Have you ever wondered how great copywriters come up with messages that stick? Do they just guess correctly what to say to appeal to their audience? After all, they must've learned all those fancy copywriting formulas, direct response sales copy techniques, persuasion tactics, psychological tricks…Wait a minute.
Anyone can learn formulas and persuasion techniques. But not everyone can write copy that converts. Those who can, know a little bit more than just formulas. They deeply know their audience.
I keep saying this: Copywriting is much more than just writing. Because words that sell only sell because they are relevant and persuasive to the very specific humans. Copywriting is first and foremost knowing what matters to customers, in their own voice.
My husband works in the public sector. He keeps listening to all those audiobooks about effective communication while driving. One of the techniques for building rapport that always gets mentioned in those books is mirroring. Let me break it down for you: When you talk like your customers talk, they like you more.
This is because we tend to like people who are similar to us. There is a large body of research that confirms this. When you use your customers' exact language, your copy feels real. And your customers feel like they’re talking with someone who’s like them.
No matter how creative and original you are, your best copy comes from what customers say — not what’s inside your head.
There’s a specific term for discovering customers' words: voice of the customer research. People write entire books about it, but in its simplest form, voice of the customer research comes down to this: listen to what your customers say and use it in your copy.
To know how to do it thoroughly, you should check out an amazing guide by Anna Bolton (I link to it in the description of this video). It's very long but totally worth it. Anna suggests running at least one of the following types of research:
You will find tips, questions, tools, and much more in her guide. So again, do check it out.
Here, in this blog post, I'll only scratch the surface of the voice of customer research just to show you what golden nuggets you can come across if you look at things so obvious and accessible as customer reviews.
If you have a new product that doesn't yet have any reviews, you can still do voice of the customer research. Look for customer reviews in online directories like Clutch (if you work with B2B service-based businesses), Capterra (if you work with software companies), or Amazon (if you work in e-commerce).
Before we start searching for golden nuggets, let's figure out one important thing:
Ideally, you need answers to these questions (which I copied from the guide I mentioned above):
But because we're only scratching the surface, and not talking to customers directly, it's pretty doubtful that you will find the answers to these questions in customer reviews. But there is something you can find.
You can find phrases that reflect needs or wants, pains, barriers or objections, and values.
Now I’ll show you some examples of phrases that you can find in customer reviews of software development companies and how you can use them in your copy.
We need crazy, clever people who are fond of technology and are capable of handling low-end programming in C.
From this sentence, we clearly see that a client needs developers who work in the C programming language. But the phrase “crazy, clever people who are fond of technology” sheds some light on how to approach our copy and even our website design. For example, we can use a nerdy voice, include some technical terms in our copy, and express the desire for innovation as our big idea. We can also use the topic of “innovation” as the basis for our blog strategy.
Some examples of copy that might appeal to this client:
We were looking for a new development team that was not simply a bunch of code monkeys, which we had encountered already.
A bunch of code monkeys, huh? The pain here is clear — the client doesn’t want to work with people who aren’t involved in product development but simply write code according to precise specifications. Copy that reflects this pain should convey the idea of creation. For example, instead of “software,” we can use the word “product.” Instead of “user,” we can say “people.” Instead of emphasizing lines of code, we can emphasize the results of our work and the impact they make.
Some examples of copy that might appeal to this client:
Due to time differences, there were small issues with connectivity and scheduling.
Time differences are a common barrier for entrepreneurs who outsource software development. If your customer is located in San Francisco and you are in Kyiv, the time difference is significant. You can’t do anything about it, and there’s no point in hiding this fact on your website. On the contrary, you should talk about it to develop trust with your readers. To address this potential obstacle, you should first accept that the time difference is a problem. But then you should respond to that problem to show why it’s really not a problem after all. For example:
Worried about time zone differences? While we’re only 1 to 2 hours ahead of most European countries, there’s a 10-hour difference between Kyiv and the West Coast of North America. If you’re in the Pacific time zone, you’ll probably be sleeping during our work hours. That’s why daily communication and regular status updates are extremely important in our business culture. We’re also ready to make some compromises with our schedule to have more overlapping work hours.
They’re very European in their approach to setting up their company structure.
This is an interesting phrase. What approach to setting up a company structure is “European”? The word “European” has a positive connotation. It means thorough, quality, professional, impeccable. Just like German cars. The European approach to setting up a company structure is most likely one where everybody is willing to go the extra mile. It’s about getting the job done. How do you reflect that in your copy? You can convey Europeanness by sounding customer-centric, using a clean and professional website design, creating case studies that display thoroughness, and emphasizing the guiding beliefs and principles that influence your work.
Examples of copy that might appeal to this client:
When you do the voice of the customer research, pay special attention to the following things your customers might mention:
Remember: In copywriting, your job isn’t to put your own words on the page. Your job is to find the words that your customers want to hear.
Watch it on YouTube:
If you take voice-of-customer seriously, you'll be miles ahead of the marketing crowd looking for conversion hacks and shortcuts. I hope this blog post has inspired you to do voice of customer research before you sharpen your pencil to do some copywriting.
A list of skillsets that content writers need when applying for a job and growing their careers.
What's the difference between copywriters and a whole bunch of other creative specialists that have something to do with writing and marketing? Time to figure it out!