How to craft web copy that makes you indispensable
Do you dream of raving reviews from your clients? Being honored as Copywriter of the Year? Writing copy that delivers results that are truly amazing?
Most writers do.
And here’s a secret. Your clients are no different. They too fantasize about their own proverbial “15 minutes” in the industry or niche where they’ve sacrificed so much sweat (and possibly sanity).
To get this kind of recognition requires developing a robust brand. And engaging website copy — the kind you write for your clients — is where a strong brand starts.
If you can get your potential client to reveal that professional image he has been dreaming of, then distill it into engaging web copy with a concise, unique voice, he will likely come back to you for more brand-defining copy. (And maybe even invite you to a holiday bash, where the punchbowl could be teeming with more potential clients.)
After 20 years of meeting (or Skyping) with clients for my complimentary consultations, I’ve developed a few techniques that have helped me land — and deliver on — website copywriting gigs for clients who later contracted with me for collateral copy, sales letter copy, LinkedIn copy, and even e-book writing projects.
Enduring client relationships mean repeat business and recommendations — the lifeblood of any writer’s business.
And I’ve seen time and again, when you nail your client’s voice, those enduring relationships follow. Here are the proven strategies I use to uncover and develop a strong brand for my clients:
1. Investigate like a dog
It’s hard not to smile when you see a puppy ecstatically sniffing out a new location and accessing its possibilities. It behooves you to muster up that type of excitement upon googling a new client. Take 20 minutes to get to know the professionals you want to write for and the product or service they pride themselves on. You can’t write well about something that doesn’t move you, so psych yourself up for a stimulating learning adventure.
2. Schedule like a celebrity
If you offer complimentary consultations like I do, schedule them well ahead of time (implying you’re booked until then).
Keep those complimentary consultations to 30 minutes. If, like me, you don’t have a keen sense of time, set a timer. Thirty minutes is just enough time to intrigue a potential client with what could be, without boring her with what it takes to get there. Also, if she senses you’re busy, she’ll assume you’re in high demand and be compelled to book you before someone else does.
Meet at a place and time that’s convenient for you, but relaxing for her — ideally on her day off or after hours when she doesn’t need to rush off and redirect her attention immediately after your meeting.
3. Question like a shrink
Create a concise, inspirational questionnaire. Customize it based on the research you did in Step 1. Keep it to two pages max, with just enough space for short answers (you’d be surprised how many non-writers panic when facing big blocks of blank space).
If you’re meeting in person, ask him to fill out the short questionnaire while you grab his cup of coffee, tea, or drink of preference (which you should take note of). If you’re meeting online, suggest they sip a refreshment while filling out your questionnaire. Step away to go make your own, while playing some soothing music in the background for those five minutes (silence tends to make that blank page even more intimidating).
This questionnaire must accomplish three goals:
- Extract the ideal image the client wants to project
- Identify the client’s differentiators (unique features or benefits that set him apart from competitors)
- Get the client to trust you with his dreams
I ask new clients to write a review they’d be thrilled to receive from a critic/expert/commentator/superior in their field. Then, reviews of two competitors: one despised; one admired. (The websites or brochures of those competitors help me figure out “dos” and “don’ts” later when I’m crafting the client’s copy.)
Design your questionnaire aesthetically and strategically, so it’s inviting and professional, not intimidating or taxing.
Use language the client is comfortable with. If he works in a corporate, legalese-laden, high-powered environment, include a few boardroom terms. (The age-old corporate dress code rule holds that one should dress like one’s boss, so why not sound like him, too?) If your prospect is a small business owner or service provider, use buzzwords from his biz so he feels you’re brethren.
4. Fantasize like a college grad
After reading your client’s fantasy critic’s dazzling review, express interest in her expertise and let her expound upon it passionately. REALLY LISTEN. Take notes. Allow her passion to be contagious and your ideas will flow like bubbly on New Year’s Eve. Toss her words back at her to confirm her priorities.
5. Compete like an Olympian
Briefly acknowledge the admired competitor, but point out what unique feature/characteristic/accomplishment/attitude your future client brings to the field or industry. Remind him it merely needs to be presented in an engaging way. Reiterate how the right style and tone in his copy can illustrate his accomplishments and differentiators.
Peruse with him a highly-successful website in his field, and let him imagine being as successful if he contracts you.
6. Seal the deal like a pro
Once you’ve piqued her excitement, tell your future client you’re the one who’s excited… excited about her product or service… and about all the ideas you’re already bustling with. Offer to draft a proposal. Ask when she’ll have a chance to look at it. Tell her when you will be available to begin crafting her web copy (after the project you’re currently completing, of course).
If your consultation goes smoothly, you’ll have yourself a new long-term client. Let me know how it goes!