Stumbling across the above Benjamin Franklin quote gave me a great excuse to write about an important, yet frequently overlooked, issue in the copywriting process: the copywriting brief.
Besides, I love a theatrical opening.
When I meet with a client to prepare for a new project, I ask a lot of questions.
Although I love listening to people's stories, my grilling has a purpose: I'm pulling together the bones of a brief. While you may wonder, "Sheez, why all the questions?", the effort is worth your while. I promise!
Prepare for successful copy
From the first project meeting or call, copywriters need to work in a two-way relationship. So preparation by the client (yep, that's you) is essential.
You see, being clear on your target audience, what you want to achieve and what you want to say to customers before you meet your copywriter will result in much more effective content. And you're more likely to get your money's worth.
The more precise and thorough you are, the better your copy will perform.
Avoid extra costs
Think of your brief as the ingredients. Your copywriter takes your collection of goodies, and combines them using a variety of tactics to create wordy magic. If anything is missing, the content may seem a bit 'off'.
Without thinking your brief through first, the whole project could run into delays while drafts of copy ping back and forth for re-writes.
It can become frustrating, and sometimes stressful for the client and writer.
Also, an experienced freelance copywriter is likely to charge for changes to your brief since it creates additional work.
Doing the groundwork
Preparing to kick off a copywriting project may be another task on the to-do list, but it can actually be very rewarding.
It’s an opportunity to dig deeper into your business, scoping out how you want to be perceived, your standing in the market and your ambitions. To kick things off, ask yourself...
1. Why are we so special?
As you know, researching competitors and considering what makes you different is part of the overall marketing process.
Identifying what you can offer that the other businesses don’t or can't gives a copywriter fantastic material to work with. They’ll use it to make you sound amazing (which you are, of course).
Do some helpful analysis before hiring a scribe.
2. What’s our position in the market?
If you’re happy with your position in the market, brief the copywriter on where you stand.
If you want to make a shift, explain to your copywriter where you’d like to go in the longer term. They can help get you there and begin to influence customer perception.
Remember, a change in direction can create a fantastic opportunity for PR as well as new copy. Some copywriters do both (hint, hint).
3. What kind of questions do our customers ask?
Wouldn’t it be brilliant if you could sell your products and services without having to answer questions?
But being realistic, when you're trying to persuade people to buy your wares, you have to help them out a little, and respond to their enquiries.
Although to smooth out the sales process, good copy answers typical queries, helping customers come to a quicker decision.
Take the time to think this point through carefully, and raise it with your copywriter.
4. What’s the main benefit to our customers?
Writing specifically for the people you’re selling to is powerful.
For now, forget about the usual list of features of your product or service. A better use of your time is to look at the biggest benefits to the buyer.
What’s it in for them? Will it make them wealthier? Healthier? Better informed? More confident?
5. What’s our tone of voice?
Everyone responds to a tone of voice in copy. Why? Well, it triggers an emotional reaction and draws people in.
Be careful with this - you need to choose the right tone for your business. An informal, cheeky tone may not work if you’re selling conference space to big corporates. Equally, a serious voice will put off couples booking a relaxing city break.
Define this, and your copywriter will adapt to your voice, and write content that's more likely to speak to your customers.