I was copywriter and creative director for ad agencies for years on brands like IBM and Hanes. It was hard sometimes to be creative and eloquent on deadline (especially when it concerned complicated computers or generic white underwear) but somehow, we always managed to whip out a campaign in time.
But copywriting for your own business, especially when the product is yourself (your services or consulting) is a whole other kind of hard.
For one thing, you can’t see yourself, so it’s a challenge to identify what makes you different or special. For another, we don’t like to brag on ourselves –women especially, so we’re wishy-washy when highlighting the benefits of what we offer.
Then there’s the quality of your writing — is it good enough? Are you using those “secret” words that sell? Does it sound “cheesy” or “ho-hum”? What will people think?
It’s enough to make a lot of business owners decide that it’s high time they went through their files or rearranged their desk caddy instead of doing their copy (big mistake) or hired a copywriter to figure it all out for them (big EXPENSIVE mistake).
But there’s a solution. Take the focus off yourself, and place it where it belongs…on your customer.
Now I know I’m not the first person to give you this kind of advice. You often hear copy gurus tell you to write about “what keeps your customer up at night”. But I find this old chestnut often elicits answers like, “They’re worried they’re not making enough money” or “they wonder if they’ll ever get married” and that’s pretty much where it stops. This leads to copy that’s boring, unemotional, unoriginal and inauthentic.
It’s good advice as far as it goes. The problem is, you’re still standing outside, looking at your customer.
I suggest that instead, you BECOME her.
Try this simple and fun exercise. It helps if you like acting, or if you have ever been in therapy (which if you’ve ever been an actor, kind of goes without saying).
This works best if you do it with a friend. (You can reciprocate if your friend is also a business owner who wants to understand her target customer better.) This can be done over the phone or in person but you really want to record the conversation in either case (so Starbucks is probably not the best place for this, as will become clear below).
Close your eyes and pretend you are your customer, and you’ve come to see your therapist or counselor with a problem that’s really been bugging you. It helps if you can really feel upset. TIP: If you can’t put yourself in your client’s shoes emotionally, try the Method Acting trick and remember something from your own life experience that made you feel unhappy, angry, scared, depressed or whatever you think your client is feeling (your own experience does NOT need to be the same as your client’s — we’re going for the feeling. So if remembering when your dog died when you were 7 makes you feel like crying, and your client is experiencing another kind of loss that makes her sad, that works.)
Turn on the recorder. Have your friend ask, “So, what seems to be the problem?”
Now, talk to your “therapist” and just vent. Don’t try to “write” or find the perfect words. Don’t listen to yourself or even think about what you’re saying. Just complain, as if you were really your customer pouring her heart out to her most trusted confidante.
From time to time your “therapist” should ask,”And why is that a problem?” or “What bothers you so much about that?” “And how does that make you feel?” and keep asking, so you can drill deeper and deeper into the ripple effect and exponential chain reactions being caused by the problem, and get some true emotions to the surface. You will be amazed what comes out.
I do this with my marketing clients all the time. One of them worked with parents of preschoolers with ADHD. The kids were having behavior problems at school.
I pretended to be the parent, and we discovered that the real problem was not only that little Johnny was kicking his classmates and I wanted him to stop it, but that I felt ashamed and like a bad mother because nothing I was trying was working, and I was worried that the other parents were talking about me behind my back, that Johnny was not getting asked to play dates anymore, and that he’d become even more lonely and isolated, and he’d have no social skills and get involved in drugs, never get into college, which would mean he’d be held back his whole life….not only that, my marriage was falling apart because of all the time and energy I was spending focused on trying to “fix” Johnny, and my stress level was through the roof so my health was suffering….and of course I couldn’t possibly concentrate at work and kept having to take off suddenly because I got called to the school again…so I was not being considered for a promotion …etc.
That’s what keeps her up at night — and now we can hear what that really sounds and feels like inside her head.
Now of course we wouldn’t use all of this in your copy, but you can see how this kind of conversation would open the door to more compelling copy than “How to manage the behavior of your ADHD child” or even “Do you worry about your ADHD child?”
Listen back to your own recording of you “channeling” your customer. You’ll likely find marketing gold in it! When you use the best bits of it your copy, your client will think you’ve read her mind and are the expert in her problem —without your writing a word about yourself.
This exercise is just one of the fun and easy techniques I share in my course, The 3-Step Copy-to-Cash Machine 2.0, which is about to be released as a home-study version. This course shows you how to create your own squeeze pages, email campaigns and sales pages so you can get new customers and make sales virtually on autopilot, while saving thousands on high-priced copywriters. You can still get it at the early-bird pre-publication price through January 2014 and save $200. Go here: http://www.copytocashmachine.com