This blog is based on an interview with Joanna Wiebe that originally appeared on the Stream Creative Marketing Blog.
Copywriters need a fresh approach to writing content. At least, that’s the opinion of Joanna Wiebe, creator of CopyHackers and cofounder of AirStory. In short, she helps copywriters and content marketers use their words to sell more stuff.
Joanna has helped clients like Crazy Egg, Tesco, Wistia, and Buffer do just that, and she’s been invited to teach conversion-focused writing on more than 80 international stages. She’s also been invited to our stage at the Experience Inbound marketing and sales conference being held in early June 2018 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay and Miller Park in Milwaukee to share her tips, tricks and actionable steps for writing better content.
In a recent video interview, she shared her wisdom and expertise, and we’ve gleaned portions of that conversation to share with you here.
How are Trends in Copywriting and Content Evolving?
I’m seeing a lot more businesses being open to investing money into content, which is great. But that means there’s greater pressures and fatigue among content creators. Creators are exhausted by the amount of work they do, and the people who hire them are exhausted by the money being put into it, and some aren’t necessarily seeing results. They’re asking, “How do we get this to pay for itself?”
It takes a lot of work to get noticed, and marketers are moving away from creating content just for the sake of creating content. Instead, the trend is to move toward actually generating new users, repeat visits, more referrals and quality traffic that does something — content that converts. It doesn’t matter if it’s short, long, video or written; what matters is doing the right thing to get readers to say yes.
What is the main challenge for copywriters?
With the advent of tools like optimization, A/B testing, personalization and various technology, copywriters are being driven from the creative space to a more conversion-focused space. Some marketers have been leveraging conversion rate optimization (CRO) and growth hacking for years, but smaller businesses are starting to think about it more now and adopted it.
They’re starting to realize that if their website, emails and social are all meant to not just get people to notice them, but to get those people to actually do something, then shouldn’t the words on the page be working harder? They’re asking, “Should I replace my welcome headline with something more likely to keep someone on the page and keep reading? What will get them to choose my business and convert?”
The shift toward conversion-focused writing is a healthy challenge for copywriters that I think they’ve been waiting for. They want to feel valued and know their work is helping convert, and it makes life better for copywriters.
Do you have a process for writing great content?
There’s a four-step process or framework that I’ve found great success with:
1. Listen to Customers
Find the message in what your customers — past, present and prospects — are saying. What is the sticky language or terms that resonate with them? Eavesdrop on forums and reviews about products, services, competitors, and other solutions similar to yours. There’s a ginormous wealth of things people are saying about products and services similar to yours. Read reviews, support tickets and customer service notes.
Also consider putting surveys on your thank you pages. Rather than telling people who just downloaded a content piece to look in their inbox, ask them to answer a question. Use the information you gather from listening as the core of what you’re going to write. A lot of people are kind of doing this, but it needs to always start with the voice of the customer.
2. Place Content in a Framework
Good copywriters follow a process. Take what you gather from customer research and place it into a formula or framework, then optimize parts of it — the headline, subhead, CTA, etc. Copywriters should take a framework and make it better, and write every sentence using copywriting best practices.
3. Edit in the Awesome
Often, we start with writing the headline and introduction, but it’s important to begin with getting the first draft in place. Then, add in tools and all the little extras to polish it. This is where you can get creative and edit in the awesome.
4. Test and Validate
Measuring performance is key, not only to optimization of existing posts but to improving your writing skills for future content.
Why is it so hard to find good copywriters?
When I talk about the four step framework for content that converts, most copywriters live in the third step of editing in the awesome; they start there and finish there.
It’s frustrating for CMOs and those hiring copywriters to have them live in the third step where they only care about making something sound good. But that’s only a small part of the job of writing.
Most copywriters gravitate toward and love the third step. Chances are, someone at some point told them they were good with words and, while that may be true, just because you’re a good writer doesn’t mean you’re a good copywriter.
Copywriters need to have discipline and be deliberate about learning steps one, two and four as well. Start with the voice of the customer and a proven framework first. If you don’t use a framework and just start putting words on a page, it’s not going to perform as well.
Is there one simple tip you can offer copywriters?
One of the simplest ways to get results is through review mining. Your eyes can be opened to the voice of the customer. I was asked to optimize a homepage for a drug rehabilitation center in Florida, and it was difficult to get the voice of the customer because of the intense emotional state of those who need such a service, in addition to their family members who often send them there. It’s hard to get honest answers and the timing of interviews in their recovery journey is difficult to gauge.
So, I went to Amazon and researched top-rated books about addiction and recovery — the kind that a lot of people might choose before sending someone they love to rehab. I wanted to understand what the final thing was that drove most people to finally go. There was a review from a man whose daughter had an addiction, and one thing he said stood out to me: If you think you need rehab, you do.
We did some testing with that as the headline on the organization’s homepage compared to a testimonial headline and a couple other options. The review-mining headline outperformed the others by a landslide. I just listened to what people were actually saying, and that language resonated better with people. It wasn’t about the outcome or the number of people who succeeded; it was about joining the conversation happening in their heads.
Can you give a sneak peak of your talk at the Experience Inbound conference?
My presentation, Creating Content that Converts, will go deeper into the conversion copywriting framework and how to apply it to content. I’ll walk you through the four-step process and how to use it, which might be different from how you’ve been doing it before. What if you could actually write content that gets the reader to buy? What if that was a new goal? Wouldn’t your boss or clients love you for that? It’s an important conversation to have.
Hear more from Joanna at Experience Inbound. Seats are filling up fast, so don’t delay. Get your tickets today!
June 5 at Miller Park, Milwaukee, WI (Sold out)
June 6 at Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI (Limited number of seats available)
To view the full video interview with Joanna, click here.