How To Balance Deep Copywriting Research With a Deadline

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All the words you see on product packaging, the marketing emails you receive, the websites you browse, and even the advertisements delivered to your mailbox exist thanks to a copywriter. 

Of course, all of these things require work from other people as well, but their jobs ultimately rely on the copy to form a final product. 

This means copywriters face pressure to deliver work under tight deadlines and don’t always have much time to research—which is an essential part of a copywriter’s job. Here’s how to optimize the research phase so you can deliver solid copy on time, every time.

Prioritizing Your Time For Copywriting Research

A copywriter who is new to a topic or industry will naturally need more time to research and understand the landscape before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). That said, even seasoned copywriters do plenty of research to make sure they’re delivering up-to-date information. 

It’s typically best for a copywriter to have a framework to guide their research. This helps keep them on track and away from the black hole of internet research that can easily gobble up a writer’s time and threaten their deadlines.

The first step in avoiding this is becoming familiar with the most common types of research a copywriter will do, along with strategies to stay on track and deliver great copy on time.

Market copywriting research

Imagine being asked to write copy for a company’s new website or a landing page for a larger marketing campaign. This type of copywriting is focused on marketing. Upon reading, you want readers to take action—whether that’s providing an email address, buying a product, or some other campaign goal.

It’s important to understand the overall market and target audience of this company’s products and services to accomplish this. At the same time, you also need to understand the brand’s voice and its position in the market. Keep in mind that you can even benefit from examining the performance of any pre-existing content to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t.

If you’re working with a client who has an internal marketing team, much of what you need should already be available. If not, then you need to do the research yourself. 

Remember that the point of your research is to gain a baseline of understanding for writing effective marketing copy for an individual campaign, not to become the world’s leading expert on the subject. 

As you progress as a copywriter, you’ll get a feel for when you’ve done enough research. A good rule of thumb is to work backward from your deadline. Block out enough time to write and polish copy, and then allocate the remaining time to research. You can even divide that research time into segments for everything you need to find. 

Remember that the key to success is to stick to the research time you’ve allocated. 

Market Research

Market research involves understanding the environment in which you’re selling a product or service and knowing who your primary competition is.

Get to know the market

Study trends, identify gaps and opportunities, and be aware of any external factors that might influence your word choice (like regulatory rules or laws). This is especially important if you’re writing about a topic in a highly regulated industry. 

Industry group websites typically produce reports that provide insights into the state of their respective markets, making them a good place to start. If these reports are expensive, try looking for online news coverage of the reports, which will give you some of the data insights for free.

Research tools like Buzzsumo, Semrush, and Hootsuite can also provide insights into trends, and market data can often be found on websites like Statista and Gartner Group.

Study the competition

By reviewing the websites of your direct competitors, you can get a feel for their tone, language, and style. Look at their products and services to identify strengths and weaknesses and how they position their offerings in the marketplace.

Audience Research

You want to know as much as possible about the audience that will read your writing. You need to understand what their pain points are, what motivates them, where to find them, and how to solve their problems.

Learn about your target audience

Identify the demographics of your audience, including things like age, zip code, and income level. Social channels have analytics tools that give insights about followers, so these can be a good place to start. 

Similarly, Google Analytics will tell you where website visitors are coming from and provide other demographic information. Paid and free tools like Semrush and SurveyMonkey can be useful here as well.

You also want to understand the psychographics of your audience members, such as lifestyle, attitudes, and beliefs. This can help you identify their common needs and pain points, what motivates them, and what they desire. You can typically find out this information by gathering various types of audience feedback and by monitoring social channels.

Review audience feedback

Look at interviews, surveys, and focus group information that already exists online. Browse comments and ratings from existing customers, especially on external review sites like Trustpilot and G2. Analyze this information to gain clarity on customer preferences and perceptions.

Monitor social channels

Pay attention to what people say about the brand and its products/services on popular social channels, including Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Just by reading the comments, you can often detect pain points, common questions, and attitudes. 

Create customer personas

In a perfect world, the client you’re writing for will already have customer persona information available. Sometimes there will be a singular persona, sometimes more than one if the brand’s target audience can be segmented. If these personas exist, study them and understand them to improve your understanding.

If no customer personas are available, take the data you gathered in your market and audience research and sketch out your idea of the ideal customer. Use this persona to guide your writing.

Content Analysis

If you’re creating copy from scratch for a brand new business, there may not be a lot of existing content to look at. 

In most cases, however, your client will already be established, so you will be adding to content that is already online. This means there’s probably a wealth of data available for you to review.

Analyze content across channels

Review existing marketing materials, including website content, social media posts, email campaigns, and advertisements. Get a feel for the tone and voice that’s in place. Then look at behind-the-scenes analytics to see what’s performing well. 

