How a Copywriter Understands What You Want (and your customers)

January 9th 2014       Sally Ormond       copywriter, copywriting, copywriting voice, developing tone, working with clients

Before I get going, I just want to clear something up – writing copy is not just about collecting a few facts and then writing them in a string of coherent sentences that will hopefully convince your readers to buy something.

Being a copywriter is much more than just that.

No, I’m not going to launch into a diatribe about copywriting being a science that only the gifted few can understand. This article is about how a copywriter gets into the head of his or her client.

Copywriting Craniotomy

Don’t panic, if you are slightly squeamish there’s no need to look away, there will be no blood.

Getting into the heads of your clients sounds drastic, but it is the only way you can understand what they want.

Finding out the nuts and bolts of the copy (benefits, features etc.) is easy, but pinpointing exactly the tone and approach your client wants is a different kettle of fish altogether.

The terms ‘friendly’, ‘informal’, ‘witty’, ‘quirky’, ‘professional’, ‘approachable’ and ‘conversational’ can mean different things to different people.

Let’s be honest, how many times have you been asked to take an ‘approachable and conversational’ approach only to be told ‘no, that’s far too casual, that’s not what I want at all.’

Finding the perfect voice for your clients is tricky. So what can you do to overcome this hurdle?

Ask the right questions

Over the years, I have found the best way (please note even this isn’t fool proof) to get to the bottom of what my clients want comes down to a three-pronged attack:

1. Read

Start off by asking them what style they want and ask them to provide examples. This could be in the form of other websites they like, a writer that adopts the style they want, a marketing brochure; in fact it can be absolutely anything.

Once you have it, read it again and again until you are completely immersed it its style and can replicate it easily.

2. Listen

As you talk to your client listen to what they say and how they say it. Their turn of phrase and choice of vocabulary will help you when it comes to developing a style that they are comfortable with.

3. Read some more

During the project you’ll probably be exchanging a lot of emails. Again, read these carefully and see how your client tends to phrase things and use this within the copy you produce.

Of course, that doesn’t mean to say that everything you write will be perfect first time. There may well be words that you use that they don’t like, but small tweaks like that are to be expected anyway.

Many larger clients will already have a style book to hand they can pass on to you that outlines the dos and don’ts when it comes to writing copy. But this isn’t the norm, so for the majority of writers the 3 tips above should help you create something your clients will be happy with.

Mind you, even following these tips to the letter won’t always help. Your client may know what they want right up until they read it and then change their mind, or they could spot something mid project and decide that actually they want that tone, or you could have more than one person involved in the review process all having different ideas about how the copy should be written. Basically, what I’m saying is that there is no foolproof method to make sure you hit the mark straight away. But by following these tips you should be able to get pretty damn close.

 

Note: no copywriters or clients were harmed during the writing of this blog post

 

Tags: copywriter, copywriting, copywriting voice, developing tone, working with clients
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