MD Anna Gunning took to the stage alongside copywriting greats for the industry’s flagship Copywriting Conference 2018. Her talk, to more than 200 commercial writers, gave practical tips on compiling the information needed to write compelling copy.

Here are the highlights.

The Copywriting Brief - praise from conference attendeesThere are 3 problems when it comes to getting an effective copywriting brief:

  1. Not understanding the customer
  2. Not understanding what you’re selling
  3. Not understanding how to influence the decision-making process (or where the campaign fits into that process)

Problem 1: Not understanding the customer

There’s a famous quote from advertising great Fairfax Cone:

“Good advertising is written from one person to another. When it’s aimed at millions, it rarely moves anyone.”

The copywriter’s job is help focus on the target audience for the particular campaign. This doesn’t mean that other marketing can’t go to other customer types, but effective copy needs to feel like a conversation between like-minded people.

How do you get that understanding:

  • Customer research – if you can speak to customers, that’s the best! You’re not just aiming for testimonial soundbytes, you’re looking at how the customer approached the decision-making process
  • Client knowledge – I always say to clients: ‘You’re the expert in your business, we’re the expert in helping you say it in the most effective way.’ And that means extracting information from the people who have experience dealing with customers (from managers to the front line). On average, there are 6.8 people involved in B2B solutions purchases, up from 5.4 in 2015 (Harvard Business Review). So we need to understand who those people are and what their specific goals and challenges are
  • Other sources – in our information-rich age, there are lots of other online sources of information, from review sites and forums to Reddit and Quora. Check out what people are saying and what they’re asking, and use that to capture their voice

Problem 2: Not understanding what you’re selling

This isn’t about the actual product or service you’re trying to get people to buy, it’s about the customer’s need and how you’re meeting that need. It goes back to the old advertising adage – people don’t buy a drill, they buy a picture hanging on the wall. So how do you help the customer hang the picture on the wall?

Think about your differentiators – but be specific. Don’t just say, ‘We’re professional, committed to customer service and deliver great quality’ – because your competitors say the same thing.

You need to escape the ‘USP spot the difference’ game. The ‘so what?’ test is a useful way to do that.

Q: ‘What makes your product great quality?’

A: ‘We have different manufacturing processes in one facility.’

Q: ‘So what?’

A: ‘We can advise on the best and most economical way to manufacture each component.’

Q: ‘So what?’

A: ‘They can centralise production of different components to get economies of scale.’

Boom. Now you’re getting to what you’re selling. It’s not the quality in of itself, it’s what it means for the customer and their needs.

Problem 3: Not understanding how to influence the decision-making process (or where the campaign fits into that process)

‘You need to enter the product conversation already going on in your prospect’s mind,’ said Claude Hopkins, the grandfather of modern advertising.

And that means understanding what prospects already know – and what information they need to take the next step. Then you can tailor your messaging to their specific level of awareness, so the copy feels personal and relevant.

(Anna regularly delivers training to copywriters and in-house marketing teams – get in touch to learn more.)