Before I was born, I didn’t exist, which made it a lot harder to walk the dog.
A terrible attempt at a Groucho Marx-inspired joke that has nothing to do with what I want to write about today.
Or does it?
Tenuous link approaching…
You see, opening with my crap joke there was incredibly self-indulgent. It amuses me – because silly things do – but does it amuse you? Mostly likely not.
Yet the existence of this very article rides on you finding it entertaining and useful, so frankly I shouldn’t be taking such frivolous risks.
And when it comes to writing proper copy (I’m dismissing this email as no more than fun copy!), then you certainly shouldn’t ever be writing in a self-indulgent way.
Never forget you’re writing copy for the reader, not for yourself.
That might seem obvious. It IS obvious. At least on the surface.
But all too often copywriters will end up writing what they find interesting about a product or service, and not what the reader will.
This is because, most of the time, as the copywriter, you aren’t an expert in the area you’re writing for.
To become an expert (at least on a temporary basis), I recommend you do something I call ‘two-tier research’…
Hang on, though, because this might interest you…
You see, I wonder if you’d be interested in getting hold of a simple guide I’ve put together that outlines my own copy training methods?
Hey, you might be above that kind of help – and that’s fine.
But of course there’s a chance one little idea lurks in this guide you’ve not thought about for ages and it could be this one little idea helps you write a piece of copy that performs better than you expected and earns you more money and industry plaudits. Maybe. Maybe not.
But it’s worth a look, right?
The importance of two-tier research
What do I mean by ‘two-tier research’…?
Well, it’s nothing fancy…just that when it comes to researching for a copy project; you should always split your research into two tiers.
Think of the first tier as the key, fundamental research itself.
This is all the initial reading of books and searching of the web.
Let’s say you’re writing a blog post for a sofa company. The sofa company have recently started supplying sofas to a national coffee chain and they want to shout about it to potential new coffee shops looking for new sofas.
Not being an expert on sofas, you search online for something interesting about the industry and you find out how these sofas are made is actually quite interesting.
You read about it for a while and then write the piece based on your interest in these new facts you’ve uncovered.
All good, right?
At this ‘first tier research’ stage, because you’re not an expert and because you’ve probably only looked for stuff online, everything is potentially interesting to you.
But the fact is, almost everyone in the sofa industry and those coffee shops looking to buy new sofas ALL already know about how the sofas are made. It’s not news to the reader and customer…it’s only news to you as the copywriter.
That’s why, once you’ve done your first tier of research, you’ve got to go again.
You’ve got to go deeper.
You’ve got to look into the points of interest you discovered and figure out which of them are already known in the industry and which are genuinely new discoveries.
Because here’s the bad news…
Chances are, most of that first tier research will probably turn out to be old hat.
Don’t worry. It’s just a part of the process of finding the killer hook. This happens to me. It happens to everyone.
The key here is to understand the value of that first tier research in bringing you up to speed in the industry you’re writing for…and then pushing yourself on and adding a second tier of research that really digs much deeper.
Here’s the good news…
Most copywriters don’t bother. There are tons of them out there who will see it as too much hard work and will end up writing about what interests them and submitting bad, ineffective copy.
This is good news because it means they’ll suck and you can zoom past them to become a better writer and land more gigs.
Because it’s in this second tier of research that you’ll find the real juicy stuff…the weird little facts, secret stories and shocking revelations that can help you write some really strong copy.
Get help – you need it
As I always say to copywriters when they’re starting out…
It’s a tough game, so don’t be too hard on yourself to begin with.
You essentially have to quickly learn to be an expert in something you know nothing about and then convince the actual experts you know something they don’t.
If you think about how difficult a task it really is for too long, you’ll end up ‘doing a Nietzsche’ and soon be found in your local town centre hugging a horse.
So, don’t take it all on yourself…
Go to other people and ask them what they know about the industry…speak to anyone you might know who is actually in that industry…or look for events, webinars or books on the industry.
Ask other people if what you’ve discovered in your first tier of research if they find it interesting and be honest to yourself when they stare back at you blankly.
And do this at every stage of the copywriting process…not just during the research stage.
Once you’ve written copy that you think is interesting to the reader, don’t just submit it to your client…get other people you know to read it and see what they think.
Don’t be precious…listen to the feedback, because it will be incredibly valuable, even if it’s the tiniest thing.
One piece of copy I’m just finishing up now has been read by FIVE different people at FIVE different stages of its development and each time I’ve tweaked and added things to make it stronger.
And the vast majority of those things were down to details about the niche I was writing for I didn’t fully understand or had overlooked in my research.
So, make sure when it comes to writing your next piece of copy, you’re writing it with the reader in mind and not yourself.
Don’t just write up the first thing you discover in your research and make sure you get more than one pair of eyes on what you do write.
It might be extra work in the short term, but the rewards for the stronger copy you end up writing will be much greater in the long term.
And when it comes to writing proper copy, never open with a bad joke like I opened this article.
P.S. Did you get chance to hear my interview with Drayton Bird yet? I posted it a little while back and have had some really good feedback about it. If you haven’t listen yet, you can do so by clicking here. Let me know what you think.
P.P.S. Some people keep asking about the pictures I post at the masthead. This one was taken on Anthony’s Bank on the east coast of England, a little drive out from where I live. If like those who’ve emailed me you like seeing such pictures, I post similar ones quite often on Instagram. Though the account has mostly become pictures of my dog. Anyhow, if you’re a fan of Instagram, you can follow my exploits here: Glenn Fisher on Instagram.