When I take a copywriting brief, I always try to take the client back to first principles.
What are your aspirations for the business? What are the strategic goals of this campaign? What are your specific medium-term objectives? How is performance against these at the moment? What do you think is holding you back?
At this point the client usually sighs and says, “Like I said, we need a new website.” The thing is, that might not be the whole problem.
Customers deal with a whole company – correction, a whole market. We need to think about their whole experience of coming to do business with you. Not your sales process; their buying process.
How do you look alongside your direct competitors? How do you shape up against other things customers could spend their money on? How compelling is your offer? How distinctive do you look? How swift, easy and enjoyable is it to ride with you on a journey to purchase – and then come back for another?
So the issue may be (partly) what the client is asking for: the words on the website. Or it might be how the enquiry call is handled in the call centre, a lack of enticing offers to bring them over the line, or inadequately trained sales staff. Right up to the name of the business and its prominence in search results.
So I like to briefly analyse the whole customer buying process, and identify the wrinkles and rough patches that are obstructing a smooth journey to purchase.
We need to think not “this is what we want to tell the customer”, but “what does the customer need to know, think, feel and do at each stage of their buying process?”
Then we look at what channel and touch point is best to deliver that result. It may be the website, or the call centre, or the receptionist or the sales person – the combination of these, or something else nobody had thought about.
From the customer’s point of view all these are connected. Together they make up what your business means to them. The customer has an integrated view of you, but often your view of them is fragmented. And that’s what needs fixing.
Once we’ve assembled all the components of a successful customer journey, writing it up is actually not that hard. Of course, we need to think about the character of the brand and how we want it to come across in tone of voice, style, feel – but that’s the copywriter’s bread and butter.
Pitfall alert: take subjective preference out of the equation and serve the brand. What I like doesn’t matter. Actually what the client likes isn’t necessarily right either (though they are the piper, and they do call the tune). It’s really all about what’s right for the brand and right for the customer.
You may only end up with 180 words on the website, buy they’ll be the right 180 words. Because they’ll get the customer to do want you want them to do – happily.
And that’s what’ll bring you the strategic results you were looking for all along.
The author is currently a full-time senior copywriter at BT Global Services.