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 #2 – It’s all in the details

Today’s example of amazing copywriting comes to us from The Corner Bakery (yum!).


You know that springtime feeling of walking through freshly cut grass? No worries? No stress?

It’s the same CARE-FREEDOM-NESS I get whenever I am invited to a lunch meeting. No fear of unknown pie charts or spreadsheets, because I know I don’t have to deal with the daily drama of “WHAT AM I DOING FOR LUNCH?”

Nope, because they’ll be a delicious spread of sandwiches, salads and sweets from those friendly folks at the Corner Bakery Cafe. Does it get any better than Tomato Mozzarella Pasta Salad under the conference room fluorescent lights? Happier than enjoying a Chicken Pesto Sandwich while the Director of Purchasing explains the cost savings ramifications of the 15/16″ CROWNED CHISEL POINT STAPLE over the completely inferior 3/8″standard chisel point staple?

I take another bite, and am fairly confident I can feel the grass under my feet right now. 

We’ve got catering cornered.  

Why this works:

#1 – Correct Target Market – The Corner Bakery does a lot of catering (and they do a darned good job, too) and they clearly understand their target market in this piece. Through the descriptive copy it is clear that the intended recipient of this message 1) works in a corporate office and 2) has lunch meetings that are catered.

#2 – Tongue-In-Cheek Humor – Okay, I know I’ve been in meetings that seem silly and pointless – and the tongue-in-cheekiness of the staple comparison made me laugh because it hit close to home. This subtle humor makes the copy stand out because it forms a connection with the reader.

#3 – Details, Details, Details – What makes this piece really work is the descriptive details of the office. I could almost imagine my former boss in my old conference room with the hideous fluorescent lights talking about something boring. Only now while I am reading the copy, I imagine myself in that meeting eating some delicious Corner Bakery food.

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?


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

Effective Marketing with Myspace.com

myspace-log.gifToday while checking my myspace.com account I found the following message from author Paco Ahlgren. On my profile, I list my interest in Taoism and quantum physics – so when I received this message I was glad because his book pertains to my interests.

The message is easy to read. It’s not salesy. It’s conversational style lets me make up my own mind.


My first novel, Discipline, will be published July 2, 2007 by Greenleaf Book Group Press — a small independent house in Austin, Texas.

The book is a philosophical, psychological thriller exploring the connections between eastern philosophies and modern philosophies of science — focusing on Taoism and quantum physics.

“For two nights in a row, I stayed up past 3AM reading Discipline… In the hands of a lesser talent, the treatment of so many deep topics could easily turn superficial or stupefyingly dull. But throughout this exciting white-knuckle metaphysical adventure story, Ahlgren maintains a surprisingly light touch…expect to learn some edge physics, to peek into the details of exotic financial transactions, and perhaps to gain new insight about what it might really feel like to be an enlightened being.”– Nick Herbert, Ph.D., author of Quantum Reality, Faster Than Light, and Elemental Mind

Please add me to your friends list with the button below. I’m always looking for comments and criticism for all my work, and I would love to have your thoughts.

Pre-order your copy of the Discipline hardcover at Amazon.com now for $16.47 — 34% off the regular cover price.Pre-order your copy of the Discipline hardcover at Amazon.com now for $16.47 -- 34% off the regular cover price.
You can read the Discipline sample chapters at http://www.pacoahlgren.com.

“Science, politics, economics and spirituality fuse explosively in this visionary thriller. In some far future–or is it past?–Philip K. Dick nods with satisfaction.”–Jeffrey Satinover, physicist and psychiatrist, author of The Quantum Brain.

Douglas Cole is being hunted—and protected—but he doesn’t know it. His life has been shattered by inexplicable tragedy, his mind haunted by ominous visions, and yet the more he questions the horrifying events plaguing him, the more elusive the answers become. Pushed to the brink of insanity, Douglas begins a desperate psychological battle with an enemy he can’t see and doesn’t understand, the outcome of which will determine the fate of humanity.Discipline dissects our assumptions about the limits of perception in a way that will terrify you as much as it enlightens you, weaving blunt, gritty realism with spectacular scope into an intricate thrill-ride that will drive you to turn each page as quickly as possible, while at once demanding that you slow down enough to absorb every critical detail.No matter how much you prepare yourself, the revelation at the end is going to blindside you, leaving you questioning reality in a way you never would have believed possible. And yet, once you recover, you’ll find yourself back on page one right away—looking for answers to questions you didn’t even know to ask the first time around.

“Ahlgren deftly melds the intimacy of one man’s personal journey of self-discovery with cosmic, mind-expanding concepts of quantum physics, time travel, and multiple universes. This stunning and skillfully constructed story is a page-turner that haunts you long after you’ve closed the book. Discipline is a masterful first novel that rivals the works of many more mature authors with dozens of books to their credit. I look forward with delicious anticipation to everything Ahlgren writes in the future.”– Marie D. Jones, author of PSIence: How New Discoveries in Quantum Physics and New Science May Explain the Existence of Paranormal Phenomena.

Too Clever For Your Own Good?

ice-cream.jpgMrs. Mogul posts on the following stores that went out of business in what she thinks is due to their poor naming.

Candle Store – The Almost Edible Candle Gourmet Shop

Ice Cream Store – The Marble Slab

Pet Store – Doggy Style

Your business name is the most critical piece of your branding. How do you know if your clever name will be worthless or a winner?

Try test marketing with these short questions (with strangers for best results).

1. What images does this name make you think of?

2. What feeling does this name give you?

3. If you purchased something from this store, who would it be for?

4. What product/service do you think this company offers?

5. What if I told you this company sold _________? What do you think now?

An effective brand is congruent with the company purpose. If you find the answers to these questions out of whack, revise your name until it’s right. There’s a lot at stake – so it’s worth the investment.


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

The History of “We’re Never Too Busy for Your Referrals”

Thanks to Rick Dassler who posted a comment about the history of the phrase “We’re never too busy for your referrals.”

Looks like he has dibbs on the phrase I came up with to replace it – glad it works for you. This idea’s on the house. 😉

Online Newsletters – Are they worth it?

I was cleaning out my e-mail inbox the other day and realized just how many e-zines and newsletters I receive. Some of them I subscribe to (like AAF Smartbrief, Lorrie Morgan-Ferraro’s Red Hot Copy, and various blogs via Feedblitz) and read on a daily basis.

Some I’ve subscribed to and wish I had more hours in the day so I could read them.

Then there are the unsolicited ones. Businesses I’ve met at a networking event who take my info and add it to their mailing list in an attempt to generate some sort of brand awareness. But sadly, this tactic doesn’t work.

The problem? Unsolicited newsletters are annoying, and repetitive. Most are regurgitating some “market trend” that doesn’t even apply to me (ex: I had 18 real estate agents sending me their newsletters – most saying the exact same thing and I’m not even in the market for a house!!)

The question becomes – how much time does it take to compile these newsletters? And if people aren’t even reading them or your content is similar to your competition, are they worth the time you’ve invested?

What if you started a blog instead so people could read your thoughts when and how they wanted to. You could track which topics get the most respose via comments and page views. If you have original and interesting content, people will read it. Then, when it becomes a good investment of your time, start your newsletter knowing you have a subscription base.


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