It’s one of those days. You sit down to write some copy for your business. You’ve set your goals for outreach and the final product of your writing.
The thing is, you have no idea how to get there.
It happens. Even when you know how important copywriting is to your business, getting started can be hard. I mean, what are you supposed to write about?
You look for answers and get drowned in examples that don’t offer any real help. You can only find resources with general advice and platitudes that sound nice but mean nothing. They might tell or show you how to write for their business, but that’s no good to you.
You want to write to your audience about your business.
If you don’t figure out what to write, you risk alienating potential customers. That could leave you with copy that attracts Martians instead of buyers.
Here’s the good news: the solution is simple. The way to write good copy that reaches the right audience is by doing your research.
Now, you might not know how to research for copywriting. Most people don’t. If that’s the case, you’re in luck because that’s what this article is all about.
Here’s how you can use a couple of questions to take your copy lightyears ahead of the competition and start converting your prospects into customers.
Before we get to tips for doing research, let’s start with what to avoid in your research. Research is all about asking questions, but it’s important to know which questions to ask.
If you ask the wrong questions, you’ll get the wrong answers. Research may not be a test, but there are wrong answers. The wrong answers are ones that are confusing or irrelevant to your audience.
That means that it doesn’t matter how good your writing skills are. If you phone it in on the research, you’ll get bad copy. That can hurt your conversions worse than no copy at all.
A reader seeing bland copy is bad enough. Even worse is copy that makes them say, “Oh, I don’t get it. Guess it isn’t for me.” In the first case, they won’t notice you. In the second, they notice you and decide to keep looking.
So you don’t want to ask the wrong questions. How do you know what the wrong questions are? There are a couple of ways to tell.
First, don’t ask questions so you can say you did. You always need to have your specific audience in mind (more on that in a minute). Asking questions without intention is a surefire way to ask the wrong questions.
Let me show you what I mean.
Imagine you were trying to write copy for a local banana stand and started by asking questions.
“How many different countries eat bananas every day?” or “What do bananas have in common with oranges?” You would get answers that might not help you write good copy.
Your audience might care about how popular bananas are around the world. They could need persuasion that oranges aren’t different from bananas. The problem is, you have no idea if that’s the case.
Asking questions at random makes it hard to start writing. When you don’t have a plan for your questions, you have to sort through which information will be relevant first. You can’t start writing your copy until you find that relevant information.
Or worse, you slap copy together without caring what’s relevant. Irrelevant copy will kill your conversions in the blink of an eye.
You don’t want to ask questions without a plan. Put together an all-purpose questionnaire that you can tweak to your customer base. It’s a perfect way to make sure you don’t end up with information that has nothing to do with your customers.
Another way to ruin your copy before you start is asking questions you don’t have a direct route to answering.
Asking a question you can only speculate about is not only a waste of time, but it’s also harmful. If you can only answer your question by saying “Well, it’s probably…” that’s a good sign to cut that question.
Speculation means you run the risk of being wrong. Giving the wrong answer with conviction will estrange your audience. They’ll read your copy and say, “Oh, they don’t know how I’m feeling at all.”
If your audience feels misunderstood, your conversions will suffer. No matter how good the question you ask is on its own, you need a way to answer it with confidence.
So how are you supposed to ask the right questions? Find your audience. This should be the very first step in any kind of copywriting.
If you don’t know who your audience is, you won’t be able to reach them. If your writing can’t reach them, it can’t convert them.
It can be tempting to over-generalize your audience. The worry is that if you write to too specific an audience, no one else will be able to relate. You might think being so specific would turn away people who would otherwise convert.
Don’t give in to those fears.
When you’re specific with your audience, the opposite of those fears comes true. You reach more people, and your conversions are better.
Think of it like shooting at a target with a bow and arrow.
If you aim for the bullseye, all your arrows will at least hit the target, even if they don’t all reach the bullseye. If you aim in the general direction of the target, you won’t have much luck hitting the target at all.
Finding an audience is the same way. Imagine your ideal client as a single person. Not an audience, a single person coming to your business to solve a problem.
What attributes does that person have?
What are their hopes and fears?
What is most important to them?
In what ways are they unhappy?
Build your copy around the attributes of that single person.
If you have a customer base that’s come to you often before, this tip is a little different.
Rather than finding your audience, you’ll be getting to know the audience you have. Reach out to those repeat customers or ones who have enjoyed working with you. Ask them questions about your business and pay close attention to their answers.
Here are some ideas for questions to ask:
These questions are a starting point. They’re a collection of ideas on how to draw up your own questionnaire. Once you have one, ask the customers who make up most of your business if they'd fill out the questionnaire.
The filled-out questionnaires can be a great source of data. That data can help you get inside the heads of the people who already know and love your business.
Once you’re inside their heads, you can write copy that leaps off the page to customers who haven’t converted yet.
What if you don’t have access to customers or don’t have a customer base built up yet? No worries. You don’t need anything fancy to do good research.
While it helps to talk to clients one-on-one, there are other options. Trusty old Google is one of the best tools you’ll find for your research. Like any tool, you have to know how to use it.
A great starting place is to enter a search for yourself. So, for the banana stand we mentioned earlier, you might search “healthy snack options” or “fast food near me”.
Then, record the first 5 results. Read through the articles that come up. What do they have in common? What do they leave out that you could provide?
