Professional copywriters spend most of their time researching and writing. You’d expect that, right? But they also do a lot of listening.
During project briefings, I have been known to kick things off and then sit in silence, listening while my client speaks. No, it’s not because I have nothing to say; it’s because if I don’t listen effectively, I can’t do my job.
OK, listening isn’t a hard thing to do, but I’m talking about effective listening.
I’ll let Stephen Covey explain:
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. They listen with the intent to reply.”
If you think about it, in a normal conversation, you take turns speaking and listening. As you listen, you formulate your response, i.e., you’re listening to reply.
But as a copywriter, I must be completely absorbed in what my client is telling me.
Professional copywriters let their clients to do the talking
Many clients expect me to be the one to fire loads of questions at them. I do, but that comes after listening.
First, I listen and take notes with the intent of understanding their business, their products/services, their customers, and the goals of their project.
And that’s a lot to take in, but once I’m confident that I understand, I start to ask questions.
But my silence allows me to do more than just understand what they and their customers need; it also allows me to understand them.
Listening aids understanding
The copy I write must reflect the values of my client’s business. It must echo its personality and brand, and the best way to do that is to listen to the way the people involved in the business speak.
This is especially true for smaller companies that don’t have brand guidelines.
For example, one of my past clients was a business consultant who wanted me to create content for his new website.
As a consultant, it’s vital he can strike up a strong relationship with his clients. It’s a very hands-on business, so his web copy had to reflect him enabling her personality to shine through.
The only way I could achieve that was by immersing myself in the way he spoke, his turn of phrase, vocabulary, and personality.
Copywriting is so much more than stringing together a few grammatically correct sentences that satisfy your SEO goals and sell your products or services. It’s also about representing you and your business through words.
That’s why paying a few quid for a web page, email, or newsletter will get you nowhere.
It’s tempting to cut corners when one quote for your five-page website comes back at £250 and another at £1500, but you need to look at the bigger picture.
You’re investing in the future of your business.
Do you want it to look cheap or professional?
Sally Ormond is a professional copywriter and superb listener.