To get more clarity, ask better questions

When I’m researching a piece of copy, I organize the questions I ask into four groups:

  • Questions about the requirements of the copywriting job itself
  • Questions about the offer
  • Questions about the audience, and
  • Questions about the competition.

Over this and the next few posts here, I’ll go through them.

Questions about copy requirements

What format are you going to be writing for?

Where are people likely to read the copy?

And how much attention will readers have available to “spend” on what you want them to read?

These questions are helpful because they describe the job at hand.

Where to start

I start with the format—and so should you.

Because yes, you’ll likely know whether you’ll be writing an email instead of a Facebook ad.

But you might forget that there are character restrictions on a Facebook ad that will affect your copy.

Or perhaps your client wants a short sales page instead of a long one. Clarifying up-front will keep you from wasting time.

Similarly, the question of where your reader will be when they’re reading your stuff is an essential one to answer.

If they’re probably going to be on a subway, for example, that will be a different experience for them than if they’re at home on the couch, reading a magazine.

After all, it’s simply easier to pay attention to a quiet place where you can focus. And when you can pay more attention, you can typically concentrate for a longer time, right?

So if you know that your reader will be on their phone and distracted by something they’re supposed to be doing at work—

Then perhaps your long-form video sales letter isn’t going to convert as you want it to. Better to stick to a quick text ad, maybe.

On the flip side, imagine you’re showing your reader a short email, for example, on a Sunday morning when they’ve just settled down to enjoy a cup of tea. You’re probably missing an opportunity to get into their head with some long copy.

The takeaway

Format, location, attention—as you can see, these first three questions set the stage for everything else to come.

Yes, you need to know about your offer, your audience, and your competition.

But it’s risky to skip the practical questions about the actual job you’re doing.

More questions next time.

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