There’s only one sure-fire way to get un-crappy copy

Learn how to brief your copywriter

A copywriter is only as good as the brief you provide. Sure, amazing copywriters will know how to write words that sell, but they can’t write them without knowing what they’re meant to be writing about.

When a copywriter sends you a brief to fill out, or asks you what seems like a million questions, it’s not to be a pain in the arse. Your copywriter needs to know all about you, your business, your services/product and your target audience in order to write. Without a proper brief, your copywriter won’t understand what you need and your copy will be crap.

The pros of a using a real copywriter

If you’re a great writer, write your own copy! There’s nothing wrong with doing it yourself. But if you’re not a strong writer, here’s a few reasons why you need to hire a copywriter:

  1. You don’t have the time to write the words. It takes time to write awesome, traffic generating copy that converts readers into buyers. If you don’t have the time to write and do it well, you really should outsource this to a copywriter (ahem!).
  2. You don’t have the skills to write persuasive copy. Copywriting is a learned skill. The words you use directly influence why people will buy from you. Yes, copywriters cost money but just a couple of new customers could pay for your copywriting job. Isn’t it worth spending a little bit to show off your business the right way?
  3. You don’t understand how Google rankings work. If you’re wanting to write copy for your website pages or for your blog, it’s crucial you know about SEO copywriting. Stuff too many keyword phrases into your copy and Google will banish you. Don’t use enough keywords in the right places, and you won’t outrank your competitors. What’s the point of writing copy if nobody can find it or worse, you rank in Google, but your blog title sucks and nobody clicks on it?

What are your competitors doing?

One question you’ll find in my copywriting brief (and hopefully many others) is ‘Who are your competitors’? Take a minute and Google your keywords to see who comes up – they are your competitors. A great copywriter will start by researching your competitors to see what they are doing and how they are ranking. Remember, it only takes one click to lose a potential customer to your competitor.  Not knowing what your competitors are doing is suicide for your business.

So what is a copywriting creative brief?

If you’ve ever worked with any ‘creative’ type business, you’d be familiar with a briefing (or requirements) document. Many people such as your website designer, your graphic designer, or your copywriter will use a document like this to gather information about you.

In general, a copywriting brief is a series of questions that your copywriter (or other service provider) needs to ask you in order to get a clear picture of you. And the biggest thing I can stress is – the better the brief, the better the copywriting.

The brief states exactly:

  • What type of writing is needed (i.e. 3 pages of website copy – home, about, services)
  • What the writing is about (i.e. exactly what is being promoted – a specific product or service offering?)
  • Who is your target audience (i.e. who will buy from you, what are their demographics?)
  • What aspects of your product/service do you want to promote (i.e. what are the most important benefits of your product or service that you want your customers to know about?)
  • Who are your competitors (i.e. who’s doing what you do and why would your reader choose you over them?)
  • What are your key selling benefits that will get the reader to do business with you?

A copywriter relies on you for this information

Nobody has a deeper understanding of your business than you. Your copywriter will ask you questions, probe you (not in a weird alien way) and quiz you about every aspect of your business. Have you ever watched NCIS or CSI? Awesome shows… Think of your copywriter as a forensic investigator – digging deeper to find out the bigger picture.

They need to find out as much as possible about your business to enable them to write with authority. And of course a good copywriter will keep this information confidential. If you’re concerned, ask them to sign a confidentiality statement or a NDA (Non-disclosure agreement). Working with a copywriter will really highlight how much you actually know about your own business!

The copywriting brief creates your super important value proposition

One of the best things a brief does is help your copywriter develop a value proposition. People buy from you because what you’re selling has a value proposition unique to them.  Soooo many businesses only promote features which is the worst thing to do. It’s boring and doesn’t tell your reader ‘what’s in it for them’. Don’t promote features, promote value.

For example, let’s look at fake flowers – what’s the value proposition? Feature #1 – they last longer. That’s nice but what’s really good about that is that they will never die and it’s something your loved one can keep forever, while you save money by not having to replace them (the value proposition).

Knowing what makes people buy makes copywriting a bit easier. Here are the top 10 factors that make up a value proposition (i.e. The reasons people buy stuff):

  1. Save time
  2. Save money
  3. Make money
  4. Avoid effort
  5. Attract others
  6. Be stylish
  7. Protect their family
  8. Gain praise/recognition
  9. Be unique (like Monique!)
  10. To feel good about themselves

One of the best things you can do is find your features and turn them into value propositions. DO NOT ignore or brush over this question on your copywriting brief or when your copywriter asks you. List as many features as you can think of. You should always be thinking about what value does each feature generate for my customer? And remember that not every feature will have a value proposition, so some may not make it to the final copy.

A great way to find your value proposition is to add the words, ‘which means that’ after the feature. Give it a go!

Be specific with your copywriting brief

I had a funk of a week recently as I couldn’t get the correct information out of my client. I had to probe a little deeper (feeling like an alien on a space ship) to really extract the information I needed from my client. And it’s not always easy when your client is extremely busy! At the start, I asked for information and was sent photos. Now I know I’m good but sometimes my crystal ball just won’t write the copy for me. So I had to keep probing for the exact information I was needing.

A handy hint: The more time you spend at the start with your copywriter, the better your result will be. And the more time a copywriter has with you, the better their copy will be, and the less revisions you will need to make.

Let’s put this into the ‘real world’. You’re getting your house painted. Your painter asks you to describe the job prior to starting. You send him a picture of a fridge. Pretty fkn useless yeah? He’s going to look at the picture and wonder if you want your walls all painted ‘fridge white’. And if you leave him with only that information, you’ll get the painters interpretation which is likely to be complete guess work and probably not what you wanted!

Get the copywriting brief right from the start and amazing copy will follow

Be prepared to spend a little bit of time to get your copywriting brief right at the start. Trust me, it will save emails/phone calls back and forth and will allow your copywriter to work their magic. If they ask you for something, provide it. Don’t dilly dally and fluff around.

And this doesn’t just apply to your copywriting, do the same with your web designer, your graphic designer – anyone you’re asking to perform a service for you.

Remember, a copywriter is only as good as the brief you provide. Do it well or risk being probed!

Share the love – although it may be brief!

If you’ve found this article useful, I’d love for you to share it with your networks. Or if you’ve got a story to share about your brief disaster (not the underwear kind – unless it’s totally hilarious), please do so.

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