The Not-So-Secret Ingredient in Great Copywriting: Pt 2, The Customer Interview
Updated: Jan 18
Some people think copywriting is just . . . writing. You tell people about the product or service. But it’s so much more than that. The "secret ingredient" in great copywriting is research. Except, it's not really a secret because professionals all know it. You can’t effectively tell people unless you know: 1) what the product or service is and who’s offering it, 2) why some people have already bought it, and 3) who the people are that might want it. Last month I talked about why the copy brief is your first step. This month, I’m moving on to item #2: why some people have already bought your product or service. One of the best ways to discover this is through customer interviews.
Get a jump start: download my customer interview template
You may wonder why it’s necessary to interview an existing customer. Aren’t you trying to get new ones? Well, yes and no.
Satisfied Customers Are Repeat Customers: Existing customers can buy more products or services from you, right? In fact, this article from Small Business Trends claims you’re at least 3 times more likely to sell something to an existing customer than a new one. So, finding out what they think about you is pretty important. It’s the first step in getting them to buy from you again. Not only will an interview uncover how they think and what’s important to them—which translates into effective copywriting—but it may also provide useful feedback for your business model. You can quickly discover what they love about you, and what you could be doing better.
Satisfied Customers Are Ideal Customers: Satisfied customers make up your tribe. They love you. You’re meant to be together, like PB&J. The easiest way to grow your tribe is to focus on finding more people just like them. Yes, there are other people out there who can and will buy from you, but the likes, dislikes, attitudes, and needs of these satisfied folks make them most likely to buy from you.
Buyer Motivation AKA What They Care About: When interviewing customers, not only do we find out why they first bought from you, but also why they continue to buy from you. The initial decision could have been based on a great offer, a well-timed ad, or a momentary whim. But if they keep coming back, they must have been satisfied. There’s something about the way you do things that keeps them around. That something is what the world needs to know about.
Learn the Language: As my husband always says, “To catch the right fish, you have to use the right bait.” To catch your ideal customer, you’ve got to write the way they think. So if your customers say things like, “He’s my ‘go-to’ for carpet cleaning,” your ideal customers are likely to talk like that, too. Your copy should say something like, “Meet your go-to carpet cleaner.”
Use their words. Their words are the best marketing thing that you have. –Drift Marketing, Seeking Wisdom podcast
Social Proof: Testimonials from your satisfied customers offers social proof to the people you want to attract. It signals, “These people trust me, so can you. I know what I’m doing.” If you’re a small-to-medium business, you absolutely must have customer testimonials on your website. Even better, get them out on social media.
Find The Hang Outs: Your customers go online for information on the services they need. For instance, if you provide audio, video, and lighting for live events, your customers are probably responsible for planning those events. Ask them, "Do you read any books, blogs, or podcasts about ____? Are you in any online forums or do you attend any events?” Find out where they hang out online, then visit. YouTube comments, Amazon book reviews, and Facebook groups are common resources, but you need specifics to get started.
The Sequence Matters
It’s important to do your copywriting research in the right order. First, copy brief; next, existing customer research; last, target audience research.
Once I was hired to rewrite copy for a client’s website. Based on my client’s answers during our copy brief interview, I began researching a particular buyer persona. I spent a lot of time reading and analyzing what was important to this group, and wrote more than half the copy.
Then I interviewed his most satisfied customers. I just wanted to get some testimonials for the website. When I was done talking to them, I realized what they valued about my client was different from what my client thought. So I had to do more research and rewrite my copy.
I'd been writing for the wrong people. Not wrong in the sense of “incorrect,” more like “not the best answer.” Had I conducted customer interviews beforehand, I would have focused my target audience research appropriately and saved a lot of time.
Life Without Customer Interviews
Your satisfied customers recognize your unique value and can express it clearly. Without their input, your copy may not present your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). It may not talk about what your ideal customers care about, in a language they understand.
Scrupulous copywriters will research your existing customer base through interviews (or surveys and reviews). Unlike a copy brief, this is not industry standard. Many copywriters will throw some words onto paper based on generic principles they’ve learned somewhere. These copywriters might use flashy, dramatic statements like, “I went from being unemployed and homeless to earning six figures in thirty days!” Sometimes that sort of copy works, but even if lots of people are curious and give you the click . . . will they buy from you? Will they be a repeat customer?
Ask your prospective writer if they use customer interviews, or other methods, to help them understand your target audience better. If not, you should probably keep looking. If you can’t afford a copywriter, download my customer interview questionnaire. Then either ask the questions yourself, or have someone else do it (customers may be more open if talking to
Knowing who your most loyal customers are and what they care about leads to the next step of research: finding out who out there in the world might want to buy your product. I’ll fill you in on that next month in Part Three.