Most popular tools, like Mailchimp, have analytics you can view, and pretty much all social media channels have useful analytics tools as well. Likewise, if the websites are connected to Google Analytics, then you can look at the analytics data to identify what’s working and what’s not.

Keyword Research

When the words you write end up online, SEO should be an important consideration during your research. While the days of successful keyword stuffing are long gone, search engines still try to match the search intentions of users to useful online content. Meanwhile, you want your copy to be among the top search results.

You can use SEO tools to find out what’s trending in terms of user searches. There are also free tools like Amazon Keyword Search and paid options like Semrush. If you don’t have the budget, even some of the paid tools, like Moz, offer limited free keyword research.

Product copywriting research

If you’re tasked with writing about products, you’ll still want to gather a lot of the same information you’ll find by doing marketing copywriting research. That said, you’ll also need to do some product-specific research to get the most out of your time.

Get to know the product

It’s no surprise that you need to understand a product well to write effective copy about it. The following steps can help. 

Learn the product inside-out

You want to understand the details of a product’s features and its specifications. You should understand how the product works, the materials it is made from, the problems it’s meant to solve, what makes it unique from similar products on the market, and how to use it safely and effectively. 

To gather this knowledge, you can read product information materials such as technical specifications, data safety sheets, and instruction manuals. You can also test the product yourself to get first-hand experience with it. Just remember to approach the product as if you are a new user and take note of what is intuitive and what needs further explanation.

Talk to product managers and engineers

Talking to the people responsible for making the product is usually the fastest way to learn about it in-depth. Oftentimes, these people can even give you insights that are not available elsewhere. 

Consider conducting interviews with product managers to help you understand the product development arc from inception to release. If you need more, talking to the engineers can give you insight into the problems they had to overcome during the design and manufacturing process. 

Analyze the competition

Knowing what the competition is doing can help you position your own products. Consider doing the following: 

Identify similar products in the marketplace

Look for online product information such as technical specs, instruction manuals, and other documentation. Study the features and benefits while comparing them to your own products. This will help you identify opportunities for positioning your product to stand out.

Study competitor branding and packaging

Look at how the competition talks about its products, especially the language, tone, and style used in marketing materials. Figure out what features your competitors focus on and remember to keep an eye on what they’re not talking about as well. 

Study the competition’s market positioning

Understand how and where your competitors are positioning their products. Not only can this tell you how aligned they are with your products, it can also reveal new opportunities and ideas for differentiating your product from the rest.

Specific audience copywriting research

Sometimes your writing is going to appear in particular media at a particular time. Whether it’s a full-page ad in the New York Times or a description for a tradeshow or conference website, you want to meet your audience where they are and do so in a compelling way.

Media research

If you’re writing something for an online or print publication, you already know your target audience—which is obviously the publication’s readers. 

Still, that’s not always enough. You also need to learn as much as possible about this audience so you can target your copy for maximum impact. You can find this information in a couple of places.

For instance, the publication’s website can be a great source of information about its target audience, and it often has a media kit that spells out its demographics. 

Here’s an example from the Seattle Times for its weekly magazine, Pacific Northwest:

PacificNW magazine demographics

And one from the New York Times:

New York Times demographics

If you don’t have luck searching for your publication’s media kit and/or reader demographics, another resource is its About Us page. This often gives you a sense of who reads that publication.

Conference and Event Websites

When your writing will be seen by conference and event attendees, a great place to get information about your prospective readers is the event website itself. 

Here’s an example from Atlanta Market, which is a large furniture, gift, and home decor trade show:

Atlanta Market demographics

Turning Copywriting Research Into Great Ad Copy

While the research phase is the foundation for great writing, the act of writing is equally important. Here’s how to turn your research into compelling copy. 

At a high level, you want to make sure you’ve nailed a tone and style that both resonate with your target audience. You also want to develop a compelling narrative that incorporates two things: benefits and unique selling points (USPs). 

Next, you’ll want to focus on the three key on-page elements that every successful piece of marketing copy contains:

  • An attention-grabbing headline
  • Irresistible opening sentence
  • A compelling CTA (call to action)

The headline is what will hook your readers and get them interested in reading what you have to say. There are many different ways to craft an amazing headline, but there are some common strategies you should master.

Next, your opening sentence should convince readers that what is coming next is worth sticking around for.

Finally, the CTA is what guides the reader toward the desired outcome. This is your chance to stand out from the competition by taking a fresh, innovative approach to your CTAs.

When your copy has all of these things—plus writing that is supported by solid research—it can be super effective.

At the end of the day, there’s no correct way to write copy, so remember that what works for you may not be effective for another writer. Thus, as long as your copy is well-researched and includes the elements mentioned above, then you’re doing it right. 

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