A Practical Marketers Guide to Writing for Conversion

By , December 2nd, 2012 in Landing Pages | 21 comments
The practical marketer listens to her customers, to craft informed landing page copy that converts. (Image source)

PSST! Want more landing page copywriting wisdom? Check out Joanna’s ebook, The Conversion Marketer’s Guide to Landing Page Copywriting.

Lately, everyone has the same answer for every copywriting, business or marketing question:

Go ask your visitors, customers and prospects.

If you want to know what product to build so you have a successful startup, people like Dane Maxwell and Amy Hoy, in her 30×500 course, will tell you to pick up the phone and interview a prospect… or take your ideal customer for coffee and pick her brain… or send out a survey.

If you wanna know what messages to put on your home page or landing page, I’ll tell you the same thing. And, if the late great copywriter Gene Schwartz were around, he’d tell you the same thing.

If you want to write great copy, swipe it from your visitors, customers and prospects.


Why, though? Why should you look to your customers first for messaging? Because the more you reflect what people are thinking, feeling and experiencing when they arrive on your landing page, the greater the likelihood that they will trust you, believe you’ve created the solution to their problems and buy from you.

Great. Okay. Solid advice. Sounds good.

…But now what?


How do you actually ACT on that advice?

How do you practically use customer feedback to create new messages?

After all, you can schedule an interview with a former client, and you can get them on the phone – that’s all easy enough – but what questions do you ask once you’ve got them there? And what do you do with their answers? Add to that the challenge of taking survey feedback from 100 people – what the Helsinki do you do with all of that voice-of-customer data?!

If the best messages come from customers, how do you actually – in practical ways – find those messages?

Here is exactly how I use survey responses to write high-converting landing page copy for my clients.

Note that, although I focus on survey feedback here, all of the following steps can be used for interviews and other methods of gathering customer feedback. I focus on surveys for the sake of blog-post brevity.

Step 1: Ask Questions You’ll Use Answers To

asking the right questions

When it comes to crafting landing page copy using voice-of-customer (VOC) data, there are 2 paths you can take:

  1. The first path is where you draft copy for a page… and then use your VOC data to turn your Draft 1 into Draft 2 / Final copy
  2. The second path is where you survey people and then edit or reshape your copy based on VOC data

Regardless of which path you take, you’ll depend on survey responses to help you write or refine copy for your landing pages:

  • Headline
  • Subhead
  • Body (which will usually be comprised of key benefits and favorite features or services)
  • Primary / main call to action

There are truly hundreds of questions you could ask customers. There are so many questions that I regularly get emails from people asking me to come out with a list of survey questions – because no one wants to waste their customers’ time answering questions that will fall into an abyss.

So here are the top questions I ask customers. I can easily turn the responses to these questions into on-page copy, which makes my life easier and consistently boosts conversions for my clients:

Question Response Field Type What It Will Tell You That You Can Use in Your Landing Page Copy
1 When did you realize you needed a product like ours? What was going on in your world that caused you to come looking for [your product offering]? Paragraph text Knowing what triggered a search for or purchase of your product / service can help you write body copy that directly addresses the exact situation your prospect may be in.
2 What problem would you say [your company or product name] eliminates or lessens for you? Single-line text Kibosh or validate any assumptions you may have about the value your customers truly get from your product / service. What you think people want and need is not always what they actually want and need from you.
3 Why did you choose us? Multiple choice (select max 3) You’ll need these responses to rank what’s most important to your visitors… so you can determine your messaging hierarchy.
4 What 2 adjectives / words would you use to describe our [product/service]? Single-line text Although you think your software is beautifully designed and inexpensive, your paying customers may think it’s easy to learn and simply designed.
5 What title best describes you? Radio buttons (select 1) Prospects need to know if your solution is right for them! The sooner you know whom it’s right for, the sooner you can message such to your visitors.

YOUR TURN: Draft a survey in SurveyMonkey or a similar tool to email to your customers. Make sure the above 5 questions are in that survey. Email an invitation to the survey.

Step 2: Analyze the Raw Data…Without Summarizing it

Let’s get this straight: I’m a copywriter. I’m not a market researcher. I don’t talk about statistical significance at parties. I’m not trying to win awards for Best Survey Analysis. I’m just trying to move more units for myself and my clients. So my data mining methodology will probably make most of you laugh – but it works.

Start by [downloading this free template], which has clean, separate pages with the following headers:

  1. Most Common Purchase Prompts
  2. WHaLP Assessment
  3. Messaging Hierarchy
  4. How to Describe [Product / Company Name]
  5. Target Audience

Take the raw data and fill in the 5 pages. Resist the temptation to summarize. Copy and paste verbatim from your survey into your Word doc.

Under Most Common Purchase Prompts, we order the responses to Question 1 in order of frequency of appearance
(There are normally a lot of similar responses and a smattering of outliers. Unless we have a reason to think otherwise, we focus on the similar responses.) This will help us understand what people are going through that’s driving them to seek out your solution and visit your page; when we know this, we can reflect the various cases or situations in our copy.


