Questions to Ask Your Web Copy Prospect Before You Begin

I get excited every time I talk to a new web copy prospect for the first time. I want to dive into their business, learn about their products and services, and figure out how I can help.

I love helping people recognize how to best leverage the Internet to sell their products, so I’ll often spend an hour or more online researching the company and their competition.

I get even more excited when we start talking about their goals and how I can help them achieve those goals. It’s like unwrapping a pile of birthday presents.

There are certain questions I’ve learned to ask every prospect. These questions help me to gauge their enthusiasm for the project and to determine if it’s even something I want to do. Not all web copy projects are created equal.

Here’s what I like to ask my web copy prospects before I sit down to write a proposal:

1. “What is your marketing budget for this project?”

I can kick myself for every time I’ve failed to ask this important question. I recently had an exciting face-to-face meeting with a prospect. We talked about their goals, their business, and vision for the website.

I returned to my home office and prepared what I thought was a brilliant proposal that addressed all of their needs and desires.

I came in at three times their budget for the project.

It feels intrusive and premature to ask about their budget before you discuss their needs, but it’s an important question to ask, especially with small (under $1 million in annual sales) and “mid-market” businesses (between $1-5 million in annual sales).

It’s especially important if the company had either developed their original website in-house or it’s so old they can’t remember how it got created. They will likely have no idea how to budget for web copy, and especially things like autoresponder emails, special reports, landing pages, and video scripts.

2. “Why now?”

This is an open-ended question that I’ve found provides considerably more useful detail than simply asking about their goals.

By asking why they want to change their website or their web strategy, you’ll uncover their deeper motivation for wanting to hire someone like you. Here’s an example:

My prospect hadn’t updated their website for over three years and it was woefully out-of-date. Had I asked about their goals, they would have told me about getting more search-engine traffic and converting more of their website visitors into customers. That’s pretty standard stuff.

However, by asking why they had decided to embark on an update to their website at this particular time, I learned that they wanted to beef up their web traffic and increase sales in preparation for selling the business in a year or two. That helped to put a timeframe and urgency around their goals, which in turn helped me to price the project in accordance with their budget and goals.

Another recent example demonstrates the power of this question. My client had the usual goals of increased traffic and customers. But, when I asked why now, they told me about their frustrations with being “the best kept secret” in the industry.

They wore “the best kept secret” badge with pride, but the new CEO wanted customers, not kudos.

You’ll not only learn about their goals when you ask why now, you’ll also discover deeper motivations that can lead to an ongoing relationship that goes far beyond simply satisfying their stated goals.

A word of warning: If your prospect tells you that their primary reason for their web project is because “it’s time,” then consider this a red flag. A study by Hubspot shows that companies without a specific goal or goals in mind for a web project are three times more likely to be unhappy with the results of the project.

3. “Let’s talk about your goals … ”

You’ll notice that the questions I ask are all open-ended. You want your prospect to give you more than the company line about stated goals because what lies beneath is often the real goal. It’s the emotional “idea” that compels your prospect to get the job done well and quickly.

When it comes to a web project, a company’s goals will generally revolve around these areas:

  • Increase traffic to the site. This is a tricky one because few people understand how Search Engine Optimization (SEO) works. It behooves you to learn as much as you can about SEO so you can effectively set expectations with your prospect.
  • Increase conversions. They want more traffic, and they want more of the people who visit the site to execute the “call-to-action.” Ask me about how I accomplished this recently with a client who didn’t want to pay for a “Special Report.” (You can ask me any questions in the comments below.)
  • Increase brand exposure. If a client says this, they’re really saying they want more web traffic and more conversions. It’s just a fancy way of saying “get us more customers through our website.”

Sometimes they’ll have a specific goal, such as introducing a new product or service. That’s where the next question comes in handy.

4. “How will you know if we’re successful?”

Specifics are great if you can get them. Will they know if the project has been a success? How will they measure the results? What numbers will signal a successful project versus a failed project?

This is where you can be a consultant to your client instead of simply a web copywriter. They should be measuring:

  • Web traffic: Where it comes from; how much; most active keyword phrases; keyword phrases that result in clicks, sales, or conversions.
  • Landing page success: Split-testing headlines, leads, images, and even things like the location of the call-to-action on the page; hits versus conversions; time spent on the page; where they go after they leave the landing page.
  • Conversion rates: “Conversion” may mean clicking on a “call-to-action” link, downloading a special report, using a “Contact” form, or clicking an “Add to Cart” button. They need to know who clicked, how they got to the page (by keyword or referral source), and what they did after the click.
  • Email open and click rates: For email campaigns, they should be measuring the open rate and the click-through-rate for any links in the email.

Hubspot’s research also showed that companies who actively measured the success of their project were over two times happier with the results of the project, even if the numbers didn’t meet or exceed their original expectations.

5. “What will happen if you don’t achieve your goals?”

Now we’re getting down and dirty. Is the marketing manager’s job on the line? Or, is this project simply something that has to be checked off a to-do list?

I’ve heard everything from “the future of our company depends on getting more business through the Web” to “ultimately, it really doesn’t matter that much; our CEO just wants us to fix the website.”

In my experience, companies with a strong motivation for getting results from their web marketing are easier to work with, more engaged, and more willing to pay for my services.

By asking open-ended, and sometimes tough questions about their budget, vision, and goals for the project, and desired results, you’ll know how to structure your proposal.

And, the proposals that result in paying customers are those in which you have simply echoed what they told you when they answered these five questions.


Sid Smith

This is Sid's Biographical Information (to be updated later... just testing)

One Comment

  • Outstanding article. Thanks for the roadmap for the client interview. Too often the project discussion goes off into SEO-land, Google rankings, and Adwords war stories. I especially like question 2, “Why now?” That question should expose all sorts of hot buttons with the client you can use to sell the proposal….


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