What to Do Before You Start Writing

Welcome back! Today’s Web-writing video addresses a fundamental copywriting step that a lot of people choose to blow off: researching the target audience you’re writing for before you start writing.

That most folks ignore this critical step is actually a huge advantage for those that do invest some time into getting to know their customer: those copywriters who know their audience are going to write content that will blow their neglectful competitors’ copy right out of the water!

So tune in and learn what it is you need to do before you start writing. And while this is a foundational step for all great copywriting, it is especially crucial if you’re working with a new client or if you’re revising a lot of web pages in-house.

Make your content stand out!

  • It’s one thing to “write a blog post,” or “write a sales page.” That’s OK…but…
  • successful writing is highly customized for your reader.

What a lot of folks do when tasked to write something is they just start writing. And while that’s OK, there is a way to take that writing from merely “okay” into really, really good copy that is highly customized for your reader.

Imagine you are writing web content for the character with the zodiac medallion at the top of the slide: you would most likely write your copy in a slightly different way, and present your information in a slightly different way, than if you were writing for the fairly average-looking guy on the bottom of the slide, no?

What you are doing is matching your content to the folks who are visiting your site. And when you do this, you’re going to see:

  • Higher conversion rates
  • Visitors staying on your site longer
  • People sharing more of your content

Because the content is written just for them.

I’ve referred to this before when discussing customer personas. Ideally, when you’re writing copy you should have a picture of the person who is going to be reading your content in your head.

My joke is that you should be able to walk into any Starbuck’s anywhere and look around and say: “You! You are my target audience!” because you’re so familiar with that person, and writing for that person, that you would be able to pick them out of the crowd.

The secret?

  • You need to ask a lot of questions.
  • This applies if you’re working with a client, writing in-house marketing copy or creating copy for your own business.

So the “secret” is asking a lot of questions. You want to really dig in and figure out what your target audience wants to read, and what it is they need to see.

Again, it’s really tempting and all too easy to simply blow off this step, figuring “Oh, I’ve been at this for 10 years, of course I know this.” But I would encourage you to go back and go through this exercise anyway. You might even want to consider doing it every six months to a year, just to make sure that everything’s on track and that your target audience hasn’t changed.

Common questions to ask are…

(And you might want to modify this list to suit your own business)

  • Who visits the site?
  • What types of content appeals to your target audience? Text? Video?
  • What benefits are important to your readers?
  • What objections do your readers have?
  • What kind of “voice” appeals to your readers? Formal? More casual? Are you sure?

Concluding thoughts…

Knowing your target audience is a critical, foundational step that distinguishes merely “okay” copywriting from truly great content.

I guarantee that if you’ve just been writing copy to write it before, that if you invest just a little bit more time at the very outset to understand your target market, it will make your content much better in the end – and your readers will definitely thank you for it!


photo credit: Suvodeb Banerjee


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  1. […] Who are you writing for? Your ideal customer is not everyone, but you can have more than one target market. […]

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