Attention copywriting clients: Here’s what your copywriter needs from you...September 16th, 2009 9 Comments
When you have a pool built, you don’t simply point to your backyard and say, “Put a pool there!” (Believe me, I know!) You have to spend quite a bit of time telling your pool builder what shape you want, what style, what construction, what size. You have to discuss depth, lining, tiling, lighting, steps, ledges, chlorination, heating, cleaning, blankets, fencing, paving, levels, retaining, drainage, and so on.
How else will your pool builder know what you need?
It’s completely natural. You’re having something very complex and valuable created; of course you have to invest some time explaining it. My pool isn’t yet even a hole in the ground, and I’ve already spent 3 hours talking with the pool builder, and at least another 10 discussing the pool with my wife and my father-in-law.
Copywriting is like pool building. It’s complex, time-consuming and dependent on a myriad of factors. The more your copywriter knows about you, your goals, your site, your customers, their goals, their problems and your competition, the better your copy will be.
So why are people surprised when I ask them a lot of questions?
Mostly, I think, it’s because they haven’t engaged a professional copywriter before. So they haven’t really considered all the ins and outs. But sometimes, I think it’s because they underestimate the complexity of copy, and the depth of understanding required to make it effective. Worse still, there’s a small percentage of clients out there who think copywriters are merely glorified typists. (I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard a prospect say, “I’d write the copy myself, but I just don’t have the time.” Funny! Imagine if I said that to my pool builder: “I could dig a hole and fill it with water, but I just don’t have the time.”)
Anyway, I digress. My point is, if you want your copy written professionally, and you want it to be effective, your copywriter will need a little more from you than just a deposit and a deadline.
Below are the questions I typically ask my clients before writing their web copy. They take quite a bit of time to answer, but it’s unavoidable, I’m afraid.
Questions relevant to the entire site
- What is the objective of this copy?
- What do you do?
- Describe your brand. (e.g. Try to assign a personality to it.)
- What is the call to action (i.e. what do you want the reader to do immediately after reading? Call you? Email you? etc.)
- Who is your typical reader (e.g. brain surgeon, male, 30-45, professional, affluent, physically active)?
- What problem / need / situation has caused the reader to read this copy?
- What is the reader’s current opinion of your company / offering? (e.g. Unaware / suspicious / loyal customer / indifferent)
- Do you know of any barriers to sale / conversion ? (Reasons the reader might decide NOT to buy from you.)
- How would your reader achieve their objectives without your offering? (e.g. “Without our software, they’d be required to print all of their forms, hand-write on them, get the customer to sign them, then scan the document, and manually file on the network. Our software automates this entire process and saves $1 on every document.”)
- What are your overriding / strongest or most unique selling points?
- What makes your delivery of this product / service better than your competitors’?
- How long have you been in business?
- Why should readers trust you?
- Do you have a particular tone or style in mind for your copy (e.g. Informal, funny, conservative, formal)?
- Can you refer to anything in my portfolio (www.divinewrite.com/portfolio.htm) that is written in the style that you would like applied to your copy?
- Can you supply links to other copy that is written in the style you would like me to apply to your copy?
- What do you NOT want to see in your copy?
Questions my clients have to answer once for EACH PAGE
- What point / claims do you want to make on this page?
- Please provide detail and background information that validates this claim (you can type them here or link to or email them).
- Any other details you want to include?
- Do you have any relevant existing copy I can refer to?
- Primary Keyword Phrase for this page (for SEO)
- Secondary Keywords for this page (for SEO)
And, depending on the client’s offering, I’ll often ask questions 4 through 11 again for each page. (If I expect the answers will be different. E.g. The client offers a wide variety of complex services, and each service targets a different audience.)
It’s unfortunate, but if you want your copy to be effective, you have to invest some time. No one in the world is better qualified than you to answer the above questions. I’m certainly not. Sure, I have plenty of experience writing for just about every type of product and service out there. But that’s only enough to supplement your answers. It’s no substitute.
Please comment below with your thoughts. I'm not so old a dog that I can't learn a few new tricks!