Turning client insights into persuasive copy
In this week’s live Stand Out session, Sydney copywriter Steven Lewis breaks down the three things that clients desire but can’t tell you about. And using a Taleist case study as reference, he discusses how to turn those secret desires into copywriting that sells.
Transcript of Taleist’s copywriting FAQ live
Hello everybody and welcome to another Taleist Stand Out session. If you’re watching live, hello. LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook, or maybe you’re watching a recording or listening to a podcast either way, you are very welcome. As you know, if you’re familiar with the format, we’re going to go through some copywriting tips first. And today’s tips are on turning client insights into persuasive copywriting. And then I’m going to take your questions on copywriting, digital marketing, websites, LinkedIn, whatever you want to ask a question about. I’m here to answer those questions for you as they relate to persuasion, digital marketing funnels and those sorts of questions. If you are watching live, it would be great if you hit the thumbs up the like button, the subscribe button, whatever you’ve got in front of you, just keep your hands busy. While you’re, while you’re doing it. You do, if you are listening to the recording, have the opportunity to ask questions in advance, so we may answer them in a future Stand Out session. So if you have questions, you know, you want to ask in advance because you’re listening to the recording, you can go to taleist.agency/SOS for standout session and ask your questions there.
Three things that clients can’t tell you
So we do have some questions coming up today. And as I say, if you’re watching live, ask your questions in the comments. But as per usual, I’m going to start with some tips on copywriting. And the tips today are how to turn insights into persuasive copywriting. And what I mean by that is that there are some things that your clients can’t tell you. But those things are incredibly important in your copywriting. Because if you understand these things, then you can write to these things. And if you can write to these things that your clients can’t tell you, sometimes they might not even be able to tell themselves. If you can write to those things, you’re going to be much more persuasive. What I’m talking about today, in this part of the session is that copywriting is not just writing. It’s arguably, it’s not even writing, it’s assembling. So a lot of people think they can do copywriting because they write all the time. But typing and copywriting are not the same thing. So just because you can write an email or a Facebook status message or whatever it might be, doesn’t mean that you can do copywriting. And that is because copywriting is a combination of your insights into your reader with your writing skills used to get the reader to do something.
So a lot of the writing, I look at the clients or people who asked me to review things. That the writing might be okay. But it’s not going to persuade the reader to do something. And at its most basic, everything you write is going to be aimed at getting the reader to do something because at a minimum, you want the reader to read what you’ve written. So the lowest possible thing that you could want somebody to do is to read it. And doing that, getting somebody to read what you’ve written involves having them understand, having you understand why they might want to read it. Then if you want to get somebody to buy, click, inquire, send you an email, whatever it might be, download a PDF, you really have to understand what they want.
So I’m going to use a case study today to illustrate what I’m talking about. And in terms of illustration, I’m going to show you an old piece of copywriting first. And when I run training, I quite often use an older example of something because when you have that distance from the writing, that distance of time, the work that the copywriter is doing is much clearer because it jumps out at you. Because it’s not contemporary, it’s old fashioned. So this is an example of an ad for palm olive. It was made with olive oil to allegedly kept your skin soft and smooth, may have done that. That’s great as a as an illustration of something that makes your work different because everybody by this stage in the game had seen soap. They’ve used soap, so you need a point of difference. And this was the point of difference. But what I want to use this to illustrate today is that this ad that you’re about to look at is not about olive oil. It’s not about this point of difference. It’s about the psychology of the reader. And as I say, it’s an old example. So it’s quite jarring. I love my husband far too much to risk getting dry, lifeless, middle-aged skin. You could not run a skincare ad today that said explicitly that a wife might use a particular product. so her husband, out of respect for her husband, right? It’s not contemporary, so it jumps out at you.
But when this ad was first run, it wouldn’t have jumped out at you as quite as obnoxious as it as it is to today’s ear. But this is the central point. That this copywriter was not selling soap. You’re not selling soap with olive oil. They were selling a relationship with the husband. A connection with the husband. They were selling that your husband would not find you revolting. And that is what’s so repugnant today. And that’s what makes this much easier to see and the ads that you look at every day, you may not see how much they’re talking not about the product, but about the psychology of the reader because it doesn’t jump out at you. And when it’s done well, it’s natural. And that’s why you need to know how to do it. Because when it’s natural, you are hitting somebody’s buttons without sounding salesy. You’re sounding much more like you’re building a relationship, and you are the right person to solve their problems because you understand them.
And you don’t just say I understand you, you know. How many websites have you read recently that essentially said explicitly, I understand you. Like okay, well prove it. Well one of the ways that you prove that you’re the right voice for somebody to be listening to is that it just comes across that you understand them. And how do you do that? You do that by understanding three things that they can’t tell you themselves.
