Legendary advertising exec, George Gribbin, once said, “A copywriter should have an understanding of people, an insight into them, a sympathy toward them.”
That statement pretty much sums up the basis of all great copywriting.
Before a word gets written, it’s essential to understand the needs of your audience – their motivations, their desires, their pain points.
That’s why copywriting research is so vital.
Because when a message addresses the specific needs of an audience, they’re far more likely to engage with the words put in front of them.
With that in mind, here’s how research can be carried out in a way that truly gets a sense of what makes your customers tick.
Understanding Your Customer’s Level Of Awareness
One of the most important things to establish during any research is the awareness levels customers have towards your business.
These levels can vary wildly.
Some customers will know all about you. Others might be coming across you for the very first time. Understanding this spectrum of awareness is crucial because it’ll dramatically alter the way your copy gets written.
A long-term customer who loves what you do doesn’t need to be wooed by seductive sales copy. Equally, a newbie to your website will need some persuasion that you’re the kinda folk they should do business with.
Back in 1966, Schwartz released the still much revered marketing book, Breakthrough Advertising.
His “Five Levels of Awareness” model demonstrated how the tone and style of copy should be altered based on the segment of the audience being addressed.
To Schwartz, customers that know everything about you (Most Aware) only require basic information – cost, product details, how to buy.
Those at the opposite end of the scale (Unaware) require a much softer approach. Storytelling and the revelation of a secret are the copywriter’s tools to help build intrigue, curiosity and slowly overcome initial objections from a more skeptical group.
The 3 remaining awareness levels also require messaging that overcomes concerns, deals with questions and dishes out necessary discounts and incentives.
This segmented approach can be particularly useful when creating targeted landing pages, ensuring a message is pitched at just the right level to meet the varying levels of customer awareness.
Connecting To Customer Emotions
It’s easy to assume human decision-making is based on cold, hard logic.
Take buying a new phone. It’s typical to imagine that we methodically compare models based on things like price, features, design and durability. Then finally, after weighing all the options, we pick the model that ticks all the boxes.
But actually, that’s not how it works at all.
Studies in neuroscience have revealed that human decision-making is driven largely by emotion and has little to do with practical considerations. We tend to dress emotional-based decisions in logical terms.
So understanding the core motivation a person has for seeking you out is critical to producing the kind of message that’ll resonate with them – something that’s super-important in digital marketing for SEO/SEM purposes.
This article by Copyblogger drills down into this idea further by looking at how copy can be incredibly effective when it addresses dominant pain points. This concept is contextualized by a well-used copywriting technique that address pain points, known as the Problem-Agitate-Solve formula.
You’re probably familiar with the format:
Stuck in a rut at work?
Maybe you dread walking into that office each and every morning, where you put in yet another mind-numbing shift for “The Man.”
Well, I have good news. Every day, people leave their humdrum jobs behind to train for an exciting job in the world of (accountancy / hairdressing / fire-eating).
To find out how you can be one of them, check out this link.
The reason this format works, and continues to be so widespread, is that it addresses the root of a problem: a desire to escape boredom, the fear of failing, the need for social approval.
But it ONLY works if you have a solid understanding of your prospects’ pain points.
(and that level of understanding requires research)
Crazy Egg understands the pain point of its audience (losing web visitors) and instantly addresses the issue with its headline copy.
The rest of the copy then sets about explaining how the problem can be solved.
Ultimately, research can help you get to the heart of a customer’s true motivation, join the conversation going on inside their head, and provide an instant fix.
But there’s another type of research that can help refine your copy even further. It involves finding out how people feel not about you, but your competitors.
Checking Out The Competition
Working out how you’re regarded among your competitors will help you define the right angle to take with potential customers.
Do people think your nearest rival has better deals? Shorter turnaround times? Or are there certain areas they’re not doing so well on? Maybe they don’t always have the latest products in stock. Perhaps people are frustrated by the fact they don’t sell online.
Find this information out and you can uniquely craft your copy to address the issues the rest of the market isn’t responding to.
Kissmetrics does a great job of this by jumping on an area Google Analytics doesn’t deal with.
In this instance, knowing the weakness of the competition helps Kissmetrics establish their strength.
Researching your rivals can also help you better identify reasons people might have for not buying from you.
For instance, you might discover you’re the newest business in your industry’s local marketplace. That might reveal people perceive you as inexperienced. Which means you might need to tweak your copy to convince people about your expertize.
Considering potential stumbling blocks in the path to purchase will enable you to pre-empt and overcome objections.
What Does Copywriting Research Look Like?
Delving into the various methods of copywriting research is an entire blog post in itself, but there are a few key strategies you might want to employ.
One of the simplest ways research can be gathered is through customer surveys. You can distribute surveys via email or create them on specialist sites like Qualaroo, which lets you integrate surveys anywhere on your website.
Conducting interviews is also a really great way of getting an intimate understanding of your customer’s needs. While your sample size might be small, the quality of the data you get back can prove invaluable.
But copywriting research doesn’t have to involve direct engagement. You can also uncover a wealth of information by sifting through VOC (Voice of Customer) aggregators.
Put simply, VOC aggregators are the kind of places where customers leave comments, reviews and feedback. We’re talking about review sites like Amazon, large industry forums and small groups that might even be connected with one of your competitors.
The feedback you’ll find in these places can often be the most revealing due to the free-flowing nature of exchanges.
Legendary ad man Joe Sugarman once said that people make decisions based on emotion and then rationalize those decisions with facts.
It’s an important message to remember.
Human-beings are driven by fundamental needs that often have little to do with logical reasoning. Invariably, the choices that get made are motivated by beliefs, hopes, concerns and desires.
Being aware of these emotional motivators forms the heart of great marketing.
Which is why copywriting research is so important.
Because when you take the time to see the world from your customers’ perspective, you can relate to their needs with understanding, empathy and ultimately connect with them on the most fundamental level possible.