Tips, techniques and inspiration for marketing communications from Richard Groom at Peterborough Copywriting Bureau.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Think like a cynical customer - it'll help you write better

When you start work on writing some new marketing materials you no doubt talk to colleagues about the product or service. One of the problems you might find is that everyone is very positive about the product. Why is that a problem? It’s because your readers are almost certainly not as keen on the product as your colleagues are.

In fact, it’s likely that readers (ie potential customers in most cases) are starting out from a cynical standpoint. And it’s your job when copywriting to anticipate that attitude. Being able to act as devil's advocate when researching subject matter is essential if you are to write truly outstanding marketing content.

Try to imagine the reader thinking: ‘Here we go again - someone else trying to flog me something I don’t need’. Once you can do that, you are in a much better position to write because you are now focused on trying to move the reader from that point of view to one where they will consider investigating or buying the product.

To get myself (and the other people involved in a project) in the right mindset I have a killer question I often ask during the briefing/research process:

‘Why wouldn’t someone buy this product?’ Or better still: ‘Why aren’t they buying it?’
You can imagine the sort of answers you’ll get to that question:
•    They’ve never heard of us.
•    They think it’s too expensive.
•    They think the competition is better.
•    They have no evidence to back up our claims.
•    They think they can manage without it.
•    They have been to our website and got lost in the terrible navigation.
•    They don't know anybody else that uses it.
•    They don't fully understand what it does.
•    And so on.

As you can see, this is a time for total honesty from you and your colleagues. You have to play devil’s advocate and you have to be tough when you do it.

Addressing readers' concerns head-on

Once you have identified 50-100 reasons why someone wouldn't buy the product, here are three further steps:

1. Identify which of the reasons can't be addressed. (There may be some that you really can't do anything about.)

2. Identify which of the reasons can be addressed BUT not with words. For example, if the product doesn't come in red you can't really overcome that objection in a brochure. This sort of thing needs addressing by someone else and may be for the long-term.

3. Identify which CAN be addressed by your new marketing content. For example, if something is seen as expensive maybe you can write about payment plans, whole of life costs, the reasons that it costs so much (eg better materials are used than anyone else’s product) and so on.

Now you are all set to get working on marketing messages that will probably be much better and compelling than if you didn't go through this type of process.

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