Or the Importance of Really Thinking About Your Customers
I sell myself as a copywriter. Someone who writes copy. And that’s what I am. People need copy. I write it. Supply follows demand. It’s a relationship that works and allows me to pay my mortgage.
But before I put pen to paper for a new client, there’s an important piece of creative, therapeutic, sometimes even painful, work that has to happen.
The first stage, let’s call it discovery, is fascinating and revealing.
During the first stage, I’m not a copywriter. I’m a guide, a consultant (shiver), a psychologist.
I’m all of these things as I help my new client navigate the marketing wasteland they inhabit at the time. In this communication desert, there is a single reigning philosophy:
Everything our company does is wonderful and interesting to the outside world
In my experience, this type of thinking is especially prevalent in B2B companies, but B2C companies are guilty of it too.
Together, hand in hand, we walk across the burning plains of self-obsession and arrive at the oasis of life-giving truth. It’s here we encounter the single most important fact about copywriting:
They do not give a shit about you or your company.
Why should they?
They have bills to pay.
Kids to raise.
A dog to walk.
A car that won’t start.
A crappy relationship.
Dreams they’re shooting for and others they’ve shelved.
In short, they have a life.
Unless your web copy, email, advert, brochure, whatever, shows how what you do improves that life, expect to be ignored.
Copywriting, commercial writing, marketing writing, business writing. Call it what you want. It’s not literature or journalism. People don’t curl up with it by the fire or read it to keep up with current affairs.
They read it because they want something.
A cure for their headache.
A refreshing alcoholic beverage (more on that in a minute).
A sophisticated annual report to help them stand out and strengthen relationships with their stakeholders.
So give them the thing they want.
What happens now?
Realising no one cares, an experience that’s both terrifying and liberating, creates two minimum requirements for the next piece of marketing you create.
- It needs to be focused on the reader
- It needs to be good
Here’s a made-up example.
Your company makes beer. You sell the beer in cans. In shops. You’ve just invented a new widget that keeps the beer in the can colder for longer once it’s out of the fridge. Stone the crows, this is excellent. I’m already sold.
Problem is, you’re more interested in the process of creating the widget than the impact it has on your customers.
How to throw money away
You contact me to write an article all about how developing the new widget took five years and thousands of hours. You want to describe in detail the way it works by allowing the thingamajig to extract the whatchamacallit 25% faster than the old widget. You tell me you need to include bios of the team involved. Descriptions of the equipment used. And, of course, a massive pat on the back for our wonderful CEO without whom none of this would have been possible (she was actually playing golf).
This is where one of the main benefits of hiring a freelance copywriter kicks in—the objective opinion.
This is the point at which I politely remind you that no one cares.
But cold beer for longer?
Your customers care about that. That’s something to shout about.
Now we’ve got a ticket to the glorious world where we’re solving people’s problems and making their lives better.
It’s an unlikely example because beer companies are among the best at marketing.
But making this shift, from inward-looking to outward-facing, from introspection to empathy, can apply to any company, any sector, anywhere.
It drastically improves your marketing. In fact, unless you’re doing this it’s not even marketing. It’s just wallpaper. Or an internal memo.
People are wonderful but they’re also selfish (a lot of the time). They’re most interested in themselves. So empathise with them, speak to them, get into their world.
Or, if you like being ignored, keep on posting updates from the CEO.
Need an objective opinion about your next marketing project? I’d be happy to oblige.