If you want to write content copy that leaps off the page, gets into the soul of your audience and compels them to really think about your offer – or at least give your message the time of day – you have to develop a skill that goes above and beyond a mechanical formula. And it’s not even really a skill so much as a character quality. The kind of thing that requires some instinct, emotional intelligence and time to nurture. The often overlooked secret ingredient to amazing copywriting is empathy.
In an effort to help non-copywriters – i.e. business owners and marketers weaker at writing than other skills – there has been an emergence of copywriting formulas and step-by-step methods of creating better copy for websites, email marketing, social media captions, what have you.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for marketing formulas that have been tested and proven over time to help weed out the bad tendencies we all have. They can be enormously helpful. But formulas can also be stale and ineffective without a deeper understanding of what your reader is thinking, feeling, battling, mulling over and deeply desiring. The kind of understanding that takes gut-level effort and isn’t natural for everyone.
Empathy for your reader can’t be taught. You have to work at it. And it’s the secret ingredient to exceptional writing that goes beyond the obvious salesy marketing statements and strikes a deeper chord with your reader. Here are some tips to help you increase your empathy and take your copywriting to a whole other level.
Don’t assume you understand.
You may think you relate with your target follower well enough to guess what they’re thinking or need or will respond to, but be careful about making hasty assumptions. Their situation is not exactly like yours. Their needs at any given moment probably won’t perfectly line up with yours. Their mood, situation in life or particular problems are always going to be different than yours. So how do you relate to them in your copywriting? Create a panel.
Rather than thinking of the one or two followers who are the most like you, broaden that mental picture to 10-20 followers who have a wider range of needs, desires and problems to be solved. Think through more scenarios and speak to the most common ones. You will want to take great notes as you’re dissecting this approach so you can keep coming back to your conclusions for consistent messaging and to remind yourself to think beyond assumption.
Once you have a decent following on your Facebook page, Instagram or email list, work in regular questions, polls or surveys to get some realtime feedback. Give your audience a chance to share what they’re looking for, what’s most helpful for them and any insight into their reality. It may take time to start getting answers. You have to earn the privilege of them making the effort to respond but if you’re in the habit of asking, you will eventually collect some thoughts that can really help you narrow down the pain points of your audience.
This is also true when it comes to reaching out after someone has purchased or used your product or service. Asking for constructive feedback will not only help you improve your offering, it’ll also provide insight into how to promote it better with copywriting that answers the questions or concerns your potential customers may have about your product. Let them know you’re improving on it or the reasons you made it a certain way. Or provide better clarity on how and when your product will help them most, how to use it the most effectively, etc. All the practical explanations we can assume our buyers just automatically know.
Do your research.
This is the part that a formula can’t remedy. Your patience to research and your prowess for reading and paying attention are all on you. How is your competition talking to their audience? What does the latest industry data say? What can be revealed in the comments section of an article or blog that relates to something you deal with or offer? If you want to be a stellar copywriter, you have to get online and do your research to increase your understanding of your audience.
Read your own data.
What posts are your followers reacting to the most? Which blogs are they sharing or commenting on? Which ads are generating the most clicks? Which emails get the most opens and click-through rates? Your audience is sending you a message every time you put out a piece of content. Their engagement – or lack thereof – is a reflection on your messaging.
Think about it.
If I’m working on a big copywriting project, usually brand messaging or website copy or an email marketing campaign, I’m going to spend days just sorting out the drafts. I’m going to give myself time for the process. A process that a formula can’t compete with. The process of researching, note taking, reaching out for thoughts and feedback, checking data and, most importantly, thinking.
In order to write with empathy, I have to spend time putting myself in my perfect client’s shoes. I have to let my gut meet my mind somewhere during the process and merge the mental with the emotional. This takes time. When you’re sorting out a brand script or master copy document, plan for it to take as much time as necessary so you can research, write and think. Take breaks and let there be breathing room.
Okay, so maybe you read all this and are thinking, geez, this is a lot of effort! Nevermind, I’ll just let an experienced copywriter do this for me. Hopefully you can apply something here to improve your own copy, but I do offer copywriting services as part of my startup marketing and full-service partnership packages and enjoy the process I detailed above.