Research prior to copywriting 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 an insight into the minds of your target audience.
So, how do I do research for copywriting?
That’s exactly what this article covers! Enough chatting, let’s get into the post…
Why is research so important when it comes to copywriting?
Solid research is a vital aspect of copywriting, and all marketing in general. Your knowledge of the product or service you are selling, along with your knowledge of the target audience is ALWAYS your limiting factor when it comes to your copy.
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.
That’s what research does and it separates the good from the great.
Being able to delve into a topic and come out with a deep understanding of the industry is a skill you have to master. Even if you are writing copy for your own business and products, doing sound research can be the difference to resonating with a client, and speaking at them.
To be able to get someone to take action, you need to know what makes them tick.
You 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.
You can be a grammar wizz (I’m certainly not!), win multiple spelling bees or have the largest vocabulary in your city… If you don’t know what makes your target audience tick, you won’t succeed.
What should you include in your copywriting research?
There are 4 vital steps to take when performing copywriting research. These are…
- Research the product
It starts with getting to know the product. It really does help if you can get the physical product in your hands. If it’s not a physical product, it really helps if you can experience the service first hand.
The reason for this is that your authenticity will show in your copy. Just by having first-hand experience with the product you are talking about; your copywriting can improve drastically.
Researching competitors’ products is another part of this step too.
We’ll get into the how-to of each step in a moment…
- Research the target audience
Getting inside the mind of your target audience will make it possible for you to really resonate with them.
First, you need to know who buys the product that you are selling.
After this, you need to know exactly what they want from the product. You need to know what the target audience will like about the product. What problem it really solves for them…
This step will help you develop authenticity and really entice the reader. This is the part that will get your audience to take the action you want them to take.
Also, research the context your target audience will be in when reading the copy. Is it copy for social media? A blog post? Copy for a poster?
More on this in the next step…
- Research the market & SEO (depending on if this is necessary)
This part is something that is often left out. It may be the most important part of your research, however, if it isn’t done for you.
You need to know where your target audience is. 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. This is also the case with social media for example…
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.
- Get the proof!
Now you have all the info you need, you need 1 last thing to really write compelling copy. Proof!
Gather pictures that back up your claims about the design. Get some client testimonials and reviews. If you don’t already have these, then run a poll or do some form of research.
You now know everything you need to know to start your copywriting research.
How to do copywriting research
Now you know what to research before you start to write your copy, it’s time for some tips about how to actually do copywriting research.
You need to find a method of researching that works for you. This is why I’ve decided not to create a “step-by-step list” or created a method that’s done for you. Following a method like that won’t help you in the long run. You need to create a process for yourself.
Researching the product
- What really stands out about this product?
For this question, compare it to the competitors’ products. Try to get some first-hand experience with each product in order to really get a feel for what the differences and similarities are.
- What problems does the product solve? What are the benefits?
The first part of this is easy. Use your empathy to get into the mind of someone using the product.
If you still don’t find the benefits, then read some reviews to help you out. Reviews are a great way of seeing into the minds of your target audience.
- What’s less great about this product?
Again, some first-hand experience will really help with this. Otherwise, use reviews to get more info on this.
It’s important to know what your product’s shortcomings and limitations are in order to craft great copy. These may also 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 the war.
- What is the story behind your product? What is the brand voice?
Normally, this can be found in the company’s marketing plan or content strategy. If not, sit down with the CEO or marketing team and write one up!
This should also include the brand’s persona and any information you can get about the brand’s tone and voice.
Researching the target audience
- Who is your target audience?
This is one that people often assume, but it’s important to base this on facts!
Get some data on who really purchases from your brand and who buys from the competitors.
A great free tool for this is Facebook’s audience insights. The best tool, however, is speaking with someone within the company you are writing the copy for.
If you’re writing for your own company, check out your social media following. View the analytics of your website and social channels.
You can combine these “real-time” insights with the market research performed within the company to get all the information you need.
- What is the target audience’s “hidden” desire and problem that your product solves?
This can often be found by really digging deep into product-specific forums and reviews. Try to use your empathy when reading, however… A lot of the true desires won’t be revealed bluntly but in subtle ways. A good understanding of psychology and cognitive biases helps with this part!
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 using specific methods, so it’s always best to use a variety of different places to get your information from.
Research the market
- What is currently trending within the market you are writing for?
To find this, there are lots of popular market-specific blogs and news sites. Make sure to browse through these before writing your copy.
Google trends is also a great tool to gauge what topics are trending and which ones are dying.
On a side note, if you’re not an expert in the industry you’re writing about, make sure to get an expert within the company to check it once you’re finished writing it. This will prevent you from making any mistakes that will cause the company to lose credibility.
- Where is your target audience?
To find this out I like doing some keyword research. Just using google keyword planner works fine for me (ubersuggest is a new one that’s great at providing a lot of data).
The data isn’t perfect but it will show you what things will completely flop, and what people are searching for.
Read more about keyword research in this post (coming soon)
Also, make sure to read up on social media user statistics. Some channels are better for certain audience demographics than others.
As well as this, check the google search results to see if the keywords you target are directed towards the right search intent.
For example, if all pages are blog posts, and you’re writing content for a sales page, it’s best to go for another keyword. It’s the same the other way around too!
Google tailors the search results to the searchers intent so you can almost always tell what kind of content/web page will work best. Remember to use an incognito window to check the search intent properly!
Get the proof
- How do I prove my claims?
Make sure you get great looking pictures if you are focussing your copy on the design. Make sure you get statistics that will back up your story if you are going with fact-based persuasion.
Testimonials and reviews are always helpful when writing copy, so make sure you collect some great testimonials and reviews as well. These can be used within the copy of a sales page for example.
Copywriting research tips and tricks
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. This is good to do regardless of whether or not you have first-hand experience.
- Don’t spend too much time on the research
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 or paralyze yourself about unimportant details.
- Ideally, work within an industry you know or take on long-term projects
The benefits of an industry you know are obvious… However, if you don’t know the industry very well, then try to get a long-term project.
If you are going to be writing weekly/monthly blog posts indefinitely then you will learn more about the industry as you go and your copy will improve.
This will also give you the possibility to put some more research time in at the start of the project.
As you can see, there’s a lot more that goes into copywriting research than just thinking about what people may want. You need to develop a system that allows you to thoroughly research everything you need to know to write the best copy you can.
Hopefully, this article on copywriting research has given you enough of a headstart to start developing your own copywriting research strategy. Good luck implementing and enjoy the rest of your day!