Is Your Copy Strategy Starting in the Right Place?

More often than not, conversations about the development of new websites, brochures, fact sheets, trade show banners and all other kinds of promotional materials begin with something like this:

“I want people to understand what we do.”

“Let’s make sure our list of services stands out. Maybe a bulleted list? With bolded words? And LOTS of color?”

“How can we make potential customers know we’re really different than our competitors? Maybe we can use words like ‘unique’ and ‘proprietary’. That shows we’re different, right?”

What if the next time a conversation about a new project started like this you said, “HOLD UP! Let’s take a step back and figure out why you’re doing what you’re doing with your business. Because, that’s what really drives people to action.” My guess is that there’d be an awkward moment (or two or three) of silence and then someone would say, “Huh?”

BE MORE THAN A WRITER. BE A FRIGGIN’ MAGICIAN!
If you want to be seen as “just” a writer–go in and be a note taker for your clients. Give them back exactly what they dictate–although you might word it slightly differently. Even brilliantly, perhaps. But, if you want to be viewed as a resource they can’t even THINK about beginning a project without–then ask the tough questions that will help them understand more about their company or cause. Do as business and leadership visionary Simon Sinek says and Start With Why. (aff link) The magic that can happen when clients really understands their “why” is something to behold–and you’re the magician who can make it happen for them.

If you haven’t read Start With Why—read it! And also take about 20 minutes out of your day to watch his TED talk (see above) about the importance of companies, individuals, organizations, causes should lead with why they do what they do rather than what they do or how they do it. It’s a simple–yet powerful–concept. And if we can help our clients incorporate it into the way they present their company (or causes or personas or beliefs) to key audiences–we can make magic together.

GO AHEAD. ASK ME “WHY?”
I’ve been looking for ways to help my clients communicate the “why” of their businesses. It’s hard to get some folks to shift from a feature/benefit mindset to one that really gets at what will drive customers to act. Think about it. Why do you buy what you buy, read what you read, watch what you watch? There are very few truly unique products on the market these days. So, most of what we consume is— in some shape or form— a commodity. Any car will get you from Point A to Point B. So, why does someone choose a Kia over a Honda? A BMW over a Mercedes? A Smart car over a Prius?

As copywriters, bloggers and content strategists, we can easily be viewed as commodities—which certainly doesn’t result in bigger paychecks for us! So, figure out your own “why.” For me, my “why” is a drive to help fellow freelancers live the lives they want and deserve. Once you figure it out for yourself, you can use it to differentiate yourself from the rest of the freelance herd. And, when we can unlock the “why” of both businesses and consumers by asking the right questions and making the right observations, we can create content that will move people to action.

How about you? What’s your why? And what are some of the best ways you’ve found to help your clients identify what their “why” is?