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.

Adventures in Amazing Copywriting #4 – Variations on a Theme

eggspectation.jpgToday’s adventure comes to us from Eggspectation – a theme restaurant where the egg is front and center. Just look at their mission statement:

We are a company committed to innovation and eggcellence. Meeting your “eggspectations” is part of our everyday eggsperience, striving to surpass them is what makes us “eggstraordinary.” On this notion, we strive to achieve the best possible in food quality & service while maintaining an overall relaxed & pleasant atmosphere. Welcome to what we call “le cirque des oeufs” an all-day eggsperience.

Looking around at the eclectic decor you can see how the egg theme is all around you through sculptures, paintings & knick-knacks. Even the backs of the chairs bear a familiar oval shape.

The menu is chocked full of continued creative copy with items such as:

– Muffin Eggplosion

– Egg-Chilada

– Eggcitement (French Toast)

– Eggsuberant (Breakfast Combination Platter)

– Uneggspected (Steak & Eggs)

Why this works:

1. Consistency – Using the same word over and over and over again helps solidify your brand in the minds of your customer. Repetition leads to recognition which leads to referrals.

2. Creativity – Clever copy causes clients to stop and think (and maybe even chuckle). Using words in a new way is a great way to help you stand out from the crowd.

3. Capitalize – Creating your own words gives you terms that you can trademark.

Adventures in Amazing Copywriting #3 – Alliteration

sprecker-brewery-orange-soda.jpg

Today’s example of amazing copywriting comes to us from Sprecher Brewery and their Orange Dream soda.

On the top label, a simple sentence stands superior.

In your wildest dreams, cows roam the orange groves in search of a starry spot for sitting and sipping a succulent citrus soda. Enjoy this super citrus drink of natural orange flavors, honey and vanilla for a creamy dreamy taste experience that’s over the moon.

Although it’s short, here’s why it works:

Alliteration (several words in consecutive order beginning with the same sound) is a secret weapon in any copywriter’s toolbox. As Brian Clark from Copyblogger notes, alliteration can make copy “bounce”.

Writer Scott Eric Kaufman explains his take on alliteration and assonance (repeating vowel sounds in non-rhyming words) as, “the interconnectedness it inspires, as if the repeated consonant and vowel sounds benumb the brain into an associative state. I want those connections to seem subtly more sound than they are, because creating an impression of interconnectedness could compel readers to respond favorably to arguments they might otherwise resist.”

I’m not sure if I agree with Scott’s notion that alliteration is a means for changing opinions. I do agree that alliteration can inspire a sense of cohesiveness and interconnectedness, can make a sentence stand out, and helps with the overall flow and pace of your work.

It should be noted that alliteration is an effective, yet potent copywriting tool. Like an essential oil, just a little goes a long way. Overusing alliteration can make you sound amateur, but the right blend can make you sound brilliant.

Adventures in Amazing Copywriting #1

One thing I love about Trader Joe’s is the copy on their private label products. Because of the catchy product titles & descriptions, I’m drawn to the private label products above the others. This is a great strategy for TJ’s because these are the products that have the largest profit margin. Ergo, excellent copy equals more moolah for their bottom line.

traderjoesapplebar.jpg

The side of the box says:

What do you get when you cross fresh apples with a cereal bar?

A delicious anytime treat that’s ideally suited to an active lifestyle: whether you need a quickie breakfast, a fast snack or just something to tide you over to your next meal. The real punchline here is that these bars are made with organic grains and none of those dreaded hydrogenated oils (very un-funny).

Our cereal bars are jammed with delicious fruit fillings and like other popular bars, ours are individually wrapped for convenience. They’re also low fat, low sodium, and contain selenium.

No joke. These bars are really tasty.

Why this works:

#1 – Catchy Tagline – Get it? Apple filling is in the bar. We’ve all heard a joke “a (insert any random object here) walks into a bar” and this clever twist is both metaphorical and literal. This multi-layered tagline makes readers think (and if they’re like me, chuckle in public.)

#2 – Conversational Tone – Doesn’t it sound like the person who is writing this description is speaking specifically to you. Conversational tone is a great way to draw readers in and make them feel connected to your product.

#3 – Continued Metaphor – Notice how the “joke” theme is carried throughout the copy on the side with words like “What do you get when you cross…”, “The real punchline…”, “very un-funny”, “No joke.” Continuing the metaphor makes the copy feel cohesive and complete.

Genius! Trader Joe’s – your copywriter deserves a raise!

What’s in a name?

One of my close friends is an architect. I love having her outside perspective when I’m explaining what I do – she almost can’t conceive the life of a copywriter.