Under WHaLP Assessment, we create a table
The table has these 4 columns: Wants, Hates, Lacks / Needs / Can’t Do, Problems. The responses to Question 2 will usually fit nicely into each of the four columns, though you may need to make a judgment call sometimes. In case it’s not obvious what goes in each column, the first is where you’ll paste verbatims that speak to what your customers most want from you; the second is what your customers most hated about life before you; the third is filled with all their statements about the things they were lacking that you had (or the things they couldn’t do); and the fourth includes all the explicit references to their problems.

By the time you’ve completed your WHaLP Assessment, you should have a good sense of what deficiencies people believe they have and what problems you can solve. This assessment will be the basis of your body copy.


Under Messaging Hierarchy, we order the responses to Question 3 in order of frequency of selection
This is really easy. Most survey tools can even turn the answer to Q3 into a graph for you… so you can skip the manual labor old-school copywriters like yours truly use and just insert the graph. Your Messaging Hierarchy will guide you as you organize the order of the messages on your landing page. With it, you’ll know what to focus on at the top of the page (i.e., the most commonly mentioned reason for choosing you), and what can be subordinated to a single line of body copy somewhere down the page.


Under How to Describe [Product / Company Name], create a table with 2 columns: Adjectives and Frequency
Paste adjectives in – taking care with seemingly synonymous adjectives – and then give a little tick under Frequency every time that adjective appears. At the end of it all, reorder the adjectives so the most commonly used ones are at the top, showing you at a glance what words are most associated with your product, service or company. …And now you know what descriptive words to use instead of taking a wild stab at ‘em.


Finally, under Target Audience, order the responses to Question 5 so you end up with a clear understanding of whom you should be targeting with your messaging
It may not be the group you’d expected. And you should be prepared, if you’re surprised by the results, to either trust them and roll with it or run a split-test of a landing page that targets X audience vs one that targets Y audience.


YOUR TURN: Create the Word doc as described, and fill it in using the responses to your survey. It doesn’t take nearly as long as you may think – block off an afternoon to do it – and it’s truly the most important step you may take as you write your landing page copy. Don’t skip it!

Step 3: Plug their Words into Single Copy Formulas

With the answers to the 5 questions, you could easily fill in this compelling headline and subhead combo:

The [Most Popular Adjective] Way for [Target Audience] to [Top Pain Lessened]
If you’re [most common purchase prompt], [2nd pain lessened]
with a [second-most popular adjective] [your offering]

Completed using VOC data, that might look like so:

The Budget-Friendly Way for “Lean Startup” Developers to Create Beautiful Apps
If you’re planning to submit to the App Store soon, make sure your app stands out
with a clean, modern design by App Design Vault

Done! Great headline. Great subhead. No thinking.

Do you see how easy that was?

…Okay, it gets easier the more you practice.

But you can clearly see that, with no more than the responses to those 5 basic questions, you can take a headline formula – psst: there are 100s of ‘em out there – and actually write the headline and subhead for your landing page.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. You do not need to exercise any sort of creativity, and it’s actually better if you don’t.

Just take what they tell you. And plug it in.

When it comes time to write body copy, your Messaging Hierarchy and WHaLP Assessment will help you know in what order to put messages and what exactly those messages should be. The purer you keep the VOC data, the less you’ll have to rely on yourself to write copy… because you can simply swipe their words for your copy. That is the best trick any copywriter could ever teach you, so don’t overthink it – just do it.

YOUR TURN: Using the headline and subhead formulas above, craft your own headline and subhead for your landing page. Then take a stab at ordering your messages down the page, complete with verbatim feedback from customers, which you can turn into polished copy once you’re done your first draft.

Step 4: Write Compelling Calls to Action

We’ve seen how to go about crafting your landing page headline, subhead and body. But what about your calls to action?

The copy on the primary call to action should speak to what visitors want to do right now on your landing page. To know that, I would do a quick Qualaroo survey on the page in question and simply ask, “What would you most like to do on this page?” The responses should be turned into a call to action.

But a button with words on it is only one part of the conversion battle. How do you compel people to click?

The responses to Questions 2 and 3 can get you there. The following button, which is on a page treatment that is currently being tested, with a lift of 215% for the page featuring this button, incorporates responses to Question 3:

botton-copy

We learned from survey respondents that the top-most reasons for choosing this particular company’s offerings were:

  1. Large selection
  2. Professional designs
  3. Included sample code

BTW, that button is on a page that follows exactly the steps I’ve laid out here. It’s being tested against a non-optimized landing page that has no such call to action. The test reached statistical confidence yesterday – with a lift of 284% – but we’re not shutting it off yet; I’ll write more about the winning results in the future.

YOUR TURN: If you don’t already have optimized button copy, do a Qualaroo survey as described in Step 4. Then, increase the chances of your button getting clicked by using your Question 3 responses to write the “click triggers” for it.


