The research a Freelance Copywriter does
Editors Note: Expert content needs an expert content writer and Yorkshire Powerhouse is pleased to publish this business advice article on copywriting and appointing a good freelancer, kindly written by a real expert in his field – Anthony Clayton from Writefully.So.
Please consider contacting Anthony with any copywriting or proofreading projects you may have in mind – just click on the advert links above or below – and please mention Yorkshire Powerhouse if you do make contact.
Thorough research is a vital part of writing good copy. The research skills, knowledge and experience of a great freelance copywriter help to really improve selling success. When this is coupled with an understanding of your target audience it can limitlessly improve how strong any content ends up.
Knowing just the right words to get your message across is an art form. It takes research and creativity, but this can be achieved with the help of a copywriter, as we know how to efficiently yet effectively undertake great research on projects. This is a critical stage that helps make ‘ knock your socks off’ work.
The best copywriters will write for all sorts of industries once they accrue experience since they can apply what they know and their research skills to other fields – this is quite a lot easier if the subject isn’t complicated. Often they’ll have a field that they’re familiar enough with to be considered an expert. These are industries where they can work better than anyone else.
Below are just a handful of methods we copywriters use during project research.
Product research and SWOT
To be as authentic and engaging as possible, you need to know the product or service first-hand. What does it do? How can I solve my customer’s problems with this? Who is using what now so that they might see value in your offering too?
To make copy more interesting for readers, it helps if we get access to actual physical products and test out the offering ourselves before writing about it on behalf of others – because then we’ll have an understanding, no matter how vague those ideas were before everything ‘clicked’.
Copy can improve drastically just by having first-hand experience with the product we’re writing about. This step also includes researching competitors’ products and looking at how they compare to yours.
Some core questions are:
- What really stands out about the product?
- What problems does the product solve?
- What are the benefits?
- What’s less great about this product?
- What is the story behind the product?
Here’s an example from a client i.e customer perspective of a few factors when investigating a product:
PRODUCT: Freelance Copywriter – “Sue-Per Wordsmith” (Susan-Penelope Wordsmith, copywriter)
Pain Points: Don’t have enough time to write copy.
Likes: Sue does an excellent job, is an effective researcher and is transparent.
Dislikes: Sue is rather expensive and isn’t available for calls that often.
All of these types of questions are constantly in our heads as we copywriters write copy. A SWOT analysis is also good as a way to understand both positioning compared to customers and a way to assess the clients’ current copy.
PAS – especially the P
Problem, agitate, solve (PAS) is a common framework used by marketers to organise messages effectively. In essence, it’s about identifying your reader’s pain point, teasing out the painful reality by agitating it and then presenting a way to solve the problem.
PAS is successful because humans are naturally motivated to avoid pain. Whether that’s a hit to the wallet, a head-hurting stretched schedule (time pain) or a slap to the face. Painkillers are more tempting than vitamins. Sure, theoretically taking a daily vitamin can really help maintain health and keep us feeling better over time but when it hurts to get out of bed in the morning or just an ache here and there; all bets are off. We’re calling our doctor immediately so they prescribe medicine until things settle down again then if need be we’ll reach for the tablet that removes the symptoms of whatever affliction is making life a nightmare.
When copywriters carry out research, we establish what the main benefits of a product are and gain an understanding of the emotional motivations of the intended audience.
Where shall we start with this one?
Customer research is a necessary step to really understanding the copy that needs to be created. There are so many different aspects to this from understanding what current customers look like and how they react to your offering to understanding where future buyers lurk and what their persona is.
Reddit. Yell. Amazon. Google Analytics- if it’s configured correctly. Tools like these are all highly useful when it comes to the nitty-gritty of investigating customers. Youtube – where the real gold is in both video reviews AND the comments sections are helpful too. The list is endless when it comes to customer research and that’s just the internet. Clients, especially if they’re well established have mountains of information that can be used to help with copy creation, on top of that there are usually endless anecdotes and stories from within the company that when probed lead to breakthrough discoveries.
Likes/dislikes – customer feedback
What customers already say is extremely important for establishing a route to take the new copy. One of the most important tasks for copywriters is mining customer feedback. This isn’t just any old mine though – it’s a data-driven process that relies on information collected by the clients with particular attention being paid to unhappy customers. It may seem strange at first, but one ordinary copywriter can often go far in helping you improve services through their understanding of what will make someone happy again! SEE: removing pain above.
Whether it’s your pricing, turnaround time or your world-beating quality services you’ll need to make sure that the customer can see why they should choose you over other sellers. By contrasting what sets yours apart from your competitors’ offerings–whether it’s better savings rates; faster response times for service requests or whatever else, you’ll set yourself apart.
If you’re selling a solution, find out how it works and who’s already using the product. Use their feedback or reviews to paint an accurate picture for potential customers about what they can expect from your service before purchasing; this includes all features that are important in determining if investing time into implementing them would be worth it. Research any competitors’ stories so you know the company’s standing in the market as a whole.
Your copy has to tell a different, more interesting story than the competition in order for you to win. You’ll need proof and believability on your side though, as all of this helps make a winning formula.
The tone of voice
To ensure that new copy is consistent with an established brand, copywriters often want to know about the existing tone of voice guidelines or brand documents. This helps us to consider the angle and style that the client wants. Sometimes no such consideration has been given to these aspects of marketing prior to us starting and it usually makes sense to work on a TOV document near the very beginning of collaboration. This will help set the tone for new website copy and future campaigns among other things.
