The Definitive Guide to Copywriting by Neil Patel & Joseph Putnam

The Definitive Guide to Copywriting

Chapter Two

How to Better Understand Your Customers
and Write More Compelling Copy

Copy is a direct conversation with the consumer.
Shirley Polykoff

In chapter one we talked about the basic steps for laying a solid foundation for your copywriting by understanding the product you’re selling and knowing who you’re selling it to.

In this chapter we’re going one step further to fully understand your customers. We want to know how they feel about your product and what words they use to describe it. In short, we want to know what matters to them.

This is a key step in the copywriting process, and a secret weapon of the best copywriters. Many people stop with the steps outlined in chapter one. They research the product and write down a customer profile. Then they start writing.

But when they do, they miss the opportunity to really understand the most important person in every copywriting project — the customer.

They don’t know what matters to their customers and what convinces them to make a purchase. Decisions about how to write the copy are made without talking to the people who eventually will put their hard earned money onto the table to buy the product or service.

You can skip this step if you feel like you already know exactly how your customers think, but unless you’ve already had hundreds of conversations with your customers, you won’t want to go on to the next chapter without finishing this one first. In the end, knowing what your customers think about your product and the words they use to talk about it will prove to be the most important part of the copywriting process.

So let’s talk now about the easiest way to better understand your customers and write more compelling copy.

The Easiest Way to Learn More about Your Customers

The easiest way to learn more about your customers is with short surveys, and the good news is that there are a number of helpful tools for this. You can use Google Forms, Wufoo, SurveyMonkey, or any of the other survey tools available online.

The point of the survey is to “talk” with your customers. You could call them up individually to chat over the phone, which is great if you have the time, but surveys make it easier to have a conversation with a large number of customers at the same time and to record their answers all in one place.

Let’s discuss how do that now.

Step One Create Your Survey

First, choose the survey tool you’d like to use. We’re going to use Google Forms for the sample project because it’s the easiest to use.

Next, title your document “Customer Survey — YOUR PRODUCT NAME HERE.” Ours will be “Customer Survey — Simple Survey Tool.”

Now, start adding the eight questions listed below. The type of question to create is listed in brackets and an explanation of the question is provided in italics below the question.

Here are the survey questions:

And here’s what the sample survey looks like after it’s finished:

Now that you’ve created your survey, let’s talk about how to use it.

Step Two Surveying Your Customers

After creating the survey, you need to go on to conduct the survey and learn more about your customers. But before we do, here are a few questions you might have at this point:

Question 1: How many people should I survey?

A: Even a handful of responses will help with your copywriting, but you should survey as many people as you can. Just remember not everyone will fill it out. 10 responses is better than 0, 25 is even better than 10, but 1,000 responses will probably be too much. Do what you can to get a relevant number of responses without getting so many that you won’t have time to review the answers.

Question 2: How can I get more people to fill it out?

A: Often a simple incentive will help more people to fill out the survey. For example, you can tell the survey participants that by filling it out they’ll be registered to receive a free iPad. Then, after all the results come in, you can use a site like Random.org to generate a winner based on the number of responses that come in. You can also pick a winner based on which response was the most helpful. Whatever works best for you.

Question 3: Why are so many of the questions open ended?

A: The reason we use so many open ended questions is that qualitative responses provide the most insightful answers for copywriting. Instead of wanting to know the percentage of people who like feature X or Y, we want to hear how they talk about the product in their own words. Eventually, we’ll use those words to write the copy we write.

Now that we have those important questions out of the way, let’s conduct the survey and then evaluate the results.

Conducting the Survey

Begin surveying your customers by sending the link to as many of your customers who may fill it out as possible and who won’t be bothered with receiving an e-mail about the survey. This could be a group of your most recent customers, or it could be the e-mail subscribers to your blog. Simply figure out which customers won’t mind being asked to fill out a survey, and then send them an e-mail with the link.

Your e-mail could like the one below.

Step Three Evaluating the Responses

Once the responses start coming in, you need to know how to evaluate them.

First, create a new document titled “Survey Responses — YOUR PRODUCT NAME.” Ours will be “Survey Responses — Simple Survey Tool.

Next, copy and paste each of the survey questions in bold into the document under the title you just created while leaving enough space to copy and paste answers to the question.