Client insight 1: What do they desire in life?
The first is what do they truly desire in life? That’s a hard thing. Even if you know what that is, it’s a hard thing to tell other people. You know, are you really going to say to somebody, I just want to be accepted, or I want my mom to love me, or I want my dad to think that I’m, you know, clever. You know, they’re not going to be able to say that to you even if they can say that to themselves.
Client insight 2: What group do they want to belong to?
They’re not going to tell you what group they want to belong to. But buying your product puts them in some kind of group. So if you understand what that group that they want to be part of is, then you can connect what you’re selling to membership of that group.
Client insight 3: What is the result they really hope for?
And the third thing is what is the result they really hope for. You know, imagine all those beer ads where, you know, it is implied that if you drink this beer, that attractive person is going to go home with you tonight. The result that they’re selling from the beer is not that you will be drunk at the end of the night or more relaxed. The result they’re selling you is that you’re going to go home with somebody insanely attractive. This is what we’re talking about. You don’t have to be that vulgar in your copywriting. You know, you you may be listening to this and thinking, but you know, I’m a lawyer or I’m an accountant. I couldn’t possibly be so vulgar as to hint at these things. That’s not what I’m talking about. The things that you’re learning about are connected to what it is that you are selling.
So the example I often give people is, you know, expensive cars. Nobody buys a Mercedes because it holds the road better on the way to Woolies than a Mazda. You buy a Mercedes because it says something about you, not because you needed something to get you from A to B. Because there are much less expensive ways to get yourself from A to B. So if you think about yourself as the Mazda or the Mercedes, what is it that leads somebody to choose you over the other? Like, there are plenty of people who could afford a Mercedes, who choose a Mazda instead. What is that because of?
The way you get to that point is by researching, it’s by knowing your client. And one of the best ways to know your client is to listen to your client, which is why at Taleist, we have an in-depth research process for every website and everything that we write. We get under the surface so that we’re writing to the real needs and the real desires of the client. A case study that I’m going to use today and then I’ll answer your questions afterwards. And your questions can be either about these tips, or your questions can be about anything to do with copywriting or digital marketing or, or any kind of marketing. And again, if you’re watching and you haven’t hit like, comment, subscribe yet, we do love to hear from you. And if you’re enjoying it, that’s great because those likes and this is social media. So those likes comments and subscribes are what encouraged us to keep coming back and doing this. So please take a moment and if you’re watching the recording, that would be appreciated as well. Or if you’re listening to the podcast, a review would be very much appreciated.
Westbourne College case study
Westbourne College is an Australian, a registered training organisation and they specialize in ex police and ex military. So these people are coming out of a uniform service. They might be paramedics, and they’re entering civilian life, and they need a civilian qualification. That’s a very particular group of people. In order to understand these people, we went deep on the research. So we looked for forums and places where they were talking. But we also spoke to our clients, because our clients are themselves ex police.
This line from one of the clients has always stuck with me that there is nothing more ex than ex military or ex police. And as he explained it to me, imagine you’re in the Navy. So all your mates are crew on a ship. And you leave the Navy, and your mates sail away on a three-month deployment. You cannot spend any time with these people. You can’t go to the bar with these people, they’re not in the country. And even if you leave the police, your colleagues and friends might still be in the police in the city where you are. But when they go for a beer, they’re probably going to talk about work. They can’t talk about work with you, you are now on the outside. It becomes much more difficult to maintain relationships with these people. because what bonded you together is no longer something that’s present in your life. So it’s a lonely, isolating time.
In the research into what people leaving uniformed service say about civilian life, we learned that it’s isolating. Because there’s so much difference between you and your colleagues. So you know, this quotation for instance, that it was a rude awakening. You know, I just didn’t grasp the whole thing. I didn’t get email, women in the workplace, office politics, morning tea gatherings, the luxuries, the lunches. You know, if you, if you’ve been in the army, there’s probably not a lot of that stuff. If you’ve been living in a tent in a war zone, there’s not going to be a lot of morning teas and luxuries and lunches and probably in those forums, you’re not, you know, in those services, you know, maybe you don’t have to be quite as politically correct as you do in civilian life.
This quotation here, the stuff I’ve experienced, all these pen pushers can only fantasize about. That sort of sentiment came up a lot, because you had this idea that the military people, particularly in the police, they’ve been jumping out of helicopters, they’ve been in war zones, they’ve been being shot at. All these things have happened to them. And you’d have somebody in HR saying, I don’t really understand your qualifications. Or, you know, you’re applying for a management position. You’ve have 10 people under you, um, I’m not sure you’re experienced enough. And you’re there thinking, I’ve run a group of 10 people, you know, while we’ve been being shot at or while we’ve been living in, you know, in a war zone, and you think I can’t manage 10 people in an office environment.
