A solid research process may just be the single most important thing to make your copy a success. Copywriting research helps you get clarity on the product you’re selling and gives you a better understanding of your target audience.
But, how does copywriting research work & why is it such an important step in the copywriting process?
That’s exactly what this article covers!
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Thorough research is a vital part of writing good copy. Your knowledge of the product or service you are selling and your knowledge of the target audience is nearly always the limiting factor in your copywriting.
You’re expected to write like an expert, even if the topic is completely new to you!
A good copywriter can write effective copy for an industry they are familiar with. A great copywriter can write killer copy for a previously unknown industry.
This is made possible by research and it separates the good from the great (although specialization is still definitely advised to avoid becoming a jack-of-all trades).
Being able to delve deep into a topic and come out with a solid understanding of the industry is an important skill to have. Even if you are writing copy for your own business and products, good research can be the difference between resonating with a client and shouting at them.
To be able to get someone to take action, you need to know what makes them tick.
You also need to know exactly what the product you are selling does. You need to know what problems it solves and what desires it stimulates in your potential clients.
There are four main steps to take when performing copywriting research.
It starts with getting to know the product or service you’re writing about. What does the product do? What problem does it solve? What does it look like/feel like/taste like..?
If you can get access to the (physical) product or test the services personally then this helps a lot. This will help your copy be more authentic, as you will be able to describe things you otherwise couldn’t.
Your copywriting can improve drastically just by having first-hand experience with the product you are writing about.
Tip: use sites like Reddit, review websites like TrustPilot and others to get an idea of what other people are saying about the product or service. This will help you understand other people’s opinions and how they see the product/service.
Researching competitors’ products is another part of this step too as it allows you to compare your product with other’s on the market.
Below are some questions you need to answer as part of your research.
• What really stands out about this product?
How does it differ from competing products? Are there any features that are particularly helpful/effective? How durable is it?
Answering these questions will help you hone in on the differentiating factors that the product offers, allowing you to position the product as unique.
• What problems does the product solve? What are the benefits?
Try to focus on the problem(s) that the product solves as opposed to its features. Don’t forget to cover any supporting problems it solves alongside the main problem.
Reviews are a great way of understanding of how the product has helped real users, so they’re worth taking advantage of if there are reviews available.
• What’s less great about this product?
Again, some first-hand experience and customer reviews will really help with this. What problems do people experience when using it? What objections are common? Why would someone opt for another solution instead?
It’s important to know what your product’s shortcomings and limitations are in order to craft good copy. These may be things that set your product apart, so use them wisely.
A great example of this is the “think small” marketing campaign employed by Volkswagen in the US just after world war two. In it, Volkswagen used some of its disadvantages to further emphasize the car’s advantages.
• What is the story behind your product?
Normally, this can be found in the company’s marketing plan, content strategy or even on their about-us page. Keep in mind that not all products/brands will have a solid backstory.
Understanding your target audience will allow you to resonate with them and understand their needs.
First, you need to know who buys the product that you are selling. Most marketing teams will have a (number of) buyer persona(s) that can help you with this. If not, reviews or data on past sales can be useful, as well as statistics/data found online.
Once you know who the target audience is, you need to know exactly what they want from the product. You need to know what the target audience is looking for when buying your product or a similar one. What problem does it really solve?
This step will help you develop authenticity and target the right audience with a solution to their problem.
Also, try to understand in what context the copy will be seen. Is it copy for social media? A blog post? A poster?
Some questions you may ask yourself:
• Who is your target audience?
This is one that people often assume, but it’s important to base this on facts and data.
Get some data on who really purchases from your brand and who buys from the competitors. Are there any patterns in age, sex, location, income-level, interests etc.?
Some great free tools for this is Facebook’s audience insights and Google Trends.
Speaking with someone within the company you are writing the copy for can also help you better understand the target audience.
If you’re writing for your own company, check out your social media following and the analytics of your website and social channels.
You can combine these “real-time” insights with the market research done in the past to get a clear understanding of your target audience.
• What is the target audience’s “hidden” desire? What problem does your product solve for them?
