questionWant copy for your new website or other piece of marketing collateral? These are some of the questions you’ll be asked as part of the 360-degree consultation you get from us before we can give you a quote.

You might also find these questions useful if you plan to do your own copywriting. One way to consider them is to meditate under an olive tree for a week with your team and a bottle of ouzo. Alternatively, you could be more traditional, and answer them in your office in a Word document, or using a notepad and pen.

The process usually takes around 1 to 1.5 hours to do properly, and results in a tip-top brief for your creative team. We/they can then produce marketing material for you that really gets results.

  1. What do you sell?

This part is all about you, your products and your services. What problem do you solve or solution do you provide? Which is your core speciality? Which is most profitable (earns you most income for least effort or expense)? Do you have a range of price points (cheap, medium, high)? What market research have you done to prove there is a demand for what you sell?

If you see a row of wine bottles on the shelf, most people are likely to pick the mid-priced option. If you have a range of price points, you can ‘up-sell’ and ‘cross-sell’ other items to your existing customers.

  1. Who are your competitors?

Who else might your customers look at as well as you, if they shop around? Who else comes up on Google for a search of your key terms? Might your customers decide to ‘do it themselves’ rather than pay you at all?

I am currently working with a client who has written some software that replaces a paper (manual) process. His competitors include other software providers, but ‘doing nothing’ is also an option for his customers. We need to convince them why to buy from him.

  1. Who are your clients?

Who buys your stuff (there may be more than one group of target customers)? Which is your ideal client? Which is the most profitable type of client (either because they spend most per transaction or bring most repeat business)?

You might find that ‘resellers’ are your most valuable introductions because they refer you to more than one customer. Or that a repeat product such as a maintenance contract or small item paid monthly is worth more to you than a one-off sale.

  1. What is your USP?

Why do your customers buy from you instead of anyone else? This is so important, I’m going to repeat it. Why do your customers buy from you instead of anyone else?  What makes you different? Why should anyone give you their money?

This is a tough one. Most people fall silent when I ask this question, and take a few moments to think of the answer.

  1. Do you have any external endorsements?

Are you a member of any trade or professional bodies? Have you won any awards (and I’m not talking about your school swimming certificate!)? Do you have testimonials or case studies written in the format problem:solution:results? (I suggest you collect them from day 1 and use them in all your marketing).

What other people say about you is more convincing than anything you say yourself.

  1. What is your brand?

What are your 5 top brand values? How are they expressed in the look, feel and tone of voice of your brand (or personal) identity? What does your logo look like? What are your corporate colours and house font? What is your strapline (if you have one)?

The customer’s experience of your brand should be consistent throughout their dealings with your company, from the glossy upfront advertising to the ‘back end’ documentation such as invoicing.

  1. What is your objective?

What do you want people to do as a result of this marketing piece? What is your most wanted response? What is your desired call to action? This assumes you are producing ‘direct response’ advertising (where you want to get a measurable return on your investment) not brand awareness advertising (usually, only the big brands do this).

You may want people to phone you, visit your website, sign up for your newsletter, make an appointment, place an order or something else.

  1. What are your FAQs?

What questions do your customers most commonly ask?

If you provide all the answers on your website, it can save you time. It can also be a keyword-rich page that’s good for search engines (and uses customer language that they are more likely to search) as well as being an added value resource for human visitors to your site.

  1. What ‘added value’ do you provide?

These days, it’s not enough to have a website full of ‘sales’ pages. What can you offer that other people don’t, to make your website ‘sticky’? If you provide added value, it encourages repeat visits, demonstrates your expertise and generates goodwill. It can also result in valuable inbound links from the social media community.

Some examples: regular hints and tips in the form of newsletters or articles, a free report as an incentive for subscribers, and/or a page of free downloads, fun stuff or interactive games (relevant to your business offering).

  1. Who are you?

Who are the people behind the company (people buy from people)? This is the ‘about us’ or ‘who we are’ page of your website, or PDF ‘speaker profile’ if you are what you are selling. It can be one of the most popular pages on your site – check your Analytics to find out. Buying ‘on screen’ is a remote and impersonal experience, so you want to include as much of your unique personality as possible.

It can include your company history (don’t write it chronologically in case people don’t read to the end; start it with what you’re doing now – the important bit – and end it with how the business was founded); and/or ‘Meet the team’ biographical details (including photos plus hobbies and interests to provide human interest); alternatively, it could be in the form of a ‘Message from the MD’ and include ‘My personal commitment to you’.

Bonus question: Who do you benchmark yourself against?

Is there another organisation (whether in your sector or not) that is already doing what you want to do? Are there some websites you really love? What about websites you hate?

I’m not suggesting you copy them, just that you look to them for inspiration about what to do (or what not to do).

Final word: Do you have a mission statement?

Warning. Pet peeve coming up. If you do have a ‘statement of core values’, a ‘customer charter’ or ‘a mission statement’, do not be tempted to use them in your marketing! In most cases, these should remain internal documents for staff only. They should not be customer-facing because they rarely say anything that your competitors don’t also say, and usually express no more than minimum customer expectations anyway.

P.S. For more advice, see my Little Fish Guide to DIY Marketing, especially for small businesses and start-ups.

A version of this article was first published on Birds on the Blog in February 2011.

Image by Anemone123 from Pixabay

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