Pattering away on my keyboard, squiggling diagrams in my notebook, and browsing through 60 tabs across three Chrome windows, my work process has always been a somewhat private affair. To my clients, it might seem like the end product materialises out of thin air like some sort of copywriting sorcery. But the reality is quite different.
Today, I wanted to explore my work process creating landing pages as a digital copywriter. From research through to the final draft, understanding how I work might be interesting for other copywriters, existing clients, or people who are simply curious about what I do — and how I do it.
A copywriter who doesn’t research effectively is useless. Research takes up most of my time. Understanding the product, the client’s business, their goals, and getting into the minds of their prospects is vital to writing copy that consistently brings in leads and new customers.
It all starts with a conversation. Who are you? What do you do? What are your goals? I start every project with an informal Skype call to grasp the basics of the project, making notes as we talk.
My goal is for my clients to do 80% of the talking. There’s always a large disparity between the information you have and the information I have. My goal is to bridge this gap.
I follow up with a more extensive project questionnaire that gets you thinking about some key questions, like:
- Why did you hire a copywriter?
- Who is your target audience?
- What are their pain points? How can you solve them?
- How well are your competitors achieving this?
- What are your project goals?
Analysing how your competitors are positioning themselves in the industry is also vital to helping you stand out. What are they doing well? What are they doing badly? Some Google-fu and a keyword analysis of their websites will help me get a good grasp of this.
Whether it’s a physical product or service, understanding the specific nature of what you’re offering (including features and technical details) will allow me to transform that raw data into the most powerful benefits that’ll engage your prospects. I look at:
- Technical manuals
- Marketing materials
- Product videos
- Your competitor’s offerings
Digging into your prospects’ minds is the most important part of the entire project. You know them pretty well already, so through our discussions and the aforementioned questionnaire, I get a general picture of who needs your help.
But ‘general’ isn’t good enough. Depending on the project, I become intimately familiar with your target audience, using:
- Customer profiles — An in-depth exploration of your prospect’s demographic, interests, fears, desires, and more.
- Empathy mapping — A great companion to user profiles, empathy mapping dives into the emotions of your prospects.
- Customer interviews — If possible, I try to have a chat with 2–4 of your customers or prospects to hear what they have to say about your products.
- Customer research — I trawl through customer reviews, social media groups, and more to hear how your prospects communicate.
This is where the action happens. With the extensive information I gathered in the research phase, I’m well-equipped to write copy that engages with your prospects and compels them to convert.
I start by mapping out the key sections necessary to engage your prospects in an engaging experience that grabs their attention, builds their interest and desire, and compels them to action (AIDA or AIDCA formulas, in most cases). These include:
- Headline & subheadings — People read in an F shape — skimming and jumping. That’s why nailing the headline (and subheadings) is key. They need to touch on the most relevant points — be it a pain point or key product benefit.
- Product benefits — I list the most important product benefits — whether in bullet form or a staggered, 2-column layout with images/video.
- Customer quotes — Social proof is one of the most important elements on your page. Quotes that sing your product’s praises, show proof (statistics?) or desired outcomes (positive emotions) are highly effective.
- Brand endorsements — Maybe you’ve worked with some high-profile brands. Showing a banner of these above the fold helps add credibility to your business.
- Relevant media — I’m a writer, but I’m not in denial that people are inherently visual. I pick the right images, gifs and videos to powerfully complement my copy.
- Key features — Important product features — especially for the more technically-minded — can be useful to include as secondary information to win over your prospects.
- Call-to-actions (CTAs) — Headlines and CTAs; the kings and queens of landing pages. Your landing page is all about driving your visitors to one action. Picking the most desirable, enticing action with the least friction will make sure your landing page will have the best chance of becoming a lead generating machine.
In writing the first draft, I carefully consider who your prospects are, where they’re coming from (PPC, FB, direct links, organic search), and what they desire most when it comes to your business. This influences the tone, content, layout, and more.
I also annotate each section of copy to explain my choices and help you understand my vision a little better.
A Word/Google doc is limited in its capacity to communicate visually — something vital when it comes to the web. That’s why I offer my clients visual wireframing. This allows me to position my copy in a visual manner, and as close to the finished product as possible.
This helps everyone — especially the project manager and designer — execute my vision for the page as effectively as possible. When it comes to copywriting, I believe that design and content need to work together in unison. As such, I work collaboratively with your designer and take their input into consideration.
My projects are always a collaborative effort. You know your business better than anyone else, so your feedback is vital in creating a polished final product. I encourage my clients to annotate their comments to give their thoughts on each section of copy. I also encourage a Skype call so you can express your thoughts freely. I always offer clients three rounds of edits, but in most cases, it rarely takes more than one.
Anyway, I hope the above shed some light on the process of a digital copywriter. I’m constantly changing and evolving my approach to projects — and every project is unique (in every sense). If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to comment, or say firstname.lastname@example.org.