“You don’t ask, you don’t get,” said Mahatma Gandhi. I’m no historian, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t referring to cufflinks. Or, for that matter, copywriting.
Still, the bloke was on to something.
Yeah, yeah – the whole non-violence thing. Of course. But also the idea that asking the right questions is the only way to achieve your desired result. And, as one of the skills of the copywriter is contorting your brain into different mindsets, being relentlessly inquisitive is must.
So, where do you begin when quizzing a new client? You can start with obvious (what do you sell, what’s the price, when will I get paid…and so on).
But then it’s essential to burrow into the marrow of the matter. Here are some questions that you might find useful as a web copywriter:
(Heck, even if you’re not a web copywriter, just ask yourself these questions to improve your own website copy.)
- Can you explain your product/service in a sentence?
- Could you describe your business using any five words?
- What’s the most significant problem your product/service is designed to solve?
- What kind of person usually faces this problem? Do they face it in their daily life?
- How will your customer’s life be different after buying your product/service?
- When you’re describing what you do/sell to friends, what do you tell them? What do they ask you in return?
- Could you ask your sales team which questions they get asked most often? If they speak to customers face-to-face, what’s a common objection and what do they say to counter it?
- Could you ask your customer service team what your most common complaints/queries are?
- Can you tell me the story of how your business began? What did you want to change?
- If you could change one thing about your product/service, what would it be?
- If you could pick only one stand-out feature of your product, what would it be?
- Do you have any special offers/deals/discounts – or anything else that I should know about? Do you offer anything for free (support, shipping etc.)?
- Which website (in any market) do you most admire, and why?
- Who are your biggest competitors? What do you offer that they don’t? What do they offer that you don’t?
- What company’s language style and tone do you most admire and why?
- What do you want your language and tone to say about you?
You can use some of those as a starting point to understanding your client’s business and what they want to achieve. (Really, you should try to keep firing the questions until you’re politely asked to stop, or until just before security are called.)
What about you fellow writers (or clients)? Asked or received any unexpectedly revealing questions?