed to help me get into the heads of the target audience, but also the client themselves. If I can find that passion and inspiration from the source, I can transfer that into my copy.
In my questionnaire, I ask several questions. Here’s a shortlist of the topics I cover:
1.) What is the product? What are its features/benefits? USP?
2.) The target audience? Their deepest fears/problems/desires in relation to the niche/product?
3.) Competitors? How is your product any better than theirs?
4.) Price? Bonuses? Limits on the offer?
6.) Important One here: What is the story behind the product? What made the client want to make this product/provide this service? What is their passion? What’s the story?
Now, that last one is important. It separates your product/copy from everyone else’s. Instead of being a ‘Look at this! Now buy it!’ piece of copy, it’s a ‘Hey, I’m genuine. I want to help you. Need help with this? Here’s the solution’ piece of copy. Remember, people don’t like being sold to. But they DO like the idea of someone wanting to help them.
They’ll be a LOT more open to listening to what you have to say. Be genuine.
This questionnaire is my first port of call for information and inspiration, and I’d avise both aspiring entrepreneurs and freelance copywriters to start using one. It keeps all the information ordered and easily accessible. And on top of that, I suggest making a ‘customer profile’. This sums up your customer; their age, sex, income, etc.
The more you know about your customer, the more impact your copy will have.
So to sum up: Your copywriting will either fail, or at best be average until you realise the importance of research. Use it well, and do it properly, and you’ll almost always write hard-hitting copy that does its job properly (making you or your client money!).