When you sit down to write copy, does your mind feel emptier than a jar of peanut butter after a drunken midnight craving?
(Not judging, we’ve all been there.)
You know what MIGHT be the reason you’re struggling?
You’re not following a copywriting process.
Having the right process is the secret to consistently writing great copy – because it sets you up for success.
It helps you plan before you ever put virtual pen to paper and makes your copy so much more strategic, effective and relevant.
In this blog post, I’ll walk you through my conversion copywriting process step-by-step. I’ll explain why each part is absolutely crucial to winning hearts (and wallets) with your words.
Are you a copywriter leveling up your workflow? A business owner tackling your own marketing? This blog post is for you.
Ready? Let’s dive in!
Copywriting Process Step One: Research & Discovery
Copy is not written. If anyone tells you ‘you write copy’, sneer at them. Copy is not written. Copy is assembled. You do not write copy, you assemble it. You are working with a series of building blocks, you are putting the building blocks together, and then you are putting them in certain structures. You are building a little city of desire for your person to come and live in.
- Eugene Schwartz
I’m far too Canadian to sneer at anyone, but I know Eugene Schwartz is right about this. When it comes to writing conversion copy, the process begins with hunting and gathering raw materials. Then, you can begin collaging them together to create a convincing, persuasive argument.
That’s why every copywriting project should start with some good ol fashioned research.
Why? Because the research phase helps us decide what we’re going to say to the customers, and why.
We need to understand how the product solves a need for the customer. To know that, we need to find out what they were struggling with before they decided to seek it out. Without that important step in the copywriting process, you’re merely guessing at what the audience will respond to.
How To Conduct Research
Here are just a few of the ways we can learn about your clients during the Research & Discovery stage.
- Client Interview: For me, and for many other copywriters, every copywriting project starts with a detailed client questionnaire. I use it to learn more about your product and the problems it is solving for your customers.
- Reviews & Testimonials: Read through reviews of your product to find out how real people describe the their needs and their experience of using it. (We can even quote them verbatim – otherwise known as using “Voice of Customer.”)
- Review Mining: If you don’t have a lot of customer reviews already, or we need a broader feel for what people have said about your product category in general – we can look at reviews for other similar products and services. The key is to look for what people loved about this product, how they felt when purchasing it and how it improved their lives.
- Interviews: Interviewing customers is incredibly valuable for discovering how they think about your product and what led to their decision to buy it.
- Competitor Analysis: Taking a closer look at the messaging your competition is using. What makes you different (your Unique Selling Proposition) and how can you convey that?
- Social Listening: Exploring the forums, groups and other online spaces where your customers hang out can give some fascinating information. Listen in when they talk about your product, or products like yours and use these insights to inform the copy.
Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive and the research stage takes many forms. And while it’s the first stage in the process here – it actually never really ends. A good copywriter will always be learning more and more about the audience, the market and the product. They will form a deeper connection with the customer with each piece of copy they create.
Copywriting Process Step Two: Outlining Strategy
“Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.”
- Ernest Hemingway.
Once we know who we are talking to and what we are going to say to them, it’s time to figure out how we are going to say it. In other words, it’s time to decide which copywriting frameworks to use.
What’s a copywriting framework? It’s a structural outline you can apply to your copy, which will help you build an argument in the most persuasive way.
For example, one of the most popular tried-and-true copywriting frameworks is PAS – Problem, Agitate, Solution.
- Problem: Start with empathic copy that demonstrates you understand the problem your reader has been struggling with.
- Agitation: Heighten emotion by emphasising the pain points this problem causes. How frustrated do they feel about not having solved it yet? How much better will they feel once the pain is gone?
- Solution: Present your product or service as the solution to this problem.
This is just one of many dozens of copywriting frameworks used in persuasive marketing. The Strategy Stage is less about choosing the ultimate “best” framework, but more about the power of having a framework in the first place.
“Why Do I Need a Framework?”
You might be wondering what would happen if you skipped this step. What if you just started typing with no plan or structure in place? Letting your words wander down the page like a day-drunk backpacker wandering down a cobblestone street in search of the perfect sunset vista?
Sounds like fun, but it’s not the best approach for effective copy.
If you start writing copy without a structure or an outline in place, you don’t know where you’re going. It’s easy to get sidetracked, wander off on a tangent and lose your focus. A clear outline ensures that each part of the copy is there for a reason and serves a purpose. Each element builds on the one that came before it, adding up to a persuasive argument in the mind of your reader.