If the articles don’t provide helpful information, refine your search terms. Record the changes that you made and what differences were in the articles that popped up.
So “fast food” might not have come up with anything related to a banana stand. What about “healthy fast food” or “local fast food”?
Look through the first five articles of your search results and you should have a good picture in mind. You’ll know what your audience is looking for and what they find.
Google can also be one of the best places for finding snippets of your audience’s voice “in the wild”.
You can use forums such as Facebook groups and Reddit threads to give you a snapshot of your audience’s voice. Reading through them is a no-fail way to get a sense of your audience’s tone in its natural habitat.
You don’t need any special tools or an in-person focus group to know your audience’s voice or to do good research. You can start gathering info and writing your copy no matter what.
Gathering info is important, but it’s also important not to stop there. Research can’t and shouldn’t be your end product.
What researching does is provide you an accurate background to work from.
If an artist were drawing a banana from memory, they could draw an ok representation of a banana. It wouldn’t be anything special, but it would get the point across.
If they were looking at a real banana right in front of them, they could add extra visual information. They could emphasize features to show that they were drawing this specific banana.
Research is the writing parallel to looking at a real banana. It allows you to have information to work from so you can write for a specific audience. Your writing will be unique to your product and your audience.
Since you’ve researched your audience, you know what things will be interesting to them.
Your research gives you the backdrop you need to highlight how you fill their needs in a special way. You’ll be able to write something for them, instead of reciting back to them what they know.
If you try to write research instead of using your research as a tool, your copy will be an uninspiring list of facts.
You wouldn’t read a research paper on how bananas are healthy and then rush to the store craving a banana. Neither will your audience. Parroting your research instead of writing your copy is the same way.
You need to bring that “x” factor- the special element that only you and your brand can provide. The creativity of writing comes in here. This is where you use techniques that would make your copy interesting or unusual.
Following this method makes your copy twice as powerful as your competitors’. It’ll have both your artful spark and the facts from your research to back it up.
This may seem counterintuitive, but hear me out. Your copywriting isn’t selling a product or service.
Every Tom, Joe, and Larry is selling products to your audience. Any monkey with a case of bananas can sell a product.
You shouldn’t try to sell to your audience.
Of course, that’s your goal, but don’t make your audience feel that way. They don’t want to hear about any more “stuff”. It’s forgettable and pushy.
What your copy is selling them on is an idea. Successful copy sells the reader on a concept instead of a product.
You aren’t selling bananas, you’re selling health, for instance.
When you write copy for the banana stand, you don’t want to be selling your audience plain old regular bananas. You’re selling a healthier lifestyle, and your banana stand happens to be what gets them there.
When you’re researching, you should always be trying to sniff out the Big Idea you’re going to be selling in your copy.
What ideas are in your audience’s mind? What core desires do they have?
A great way to find out is to use the MERIT system. MERIT stands for Money, Energy, Reputation, Identity, Time.
These are 5 of the biggest motivations for a customer to buy something. What does this look like in researching? Well, it can look like this list of questions, for a start:
These are questions your audience is asking themselves. You need to answer them in the most specific and helpful way possible.
This might involve asking them or yourself follow-up questions like “How?” or “What about x (objection)?”
Answering these questions can help you zero in on your Big Idea. Make sure you answer all of them, even if it’s hard. Once you have those answers, you can pick one of the MERIT categories to zero in on.
One way to do this is the process of elimination. Your product could depend upon a larger up-front investment. That’s ok, you know to pick something other than the money category.
You might be selling something like an online course that will take time to complete. That’s ok, your main direction can be something other than time.
It’s good to try and address as many of the MERIT categories as you can throughout different pieces of your copy. You’ll want to pick one core direction, though, so your copy can keep focus and coherence.
Get as specific as possible with your answers to all the questions.
It’ll be easier to see which of them is the strongest direction for your copy. Your Big Idea is what will convert your customers for life. That’s what will make you stick out in their minds long after they’ve finished reading your copy.
You need to learn how to research if you want to write top-notch copy. After all, history’s best copywriters were all research fanatics. They knew the power of research-backed copywriting and used it to their advantage.
That’s the secret to boosting your conversions and it works like nothing else.
It’s easy to say that, but why does it make your writing so much better?
The facts you get from research make your writing more truthful. That research helps you put your audience’s voice in your writing. Speaking your audience’s language helps them connect with your copy more than any other type of business writing.
The best part? It’s within your reach. You can do good research.
It’s all about asking the right questions and using the right answers.
The questions that’ll take your copy to infinity and beyond are ones that help you know your audience.
They’re the questions that help you find your audience’s voice. The right questions help you learn the hopes and fears of your audience. They can reveal what leads your audience to the competition.
Then you can find the Big Idea to sell your audience on.
Getting your audience to answer those questions whenever possible is ideal. If you can’t reach them on a personal level, you can still search for their dialogue online. With enough experience, you can even answer the questions yourself.
Once you nail your research, you’ll be able to take already creative copy to the next level. Research will give you credibility that you’d lack otherwise. It gives you the tools to unleash the full potential of your copy by giving you a clear target.
Keeping research as a central part of your copy is key in making your business’s conversions skyrocket. All that for a couple of questions? Sounds like a deal you can’t afford to pass up.
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High-converting direct-response copy for growing B2B companies and disruptive digital brands.