So this sort of isolation, you know, the civilians have no common sense. Civvies have no idea of being on time for appointments and meetings. I’ve pulled out these quotations, but they came up again and again and again, that our target client for Western College as a registered training organization for people coming out of uniform service is feeling at sea. They are feeling misunderstood. That’s where they’re at. That is the stuff that they might not be able to tell you. That might not be coming out when you say what do you really want. They’re not necessarily going to say I want to be accepted by this new group of people. I want this new group of people to understand who I am and what I’ve done. So all of that stuff came right through to the surface.
So when you go back to those three things that clients can’t tell you, what they truly desire in life. This audience wants respect for their accomplishments. They think you in civilian life don’t understand all that they’ve done and seen and achieved because you’ve never been in that situation. The group that they want to belong to is people in gainful stable employment. There are a lot of people who leave the military and the police who find it very hard firstly, to get a job and then to keep a job. Because what makes you successful in civilian life can be so distinct from what makes us successful in a military or a discipline service environment.
And what are the results they hope for? They want to feel wanted and useful again. You imagine this kind of person who’s gone into the army or the police or a paramedic, every day they’re doing something useful. They’re helping people and they’re part of a team that’s doing that. And that is something they miss enormously when they leave. So if we go back to that I love my husband far too much, and then look at how do you do that in the Westbourne College example, you’re not going to come out and say, are you lonely? And are you feeling disconnected from the world? But we went with this headline, rewarding the courage to learn. Become an in-demand candidate with the formal qualifications to tackle your next adventure.
You, if you’re a civilian, and I’ve always been a civilian, might read that and go, Okay, well, you know, that sounds good. So that sounds quite good for you. And Westbourne College would happily train you to do things. But their ideal reader is seeing something more than that, or feeling something more than that then you’re getting. So you’re getting an OK message. We’re not ruling you out. But we’re really talking to that person. You know, look again at those words, courage. These are people who have gone into professions requiring courage, whether you’re a police, paramedic, or military. You are on the line every day or you might be. You are saying that you are willing to be tested on the frontline. Become an in-demand candidate. We know these people feel at sea. They’re having trouble with HR, people who don’t understand their qualifications and who don’t think they’re fit for the job. In-demand speaks to that mentality. That is their hidden desire. Yes, I want a job. But the idea of being wanted again is very important.
And then more words in that subheading, tackle your next adventure. This is the personality of the people that we’re talking to. They have come out of jobs that they went into that clearly are physical, visceral jobs. And tackle and adventure is language that speaks to that. Then if we look at some of the more, you know, some of the body copy, you look at this line, they’ve won against odds that their future colleagues won’t be able to imagine. Earlier, we saw that quotation from somebody who said, these guys don’t understand what I’ve done. This 20-year-old HR person doesn’t understand what I’ve done. This sentence come straight out of that research. People have said, we’ve listened to them saying we’ve done things that you can’t imagine. So we’ve turned that into the copy. And that’s part of what I meant at the beginning when I said that copywriting isn’t really writing, you are assembling your research. I mean, yes, I’m undervaluing what a copywriter does by saying it’s not writing. But you are assembling things and ideally, whipping stuff out of what you’ve read and what you’ve learned from interviewing the client and their clients. And reflecting that language right back at the punter.
So a second paragraph, they’re coming up against first line. So this is you, we’re making it they because we were making it about our students, but really, we’re talking to you. They’re coming up against first line employment screeners who don’t understand the lives our students have led, or what they’ve achieved. Again, ripped right out of that research. So all of this language goes right through all of the text. So just pulling out some of the stuff. You know, our team shares your ethos. Our instructors have served. You know, that language. Served because they have served. They’ve been in the police. They’ve been in the military. We share a common language, you know, the language of this site. There are lots of different ways that we could have written this site. But we chose very deliberately a feeling of community, of joining a group, of being close to people who understand you. You have left that team environment and we’re saying we can give that back to you.
We’ll give it to you straight. We know from the research that people find civilians bafflingly vague and difficult and immersed in their office politics. We’ll give it to you straight. Rigorous, robust, power, unlock. You know, these sorts of words are speaking directly to that person. But they’re not putting anybody else off. If you read a website that said, somebody is going to give it to you straight and we share a common language with you and you know, you’re going to get a robust course, that’s not going to sound unpleasant to somebody who’s not in the exact target audience. But again, it’s speaking to those things that the clients can’t tell you themselves. You know, what they truly desire, the group they want to belong to and the results that they really hope for. So this is, you know, this is how you take your research and you turn it into copy.
