Want Great Copywriting? Here's the Surprising Source

a great copywriter is a great listener

When it comes to copywriting, there's no such thing as a boring business. You may be an accountant or a manufacturer, but your business is fascinating to the right audience.

The trick is to find the fascination. Believe it or not, those points of interest don't come from the creative genius of your copywriter. They come from the mouths of your ideal customers.

Great Copywriters Transcribe, They Don't Translate

What I hear you saying is...

What I hear you saying is...

I just listened to an episode of the podcast, Hot Copy, with special guest Sean D'Souza, an expert in copywriting through storytelling.

Sean says he hasn't written copy in years; he claims that all he does is listen and transcribe

Transcribe is the key word here. Too often, copywriters translate what their clients say into 'good copy'.

But compelling copy isn't often formal, and it's not always smooth, sophisticated or smart-sounding - on the surface, that is.

Compelling copywriting hits on a core truth as articulated by a specific customer. It captures the ideal customer's voice when they're speaking naturally about what makes the product or service amazing.

Voice of the Customer Copywriting Hits on a Psychological Principle

Let's be shameless mimics.

Let's be shameless mimics.

Research shows that mirroring is one of the most effective ways to build rapport and influence. For example, I keep reading about a study where waitresses who quoted their customers' orders back verbatim tended to get higher tips than those who paraphrased.

When you talk like your customers talk, they like you more. When you use their exact language, they feel completely understood and fall in love with your brand.

That's a psychological principle on which more ink has been spilt than may be necessary. 

Let's use it in a real life example.

How One Client Used Review Mining to Write Great Copy

"Best Ever"

"Best Ever"

Let's take as an example my client, arzu, a cult brand of hijab accessories and scarves. One accessory is called an "inner", and it's a sort of cap worn over the hair, under the scarf. 

When it came time to name their inners, arzu landed on "best inner ever", because it's exactly what their customers say about the inners. It feels natural, it catches attention and it sums up the key selling points, which are further elaborated in the product descriptions.

They could have called the products "premium inners" or "signature inners", which to those on the inside may mean the same thing. But the name wouldn't have been as resonant.

Unconsciously, arzu adopted an expert copywriting technique called "review mining". Thought leaders like Joanna Wiebe of Copyhackers teach this strategy for writing great copy. 

But what if you don't have 'voice of the customer' insights for your own products or services?

All is not lost. There are ways to 'mine reviews' online by looking at what people have said about the problems you solve - even if they're not talking about your product or service, specifically. 

Your Customers Really Are the Best Copywriters

Your users know what's really great about your brand.

Your users know what's really great about your brand.

When we're inside our business, we have ideas about what matters to our customers. Often, those ideas are wrong. 

For example, here's my idea about what makes me the copywriter you should hire: I work hard to get a good brief. I ask the right questions upfront to get the right insights.

Are you bored yet? I bet you are.

That's because if you're on the client side, you don't really care about my awesome process.

What do you care about? Well, price and quality, of course. But that's pretty bland and universal.

When I spoke with people who hire copywriters, I landed on a more interesting insight. I discovered that clients are dissatisfied with two main options: hiring a copywriter from an agency or from a freelancer site. One is a super-premium option and the other is a discount option. There are drawbacks to both.

If I didn't have frank conversations and listen closely, I wouldn't have discovered the pain points and secret dreams of my ideal clients. They want an agency experience - a personal, strategic, creative, expert copywriter - without the agency price tag.

I tap into that need and my solution in the script for my homepage video.

Giving Your Copywriter What They Need

Give a copywriter a hand.

Give a copywriter a hand.

So, now you know why natural language direct from customers makes the most interesting copy. And you know a bit about how it's worked for a B2B business (mine) and a B2C business (arzu).

How can you get this style of copywriting?

There are several ways you help your copywriter nail copy that resonates with your ideal customer.

1. Have a Candid Conversation

Today, it's easy to hire a copywriter online and conduct all of your business through email. If you were to hire me, you could fill in my copywriting brief form online and we would never technically have to speak. 

So efficient, right?

Not exactly. In live conversations, we talk about our businesses in natural language. We're less formal and more spontaneous. We expand on thoughts and are more candid than in writing - for the most part.

Don't squelch that. Your copywriter should ask you a series of targeted questions to guide the conversation.

Be expansive in your answers - you never know what key phrase might be the insight your writer needs.

Be frank and informal. When you share what you really know about your business and your ideal customers, you help your copywriter get to the nuggets of persuasive truth.

Honestly, being reticent with your copywriter is liking holding back in therapy. It only makes the process more expensive and painful.

2. Point Your Copywriter to Reviews

There's gold in these here reviews.

There's gold in these here reviews.

Your copywriter should search for reviews on your business without any prompting. But sometimes businesses have customer stories that aren't published online or haven't even been captured. Let your copywriter know.

Your copywriter might want to interview customers who have unwritten stories or speak to a customer who wrote a glowing review, to get more detail. Let them! If you keep your copywriter at arm's length from your customers, you're making their job harder.

3. Give Your Copywriter Access to the Team

When I was a management consultant, I would interview and hold workshops with executives' staff. Whatever they would say, I'd document verbatim. I felt like a high-paid transcriber sometimes.

But you know what? Those direct quotes were powerful. 

Your team members have incredible insights, too. They're often the direct point of contact with customers and they can tell you exactly what people are saying about your products and services.

A good copywriter will be thrilled to speak with your team members. Give them access! 

4. Take a Risk on Natural Copywriting

Again, when we're inside our businesses, we don't have a great perspective on what matters to customers. We tend to talk about features and not persuasive benefits.

For example, we say things like, "we use osmotic filtration and nanoparticles." Or, "our magnesium is essential for over 800 enzymatic processes".

Yikes, right?

Any good copywriter will steer you towards benefits-driven copy in more natural language.

I get that it might feel risky. It might not resonate with you, and how you like to think of your product or service. But remember: you're probably not your ideal customer. The copy isn't for you.

Also, let's put this risk in perspective. The great thing about copywriting on the internet is that a) we can actually test, and b) it's all pretty ephemeral (unless you're Pepsi). 

Also, remember, you don't have to make the switch to natural copywriting all at once. You can start by testing 'real life' copy in the more prominent places - headlines, subheadlines, opening body text - all while keeping your formal or technical copy farther down the page or on sub-pages.

Baby steps.

Let's use another real-life example to put the last nail in the coffin of artificial copy.

Above, I used some pretty stiff language to describe a magnesium product. (Remember those ions and enzymes?) That's actually how a lot of magnesium advocates talk about their products.

Now, contrast that with how real customers talk about my client's product, Natural Calm. They say things like:

  • "It's the best thing that's happened for my family's sleep"

  • "Nothing else has worked for my restless legs"

  • "Natural Calm handled the headaches right away"

  • "My de-stress is taking Natural Calm before bedtime"

  • "Insomnia of 19 years...Gone!"

  • "I couldn't live without it"

  • "Honestly, a lifesaver"

So much more resonant than talking about ions and enzymes, right?

That's because it feels real.

Now, when your copywriter takes these real quotes and works them naturally into the copywriting, that authenticity pops off the page. Readers feel like they're engaged in an actual conversation with someone who's like them; someone they can trust and who they may just want to buy from.

Want More Natural, Persuasive Copywriting?

Want to know more about how it's done? If your business is ripe for copy cribbed directly from your customers' brains, drop me a line to chat.