Before I write any piece of copy, I create an outline first. I decide which frameworks are the best fit for the product and the audience. That way, when I’m writing I always know WHY I’m including each section and what purpose it will serve in convincing the reader.
Copywriting Process Step Three: Writing & Revisions
This is when I pour myself a mug of hot coffee, stream some lofi beats on my cartoonishly large headphones and hyperfocus on synthesising everything from Steps One and Two into fresh, relatable copy that sounds natural and engaging.
I don’t usually write in a linear way. Instead, it’s like I’m painting a huge mural and the framework I built in Stage Two is the scaffolding. I use it to climb around to different parts of the copy, adding in phrases and details where they fit. I’ll step back every now and then to make sure everything fits together and flows well.
Because I’ve already figured out the strategy and the outline, this step is simply about building what I have already planned to build.
Of course, sometimes I stumble across things during the writing process that cause me to rearrange or re-adjust my plans, but if I do there’s usually good reason for that.
After I write the first draft I step away from the computer screen for a while and go do something else. For example, I get some exercise, walk my dog or just go chill out and read a book for a while. I need to step away and come back before giving the piece a final read-over. It helps me approach the copy with fresh eyes so I can spot any final tweaks before sending.
Then, I’ll send the piece – accompanied with a Loom video explaining how I’ve executed on the strategy. Once I get feedback, I do any final tweaks, finishing touches and little flourishes.
Voila! The copy is written and ready to go live!
Copywriting Process Step Four: Testing & Iterating
Oh, so you thought that once we wrote the copy and sent it out into the world, we were done? Heaven forbid we stop there! This is where the real learning begins.
Once we unleash the copy into the wild and watch it work its magic, we’ll get an even better insight into your audience. At this stage, it’s all about gathering the juicy data and analysing open rates, click-through rates and conversions.
Armed with these insights, I can then suggest tweaks and A/B testing to squeeze even more conversions from the copy. The more you observe and test, the more you learn about the audience and everything you learn can be applied to future copy to make it even more effective.
The good news is, the longer you write copy for one specific audience, the more you’ll learn about them and the better and more focused your copy will be. This is why, generally, the longer you work with a copywriter the better results you get.
Remember: without testing and observing how your audience responds, you’re still only guessing and you’re missing out on valuable insights that will help you improve your ROI.
Then, Rinse and Repeat!
What happens after this, when the next landing page or email sequence needs to be written? We start at the beginning and follow the process again!
Everything you learn about your audience in the testing phase becomes research, which you can then use to inform the next piece of copy you write. You’ll build up an in-depth understanding of your market and what messages work and don’t work, so you can refine your offer.
With this process, each subsequent project for the same product and audience will only get better, because you’re gaining a deeper and deeper understanding of how the product fits into the customer’s lives and what they are thinking when they press that buy button.
Note: Your Process May Vary
I want to note here that this is my process that I follow for the vast majority of my client work. You may need to adjust it slightly depending on your industry, your niche or the particular requirements of the project. As long as you include the basic important elements, you can tweak this process to fit your needs.
There are a lot of factors that might require you to adjust this process, for example:
- Clients with stringent legal requirements: You may be writing for a client who has specific legal restrictions on what they can and cannot say. In that case, the revisions stage might involve sending the copy to the legal team to get it verified.
- Varying goals: Each project you tackle might have it’s own set of objectives that require adjustments to the process. For example, one project might aim to increase sales while another one will focus on driving brand awareness. So, you’ll likely approach the strategy stage differently in order to achieve these aims.
- Restrictions of the platform/medium: Whether you’re writing copy for emails, websites, social media or print materials will impact your process. Each medium requires specific considerations, such as character limits, interactive components and visual elements.
- Time constraints: Working on a project that needed to completed yesterday? While rush jobs are not ideal, they do happen sometimes. Don’t give up the core elements of research, strategy, writing and testing, but you may need to streamline the project as much as possible. For example, do more targeted research, or rely on existing research the client has already done, or reduce the number of iterations during testing.
The conversion copywriting process is always adaptable and can be adjusted to meet the specific needs of each project. It helps to see it as more of an approach to working and understand why each step is there, rather than following it like a strict step-by-step formula.
For Better Copy Success, You Need a Process
So there you have it – a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what is actually going on while I’m chugging coffee and bingeing low-fi beats.
Following a process is the secret to making each copywriting project more successful and writing copy that is based on research, data and thoughtful strategy.
By diving deep into research, crafting a killer strategy, nailing the writing and editing, and continuously testing and iterating, you’ll give your words as much persuasive power as possible.