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6 steps to powerful copywriting

Posted in: Uncategorized ♦ Friday, April 20th, 2012, 5:22 am ♦ No Comments
6 steps to powerful copywriting

I was recently hired by a new client to work on a copywriting project. They hired me because their previous writer just wasn’t getting the job done. I came in, and quickly turned out some powerful, effective writing. “How did you do it?” they asked. They’d given me the same information they provided the other writer. What did I have that that the other person didn’t? What I had was a method. I’ll share that method with you.

1. Start with the problems

The first thing you have to do when starting a new copywriting project is to understand the customer’s problems. Learn what isn’t working out in those customers’ lives. OK, you don’t need to psychoanalyze their whole life, just the problems that your client’s product or service addresses. Do your client’s company bring organic foods to inner cities? (Problem: it’s hard to find organics in convenient stores.) Do they make a device that prevents officemates from seeing what’s on each others’ computer screens? (Problem: Privacy in a cubicle.) Have they figured out a way to keep preschoolers from losing their mittens? (Problem: So much to think about when taking care of a toddler!) Every successful product meets a real need. Know that need. Understand it. Feel the pain, then feel the pain being relieved with this product. Then write about those feelings.

2. Get a snapshot of the market landscape

Next, find out about what’s going on “out there.” Every customer need exists in a larger context. Let’s say your client produces sustainable bamboo wood flooring for new construction. You need to understand that bamboo is getting hugely popular, therefore on an upswing. But new construction is still in the doldrums. Your copywriting needs to acknowledge these trends.

3. Define the product positioning and personality

Okay, another word for product positioning and personality is brand. I said it. Brand. You need to understand your client’s brand. If they haven’t defined their brand, you have to at least give it a stab. The quickest, easiest way to help your client narrow in on a product personality is to ask them to give you feedback on the list of Brand Archetypes. The archetypes they respond best to are very close to their brand’s personality whether they’re ready to make it official or not. That archetype will be good enough to get you close to the right voice.

4. Specify the product’s features and benefits

You need to know every feature of your client’s product even if you don’t have the space or time to write about them all. You also need to know how those features and benefits map to the product’s personality (Step 3 above). The features that provide “proof” of the product’s personality are key features, whether they’re main features or not, they are valuable emotionally and can’t be ignored.

5.  Know your audience

This is step 5, but it could be step 1. In fact, knowing your audience is a key ingredient of step 1 because you’ll never understand your customers’ problems if you don’t know your customers. But in this step, be methodical and list out elements of your target audience. If your client has done “user personas” make sure you get to see them. If your client has done any user research at all, ask to see it. The better you know the audience, the better you will know how to emphasize your message.

6. Understand the competitive landscape

Finally, you need to have a real clear perspective on what else is out there. Who are the competitors? What are their messages and how are they different from ours? What are their features and benefits messages and how are they different from ours? List other differences such as price points, distribution methods, etc.  How do they compare with your clients distribution strategy? How does your client’s main audience differ from their competitors (is one more upscale? Does one skew younger? Is one focused more on “loyalists” and another focus on “novices)?  And finally, what kinds of messages are the competitors offering (videos, Facebook pages, web text, sales)? How do these media differ from the media your client has chosen to participate in? All this information will factor into what you include in your own copywriting project.

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