That is all. There is no magic to it. There is no writerly genius. There is only a practical application of responses from actual paying customers. Which is sort of genius in itself.

…But maybe you’re still wondering whether you need to go through the “hassle” of creating a survey, writing an email to your customers to invite them to take it, and analyzing their responses. Maybe you’re the exception. Maybe the highest converting messages possible are living inside your head right now, and all you have to do is type them out.

Okay. Maybe.

So go ahead.

Try.

Put your fingers on the keyboard and write your headline, your subhead, your body copy and your call to action.

…Not that easy, is it?

Facing the blank white page or an empty template is often intimidating. No copywriter in their right mind would take on the blank page without boatloads of data to get them started. So why should you be any different from top copywriters?

Don’t be intimidated. Don’t make copywriting hard.

Instead, just trust your customers. Trust what they’re telling you. Because they have been through something you haven’t: they’ve had a problem, sought out a solution and chosen yours.

You are writing copy for people who are willing to pay for your solution. You are not writing copy for yourself. Keep that in mind, and the conversions will flow.

– Joanna Weibe


This is a guest post, all opinions are those of the author.

Joanna Wiebe is a conversion-focused copywriter and the founder of Copy Hackers, where startups learn to write copy. Sign up for her free weekly newsletter and follow her on Twitter.

Comments

  1. […] http://unbounce.com/landing-pages/write-copy-using-customer-feedback/ Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in Conversion Optimisation by leapb4ulook. Bookmark the permalink. […]

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  3. Carol Lynn says:

    This is fantastically thorough and the best part is that I didn’t walk away with a headache wondering how on earth I could possibly implement it. Surveys can be so powerful – as you’ve just shown – and they’re not hard to put together or deploy. This is very plug-and-play advice which makes it easy for anyone stepping out on this ledge to try. I’ve added this to my bookmarks for reference for sure.

    • Joanna Wiebe says:

      Thanks, Carol Lynn! I’ll admit I was slightly worried that the outcome of this post would be headaches for many :) , but it’s great to hear that that’s not the case. At least not for you. :)

  4. […] A Practical Marketers Guide to Writing for Conversion, unbounce.com […]

  5. Ruth Zive says:

    Fabulous, practical post. But I think that there is one small consideration missing. In the customer survey, I would include some type of benchmarking question to explore if they considered the competition, and if so, why they chose your company. Understanding your value within the context of the competition’s offering helps to craft messaging that highlights those differentiating qualities.

    • Joanna Wiebe says:

      Hi, Ruth — agreed! There are definitely other questions to ask in a survey; I have a standard list of 9, but I only included 5 here… ‘cos you can’t give away all your secrets! ;) Actually, I only included 5 Qs here because, for this copy exercise, I only “needed” the answers to 5 questions to craft the copy. But great point! More, especially competitor info, could help round this out.

  6. Kartikey says:

    Wow ! Thanks for that great article, I really enjoyed it. And yes leared a lot.

  7. Webwings says:

    Wow Joanna, what a great approach to tapping into the language of your customers. We do a lot of customer centric design and use face-to-face conversations for that and it never occurred to me that the same principles could be applied to copy writing through surveys. It’s a low-cost method of getting great information.

    I’m going to try it and see how it fares against one of my current landing pages.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Joanna Wiebe says:

      That’s awesome, Webwings! :) It’s not only low-cost but highly effective. Share the results of your test! And be careful to use the language your customers use instead of summarizing their points.

  8. […] You take the exact phrasing that your visitors, customers and users use… and feed it back to them in your headlines, body copy and click-triggers. You should check out my Unbounce post to see exactly how to do this […]

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  10. Mike Monday says:

    Thank you Joanna!

    That table of questions to ask in a survey to get what information is the most insanely useful thing I have seen in months!!!

    Brilliant. I am now going to amend my surveys forthwith.

  11. […] статьи опубликован на сайте Unbounced. Там же вы можете найти шаблон документа Word на […]

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  13. Ruben says:

    I recently read ‘Creating Customer Evangelists’ and one of the first things I put into practice with a client is a series of surveys to their customer lists. Some of the things they wrote were (High pitched female voice) amaaaaaaaaaaazing! I am literally going to take what they said, change the I’s to you’s, and use it in the marketing material in some places, as testimonials in others. Can it get any better than that? I love my job!

    P.S. I’m modifying the survey questions to match closer to the ones you shared in this article. Thanks for sharing Joanna. You have quickly become one of my most favoritest mentors.

  14. e-cigarette says:

    tell you the same thing. And, if the late great copywriter Gene Schwartz were around, he’d tell you the same thing.

  15. […] Doing surveys, phone interviews, and user tests are all excellent ways of getting insights and ideas for relevant, high-converting content. For more on using surveys to get answers from your customers, check out this post. […]

  16. […] your customers’ language in your copy has been proven to increase your conversion rate. Use this 4-step process to gather the best customer language and feedback to strengthen your […]