10 Interview Questions to Create Stellar Copy

I’m about to share a secret with you. It may sound far-fetched, but it’s true. Ready?

The key to great copywriting is not writing – it’s about intimately understanding the motives, beliefs and emotions of your audience. Don’t worry, you read that sentence correctly. The key to great copywriting is not writing.

So then, what is the secret to stellar copy?

The interview. That’s right – 90% of the work happens before you even stroke a key, write a sentence, or open a word processor. If you ask the right questions, you will intimately understand your audience and the writing will be easy. Once you completely comprehend your purpose the words will flow like water down a steep incline.

Here are 10 types of questions to help you write stellar copy:

1. Facts – These are the “who”, “what”, “when”, “where” questions. They give you just the facts and not much more. Most of these can be answered with a bit of research prior to your interview, so if you want to be professional, come prepared to confirm instead of collect answers to factual questions.

2. Reasons – Why, why, why, why, why? What is the reason or motive behind an action, decision, or response? Try channeling the spirit of your 4-year-old niece and inquire “why” almost more often than is comfortable.

3. Problem/Solution – What was/is the problem and how does the product/service solve it? The answers to these questions are key to producing clear benefits in your copy.

4. Descriptors – Adjectives turn words into a picture. They describe a scene so readers can connect via their imagination. One trick to drawing these words out in an interview is to get your interviewee to describe their product or service in the third person. For example: “Imagine your best client is referring you to their best friend. What would they say?”

5. Feelings – Understanding feelings is important for establishing the proper tone for your copy. Should your tone be happy and upbeat or calm and subdued? When in the interview, be sure to ask about how the reader feels both before and after the product/service experience.

6. Actions – Verbs are the most important words in your copy because they inspire readers to take action. One method for drawing out action words is the question, “What does your product/service help people do?”

7. Typical Customer – The more detail you can gather about the customer you are writing for, the more easily you can put yourself in their character. Go deeper than traditional demographic info and get creative with your assessment. Where do they shop? What’s their favorite food? What are they doing on the weekends? What kind of clothes are they wearing? Although your interviewee may be thrown off by these types of questions, the detailed descriptions will help you visualize your audience when you are writing and get in their mind.

8. Personification – Particularly useful if you are selling an intangible, such as a service. Try using questions like, “If your service was a person, how would you… fix them up on a date? recommend them for a job? introduce them to your mother?” Again, you may have to warn your interviewee to simply trust the process.

9. Competition – With so much noise on the market today, a thorough understanding of the competition is key to standing out. Ask the tough questions like “What advantages does your competition have over you?” Knowing what you’re up against can help you focus on which benefits to feature.

10. Analogies/Metaphors – A master copywriter will craftily weave in analogies and metaphors. Doing so solidifies the brand awareness of the product/service to an existing object or experience in the reader’s mind. Try testing analogies and metaphors throughout your interview and see if any resonate with the interviewee. If you get a resounding “YES!!” you know you’re on to something.

7 thoughts on “10 Interview Questions to Create Stellar Copy

  1. I agree. As I said to you when we first met, the key for my business is the factfinding. Once I get comprehensive answers from the client, then the rest is a breeze.

    But with regards to your profession, don’t you find it harder to get answers from your clients? Some clients are so passive when they try to answer these copywriting questions and I’m sure that makes your job harder. I wouldn’t be surprised if alot of them couldn’t answer all of these questions that you’ve asked.

    What do you do then? Wing it? Go on gut?

  2. Great question, Dean!

    I guess I try to find new ways to phrase the same question so as to elicit a response. I laugh, smile and nod a lot during the interview to provide positive reinforcement and encourage an active conversation. I also try to “warm up” clients by asking the fact finding, situational questions first and then moving into the more creative, thought provoking questions later.

  3. Pingback: Do You Make This Marketing (and Blogging) Mistake? - Dawud Miracle @ dmiracle.com - (formerly Healthy WebDesign)

  4. To answer Dean also…

    Think of everything you do with your marketing copy – even your bio – as being part of a big conversation you’re having with your prospects. Think about what their questions are and how you’d address them if they were sitting right there with you and you could speak with them. This can make your copy come alive a bit.

  5. Thank you for posting this. I just conducted my first interview and not only was my client impressed and grateful for my inquisitive questions, so was everyone at my firm who heard me conducting the interview! This really helped me extract the best pearls direct from the horse’s mouth–so to speak–for the copy-writers!

  6. Your post really helped me understand this subject. A lot of what I have read other places makes it seem so tricky and hard to understand. Your post helped improved my knowledge on the matter. I agree with u this all points are important in interview.

    Thanks!

  7. Thanks ideas and advice THANKS.
    I’m preparing an article and a blog site focused on Missions work in Columbia and planning to use the interview format to kick it off. I found you while doing a search on interview questions. I can come up with all kinds of questions but what I need are questions that will capture the interest of my readers.

    The article will first be posted on my blog, http://his-living-word.blogspot.com and http://cboblogroll.org.

    Thanks for the advice,

    Bill

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