The mistake that I think a lot of people make when they’re writing their own copy is that they just go out there and write about what do I do. But what you do has different meanings and level of importance and different lenses that it can be looked at depending on who you do it for. So, you know, when, when, a couple of years after I was in Australia for instance, I joined a surf lifesaving club at Manly and I became a bronze medallion person and become a patrol captain and instructor. And what I was looking for from it was a group of people. And I made some really good friends out of that. The best man at my wedding was somebody that I met out of that. So what I wanted from that was something completely different from somebody else who needs their bronze medallion because they want to compete in Surf Lifesaving events, and you need your bronze medallion to do that.
So what you offer always has to be looked at through the lens of the person who’s reading it, because if their material had just said, join the Surf Lifesaving club, do the bronze medallion and you’ll be qualified to enter Surf Lifesaving competitions, I would have had no interest in doing it at all. So you might need to cover more bases. But you certainly just don’t write what you do. Because it’s not, you know, it’s not the same. You’re not going to get that connection with somebody. And if one of your competitors is building that connection because they’ve taken the time to think about it more closely, then you’re going to get a much better result.
Now I’m going to, that’s 20 minutes of talking about that. And now I did promise that we would go live some questions and Shalini’s question was leftover from last week. So I want to answer that first. But if you’re watching live, please put your questions into the comments box. And I will try to get to as many as possible. And if I can’t answer them all, I’ll pick them up next week if it’s a question I think that I can answer. And again, we love it when you click like, subscribe, connect. And if you want to get onto our mailing list where there’s lots more tips that will come at you directly. You can go to taleist.agency/SOS, and sign up there and also ask a question in advance if you would like to.
How do I bill my clients?
So Shalini asked, Shalini is a copywriter. And she’s new to website copywriting. And she asks that she doesn’t quite know how to build my clients. Can you shed some light on the right metrics, like the number of words and the number of pages doesn’t take that into account? We do actually, Shalini, have an article on the website called How to Choose a Website Copywriter. So if you search Taleist. If you go to Google and search Taleist, and How to Choose a Website Copywriter, there’s a lot in there, which is aimed at our clients to help them to understand why we charge the way that we do. It boils down to from your point of view as a copywriter, that as you’re saying in the, in the bit that’s cut off there on the screen. But it’s, you know, the number of words and pages doesn’t take into account as Shalini says, factors like complexity and brevity and so on.
So one, it’s going to take you longer to write something brief. Secondly, yes, complexity is a huge thing. We’ve got an example that I’d love to be able to have, you know, the computer ability to pull up and show you right now that was for a medical device. The copy, if you would have read it is incredibly simple. And you read that copy, and you would understand exactly what this device promises to do, and why you might want to have it. But it was days and days of work on our part to understand the device and what it did and the research and because we had the manufacturer’s information about it. It was incredibly opaque. We had some scieBut more accessible stuff. I always suggest I think that people start with Joe Sugarman, who wrote the Advertising Week Handbook. There is a post on the Taleist agency website called 12 Books Every Copywriter Should Read. So I would highly recommend going to that and seeing what those 12 books are and starting there. Because if you want to write, the first thing you should be doing is reading. And if you want to write well, then reading books for from people who you know, have been there before you is great. But there are also some suggestions in there that aren’t technically writing books. So there’s Influence by Robert Caldini for instance, which is a phenomenal book that anybody who wants to be involved in marketing of any kind, but particularly writing, should definitely read.nce that was, you know, difficult to understand. And we had to read all of that and synthesize all of that and find a way to explain it. So yeah, you would absolutely look at that landing page and go well, that probably took him half an hour. Of course, it didn’t take us, days of work because of what you had to absorb and then synthesize into something very simple.
You know, you think about planting a seed and a shoot appears. The shoot looks terribly simple, but a lot has gone into making that seed and the ground around it that supports it to grow and look so simple. So we do everything on a project basis. And that’s the short answer to your question because the scope of the project is something you have to consider. So the output might be three words. You know, if Nike says we want a slogan and we want it to be about three words. If you charge by the word which is one of the most common ways that people want copywriters to charge, you’re charging for three words, but it’s not three words. You’d have to do all the research into Nike’s customers and what do they want, and who are they, and what’s their mindset, and what do they really want from that pair of shoes or that sports outfit. Which isn’t I needed a sports outfit. It’s I want to feel like an Olympian or a pro basketball player or, you know, like, I can do anything. Like I can just do it. Oh, okay. Well, there’s, there’s your, there’s your slogan. It’s not just three words.