This can often be found by digging deep into product/industry-specific forums and reviews.
This takes some experience, as people often won’t say exactly what they want but “hint” at it. A basic understanding of human psychology and consumer behavior can help in this step.
You need to read between the lines to do this effectively.
Another great way of researching this is by sitting down and talking with your target audience, or even running polls.
When doing any form of research, it’s best to get your data from a variety of places. People will not always voice their true opinions, so using a variety of data sources will help you get the best possible understanding on a range of different platforms.
This is something often left out. However, it may be the most important part of your research if it isn’t done for you.
You need to know where your target audience is to ensure the copy is seen by the right people at the right time in the right place. This is especially obvious when writing blog posts for clients.
If you use the wrong keywords and title, then it won’t matter how good your copy is as it may not be seen by anyone.
The same is true for social media…
Writing a Facebook post is different than writing a Twitter post or a post for LinkedIn. You need to know where your audience is and how they behave on that platform.
Some questions to ask yourself:
• What is currently trending in the industry you are writing for?
There are lots of popular market-specific blogs and news sites where current trends can be found. Make sure to browse through them before writing your copy.
Google Trends is also a great tool to gauge what topics are trending and which ones are losing traction.
On a side note – if you’re not an expert on the industry you’re writing about, make sure to get an expert within the company to check the copy once you’re finished writing it. This will prevent you from making any mistakes that could cause the company to lose credibility.
• Where is your target audience?
Keyword research is one of the best ways to find out where your target audience is.
Just using Google Keyword Planner is fine, although paid tools will provide you with more (detailed) information.
The data isn’t perfect but it will show you what people are (and, more importantly, aren’t) searching for.
Read more about what keyword research is in this post.
Also, make sure to read up on social media user statistics. Some channels are better for certain audience demographics than others.
The Google search results are also worth checking, to see if the keywords you target focus on the right search intent.
An example of a transactional search intent – all search results are pages selling diamond rings.
For example, if all pages are blog posts and you’re writing content for a sales page, it shows that your page won’t match the intent of the search.
Google tailors the search results to the searcher's intent so you can almost always tell what kind of content/web page will work best for each keyword.
Remember to use an incognito window to check the search intent properly and use the advanced search features to tailor the search to a specific language/region.
Now you have all the info you need, there’s one last thing you need to write compelling copy.
Gather pictures that back up your claims about the design. Collect client testimonials and reviews. If you don’t already have these, then run a poll or do some research.
Proof will help you make a better case for your product or service as it supports your claims.
The main question you need to ask yourself here is…
• How do I prove my claims?
It’s important to tailor the proof to the claims you make to ensure your copy is as trustworthy as possible.
Make sure you get great-looking pictures if you are focusing your copy on the design. Make sure you get statistics that will back up your story and claims about the results.
If you can’t get first-hand experience with a product, then reading reviews that actual customers have written is worth its weight in gold. This will help you see what makes your product stand out from the crowd, as well as understand the product’s shortcomings.
• Don’t overdo it
Research can take a very long time. Make sure you develop a process to complete your research thoroughly and within a reasonable timeframe. This doesn’t mean you should rush it, just don’t get too carried away on unimportant details.
• Remember that understanding an industry takes time
Whether you’re writing copy yourself or hiring a copywriter, it can be worth working from basic topics to more advanced/complex ones. Following a process like this gives the copywriter time to get to know the industry and the foundational concepts before writing about more complex topics.
This is especially helpful in highly technical industries.
As you can see, there’s a lot more that goes into copywriting research than just thinking about what people may want and writing copy based on this. You need to develop a system that allows you to thoroughly and quickly research everything you need to know to write the best copy you can.
Hopefully, this article has given you enough of a head start to start developing your own copywriting research strategy.
If you have any questions after reading this post, feel free to shoot me a message or leave a comment!
Freelance SEO Expert and Digital Marketing Freelancer
With over 6 years of experience in freelance SEO and digital marketing, my primary goal is to assist business owners in attaining their marketing objectives and achieving the results they want online.
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