The other day she invited me to a party to celebrate one of her friends getting a great job in San Francisco. I jumped at the chance to be in a room full of non-entrepreneurs.

As I socialized, I found a running theme when I described what I do. Here’s the gist of the conversation:

“Yep, I’m an architect too – just like everyone else here. So what do you do?”

“I’m a copywriter”

“Oh, OK.” (insert perplexed look here) “So are you a lawyer that helps people get a copyright?”

At this point I paused – learning that I certainly needed to reword my title. I tested different responses….

“…I’m a freelance writer”

“What do you write about?”

“I write all the words that go on the promotional pieces for a business. Things like websites, fliers, brochures, advertisements – things like that.”

Although this was better – it wasn’t quite there.

Then I hit it.

“…I’m the Chief Idea Officer of Write Ideas Marketing”

“Wow. Really? What does that mean?”

“I help come up with creative ways for companies who have a great product or service get the message out.”

“Sounds like you have a fun job.”

“I do.”

So the question I’m posing to all you fellow copywriters out there is this – how do you introduce yourself at a party? How do you explain your profession so people “get” what you do?

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Andrea Morris is the Chief Idea Officer of Write Ideas Marketing and specializes in helping visionaries, entrepreneurs, consultants and small businesses use high-ROI strategies to get the right message to the right people. For more information, please visit writeideasmarketing.com

Ideas on using meetup.com for marketing

meetup.gifLast fall I stumbled upon a website called meetup.com. The concept is simple – a place for people with like-minded interests to organize events and meet in real life. To me, this site takes social networking and Web 2.0 to another level because of the healthy dose of reality. Users are no longer tied to their keyboards – which has some useful advantages for your marketing efforts.

Here are some ways I’ve seen meetup.com used first-hand for marketing purposes.

1. Promote Your Product – I belong to a meetup called the Reston Pug Club. Pug owners get together once a month at a local dog park to hang out. One week a savvy bakery showed up with their pug and enough homemade dog treats for the entire pack. The free samples were a big hit and the enterprising baker walked away with lots of new business.

2. Focus Groups – Another Meetup I frequent is called Ultimate Success. The group organizer, Ayda, wanted some feedback on a program she is creating to help people achieve their goals. Using meetup.com she was able to bring together a focus group to try out the program and give honest and objective opinions.

3. Networking – My friend (who I met through meetup) Dean Hua is a master at using Meetup.com to promote networking events for entrepreneurs in the DC metro area.

4. Sponsorship – Could you provide an existing meetup with funds to pay for the site fee ($15 per month) or a convenient place to meet in exchange for mention on the meetup site?

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Andrea Morris is a marketing coach who specializes in helping visionaries, entrepreneurs, consultants and small businesses use high-ROI strategies to get the right message to the right people. For more information, please visit writeideasmarketing.com

What Karaoke Can Teach You About Marketing

woman-singing.gifOK, I admit it – I’m a karaoke junkie. My friends and I go every week. I have a standard set of songs I sing – because I’ve practiced them so often I could sing them in my sleep. I don’t have to worry about going out on a limb – I’ll sound good as long as I stick to what I know.

Last night after singing “Moondance” for about the 98th time the DJ kept me up on stage. “A gentleman has requested Andrea sing ‘Fever’ so we’re gonna keep her up here for one more song.”

What!? I thought, “I haven’t practiced this song. What if I fail? What if I sound terrible in front of this room full of people? No way – I just can’t do this.”

It took some persuading, but I eventually agreed to sing the song. I stood on stage praying that I wouldn’t mess up.

The comfortable feeling I had during the last song apparently decided to go outside and have a cigarette. I held the microphone in my slightly shaking hand when the seductive beat began. I swayed my hips at each pluck of the bass and started to find my grove.

Then a miracle happened (ok, maybe not a miracle – but something pretty cool). I started singing and I was good – damn good. So good I got a standing ovation.

Strutting back to my seat I reflected on what had just happened. Because I had something that worked, there was little incentive for me to go outside of my comfort zone. But because I didn’t take the risk, I missed out on an even better opportunity.

Marketing strategies can fall into the same routine. Year after year companies stick with “what works” because they fear the unknown.

Trying something new is risky. There’s a chance you’ll fail – but there’s also the chance that you’ll have overwhelming success. And if you’re missing out on a standing ovation – doesn’t that make staying comfortable the really risky choice?

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Andrea Morris is a marketing coach who specializes in helping visionaries, entrepreneurs, consultants and small businesses use high-ROI strategies to get the right message to the right people. For more information, please visit writeideasmarketing.com