Finally, begin reading through the responses and pay attention to anything that stands out. You’ll be looking primarily for two things: 1) Answers that get repeated and 2) Phrases that capture how customers talk about your product. When you find these types of answers, copy and paste them under the corresponding question in your customer research document.

Let’s look at each question individually to see how this works. (Note: We’re skipping the background questions because those answers aren’t needed at this point.)

Question 1: How would you describe our product to a friend or colleague?

The point of this question is to learn how your customers describe your product or service. You’re attempting to find out what words they use to talk about what you do because often the way you talk within the organization doesn’t match how customers talk on the street. What matters to you may not necessarily matter to them, so we want to find out how exactly they talk about what you do.

For example, you may receive answers like these:

When reviewing the answers, copy and paste the key phrases into the section you just created in your customer research document. Examples include:

Can you see why these types of answers are so powerful? You’re learning the exact phrases customers use to talk about your product and what’s important to them, not to mention you’re generating some awesome testimonials for your site (so long as you ask for permission to use them).

Question 2: What questions did you have before buying, i.e. what almost prevented you from making a purchase?

Question two identifies the hurdles that prevent customers from buying. You’re attempting to figure out what stands in the way between a customer purchasing and not purchasing.

Sample answers include:

The list of potential answers goes on, but each one mentions a hurdle that prevents customers from buying. Two of these focused on price, one asked for a free trial and a money-back guarantee, and the third wasn’t sure what benefit the surveys would provide for their business.

Reading these answers helps us realize the following:

  • We need to convey how valuable the survey tool is and how much of a return it will provide with a small monthly investment.
  • A free trial and a money-back guarantee would be good, at least as an test to see if it increases sales.
  • Something like a case study should be used to show how these types of surveys are useful to businesses.

Question 3: What ultimately convinced you to buy this product?

This question gets at the root of what convinced customers to buy your product. It shows you which benefits or features are the most important to them. Do they care about price or service? Were they impressed with your client list or your track record? Or were they convinced with the free 30-day trial?

Here are some sample answers:

Here are the insights provided by these answers:

  • The pre-formulated surveys are of interest to people because they don’t always know what questions to ask. This seem to be a pain point for customers.
  • Word-of-mouth recommendations are powerful for getting people to choose one company over another.
  • Not being a drain on IT resources is also important for customers so this is an important selling point.

Question 4: Which features of the product were the most important to you when deciding whether or not to buy?

The point of this question is to identify which features are more important to customers than others. Many products have a list of features, but some are more important than others.

For example, customers could provide the following answers:

The insights:

  • “Pre-formulated” or “pre-made” surveys stood out to two customers. We’ll add that to the list of important features.
  • Quick and easy installation was also stood out to two customers. We’ll add that to our list as well.
  • Instant notifications was mentioned twice so that also gets added.

Question 5: What did you hope to accomplish with this project?

This question attempts to find out what benefit customers were looking to derive from using the product or service. What exactly are they trying to do? Sell more effectively? Reach more customers? Or something else?

Some sample answers:

Some insights:

  • All of the customers are interested in learning more about their site visitors. The #1 reason they signed up for the Simple Survey Tool was to learn more about who’s coming to their site.
  • In addition to learning more about who’s coming to their site, two of them mentioned wanting to increase sign-ups or sales through surveying visitors. This shows that the top goal of the surveys isn’t just to “understand” customers but to “understand” them so that they can sell more of what they’re selling.

Bringing It All Together

In this chapter we learned that surveys are an invaluable way to learn more about your customers and help to write more persuasive copy. They show you what’s going on inside the head of your customers, which questions get asked over and over again, and what words they use to describe your product or service.

These words will become excellent source for copy, whether it be website content, product descriptions, headlines, or something else.

Without paying attention to the words your customers use, it’s easy to slip into corporate speak and use language they may not understand. We often describe products based on buzzwords or industry phrases that our customers are not familiar with. This kind of copy may make sense to us but won’t make sense to our customers. It also doesn’t resonate with customers as deeply as copy that uses the exact words and phrases they use.

Beginning in the next chapter we’re going to start using the answers you’ve painstakingly recorded to write persuasive copy that resonates with your customers and sells more of your product and services. Are you ready to start writing? Then let’s move on to chapter three.