When you pay a copywriter by the page or by the word, you are incentivizing somebody to write too much. And you never ever want to write too much. Like long copy will always convert better than short copy, but not because it’s long. It’s because it says the right things in the fewest possible number of words. So doing things by time and page and words doesn’t take that into account. And you’re absolutely right. Because, you know, Shalini is new in the game. I’ve been in the game for more than 20 years. So it’s entirely possible that I would write something faster than Shalini. Not necessarily better, but faster. And why should I get paid less for doing it faster. You know, you wouldn’t pay a surgeon more because they rooted around in you longer. You would pay the surgeon who could come in and get out quickly, having done the job properly, is the guy you’d pay the most money to.
So time is not a good measure of a lot of things. And also when somebody pays you by the hour or by the word, they’re not taking into account all the hours and years that you have spent getting good enough to be able to do that in an hour. You know, I might have a client ask me a question that I can answer immediately. But I can answer it immediately because I put 20 years of work and study into what I do for a living. So that’s not going to be accounted for in an hourly rate.
And also, if we’re going to be perfectly frank, Shalini, sometimes clients have a view on how much you should earn. And therefore if you tell them the hourly rate and how many hours you put into it, they’d be horrified. You know, if you said to a client, that’s going to be $1,000 and it delivers $100,000 worth of value, but they find out it took you five minutes because you’re really really good at it. Why shouldn’t you just charge for, you know, $10 because it took you 10 minutes. That, you know, that is ridiculous. So always remember, when you’re putting new quotes together, that the client is not just getting your time. They are getting the benefit of all the effort you’ve put into getting where you are today. And that’s not just copywriting effort. If you spent 20 years as a solicitor or an accountant or a geologist, you know, you might be bringing all of that experience to bear as well. So remember that they’re not buying words, and not all words are created equal. The 10 words that one person writes and the 10 words that I write might have completely different impacts, and therefore they are not worth the same.
If I want to be a good writer, where should I go to find resources?
So thank you for that question. Shalini. Who else had a question that I can answer quickly because we are running out of time. Matt asked in LinkedIn, if I want to be a good writer, where should I go to find resources? If you want to be good copywriter, like I mean, obviously writing is fiction and poetry and essays and there’s all kinds of different writing. But if you want to be a persuasive writer, my suggestion is go beyond the modern books. The modern books on copywriting tend to be books that are derivative of the work of some of the legends of copywriting. So the first book, you know, that comes to mind is Claude Hopkins Scientific Advertising, which is from the 1920s. And there’s a temptation for people to think, oh well, it was written in the 1920s. So of course, Claude didn’t know anything about the internet. So that can’t possibly be relevant to me. But Claude knew a lot about human psychology measurement and what people find persuasive. And none of that has changed. Just because the medium you use today is email and not the post, for instance.
But more accessible stuff. I always suggest I think that people start with Joe Sugarman, who wrote the Advertising Week Handbook. There is a post on the Taleist agency website called 12 Books Every Copywriter Should Read. So I would highly recommend going to that and seeing what those 12 books are and starting there. Because if you want to write, the first thing you should be doing is reading. And if you want to write well, then reading books for from people who you know, have been there before you is great. But there are also some suggestions in there that aren’t technically writing books. So there’s Influence by Robert Caldini for instance, which is a phenomenal book that anybody who wants to be involved in marketing of any kind, but particularly writing, should definitely read. But there is an overlap. You know, I said there’s a difference between copywriting and writing a novel or a poem, for instance. But we’ve got Stephen King’s on writing in that. And you know whether or not you are a fan of Stephen King’s writing is irrelevant. The man has written 1000 novels and a million short stories and umpteen television shows. So what he doesn’t know about writing isn’t worth knowing. And he’s got some really crystal-clear tips in that book that applies to you whatever you want to write.
That’s the half an hour mark. So thank you very much to everybody who’s asked a question and everybody who’s joined us today. If you are with us, and you haven’t clicked that like, subscribe, and comment button and I, you know, haven’t begged you hard enough, please do click it. If you’re watching the recording, or you’re listening to the podcast, you know, we always appreciate a review. It does, it does encourage us to continue. So if you’ve got this far, maybe you want to encourage us to continue to do it again. And therefore we would really appreciate your comment. And thank you to Charmaine and Shalini who have both just said that the session was very useful. And you know, I do love the feedback. So thank you very much. And go to taleist.agency/SOS to sign up to ask any questions you have in advance. And also, you’ll be on our mailing list where we send out tips twice a week. Actionable tips twice a week. See you at the next Stand Out session.