Copywriters and marketers spend a lot of time talking about “tone of voice.” What is yours? Is it informative, or does it have an attitude that makes the customer feel like they are being offered something special? Copywriters often start working with new clients by asking them this question because it’s the basis for a lot of the work that follows later (it’s also a cheeky but highly valuable way for them to find out if it’s another service they can offer them).
Website & positioning
Copywriters investigate the client’s current website or content from their clients. This way we can make sure what is working in terms of visitor engagement so as not have anything hidden from us when making haste with our latest assignment. To make your content successful it’s vital to understand the current website.
Do you want more customers? Your website needs to convert visitors into buyers. If they bounce to the next site and buy when convinced of a better, cheaper solution elsewhere then over time your digital revenue and business will whittle away, won’t it?
Positioning is a critical part of the equation when it comes to your brand so this is yet another focus when we’re researching.
Marketing & industry trends
It is important that we get a thorough understanding of the current marketing that our clients do.
This allows us to write more effective content, which will make it easier for potential customers to find what they’re looking for and buy it.
Copywriters need an understanding of trends in the clients’ sector as this will give them context regarding time as well as product knowledge which could really help them uncover gems that will not only make copy more appealing but also massively help the business owner when it comes to growth.
Other marketing channels
Copywriters need to know about the entire blend of marketing a client uses to understand where their copy fits within the strategy. In this context ‘strategy’ is a loose term – even if the client doesn’t have an organised plan they will be marketing their business somehow. Copywriters like to know about what other activities the client is doing so that they can understand a variety of things, such as what’s worked and what hasn’t, who they tried targeting and which audiences will be fresh when the copy goes out.
A writer with a marketing background will have a strong understanding of the marketing mix. Understanding the entire marketing mix helps us do the very best work. With an understanding of different channels using a more comprehensive approach that covers both offline and online mediums is easier which can lead to higher conversions. If the copy is inconsistent across formats it also looks less professional.
Future plans of the client
Knowing the future plans of the client helps copywriters to assess several things beyond merely discovering the depth of our engagement (or potential future work) with them. This is so that we can work out what to prioritise to really move the needle for both the audience and the client.
From going through the plans – even if they’re stored between the managers’ ears – we may establish that there’s little use doing copy now when there’s a huge rebrand that’s almost certainly going ahead in a couple of months time. We may change how we’re going to work together in terms of timeframe and in terms of output, this is to increase the chances as much as possible for a great end result.
As an aside from all of the previously mentioned types of research we engage in we try to collect as much data and resources as we can from the client. This can be internal communication, ideas from employees, and so on. All this serves as ‘advantage collateral’ to uncover hidden gold when it comes to creating copy that sells for clients.
SEO & intent & context
And this one requires a whole book! But, be assured it’ll be kept brief.
If we’re assigned an SEO project then it’s important that we do a sufficient amount of research so that our copy and content performs well. Even if we’re not doing work directly involving SEO then it’s critical we at least consider it when doing any online copy. Doing it allows us to figure out user intent and that’s gold dust when it comes to writing specific webpages, eCommerce for example is just one area that can be one of the most valuable tasks within a project.
Copywriters are vital to the success of all sorts of clients, but they need more than just creative talent. Copywriting can be challenging because it’s not always easy to understand what sort of content will appeal most to various audiences or on various topics. It also takes knowledge about SEO practices if one wants their published content to succeed without being disadvantaged by search engines that reward clean websites that contain accurate information about relevant subjects.
By nature, an effective copywriter can write content that performs well from an SEO perspective and has a strong enough understanding of the domain to help your company get more coverage.
One of the best ways to get feedback for our copywriting work is through surveys. This allows us direct, unfiltered insight into how customers feel about websites and even products and services themselves. It gives us an opportunity to make changes that really make a difference. Sometimes these are run over many weeks or even just one week span; other times will take longer depending on which variable needs the most attention, the size of the client and their budget.
Just in case you wondered, these surveys are digital 99% of the time in this day and age.
Copywriters are the architects of a company’s communication. They understand that no matter how sophisticated or creative you think your product is, consumers will not be convinced until they’re aware that the product or service gets them.
Interviews are often conducted by the writer to investigate what happened – when the project is creating case studies, or what cultural changes have been witnessed in a five-year timeframe (long term employee interviewed when writing new brand/tone of voice guidelines). Sometimes it’s to answer actual questions which can be along the lines of:
“What frustrates me most about ____ product?”
“Do any brands stand out from others when considering?”, etc., which allows for deep insight on behalf of the customer needs/desires.
And so on.
The list doesn’t stop here though. There are a whole host of other things we do including user testing and researching AIDA, for instance.
Words are not the only output of a copywriter, it’s important to remember that. In fact, we spend most of our time doing research, brainstorming, tweaking and tinkering as well as on less cerebral tasks such as formatting. All of these peripheral actions add up to an excellent end result for clients.
Copywriters do research in a number of ways, any combination of methods may be used for whatever project they’re doing. But research is often vast and is what helps to make copywriting a highly valuable service.
Copywriting is a skill that demands detachment from your business, awareness of your customer’s needs and a consistent approach across all your marketing materials and platforms – don’t try to ‘DIY’ your marketing or copywriting, engage with a professional copywriter and get the job done right and in a fraction of the time!
Thoughts on outsourcing copywriting from Yorkshire Powerhouse
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