One of my favorite copywriting resources is a seminar that legendary copywriter, Eugene Schwartz, gave to Rodale Press’s copywriters.
In this seminar, Eugene broke down his step-by-step process for writing copy.
The same copywriting process he used to crush A-list copywriters and sell billions worth of products.
He spent a good chunk of time talking about the importance of copywriting research.
Believe it or not…
For each copywriting project, Eugene spends 80%+ of his time on market research, and only 20% on writing copy.
Because you do NOT write copy.
You ASSEMBLE it.
What you write about – the benefits, features, hooks, angles, emotional triggers – already exist.
All the answers to crafting million-dollar ads are already out there.
And your job is to find them and assemble them.
Then, display them in the most persuasive way to your target audience.
Your success as a copywriter has more to do with research than it does writing. Research is what separates struggling copywriters from thriving A-list copywriters.
In this post…
I’m going to cover what copywriting research is, why it’s imperative to your success, my own copywriting research process, The 10 best copywriting research questions and 7 little-known market research tools to use.
What is Copywriting Research?
Copywriting research is simply the research you do before writing.
It’s vital information about your client’s product, market, company and competition, that you’ll base your copy around.
This is the first crucial step in the copywriting process.
Usually, copywriters create a copywriting brief (filled with market research questions) that they give to their clients to fill out and then study.
I like to view copywriting research as digging for gold.
When researching your client’s market, product, etc. you are looking for golden bricks that you can use in your copywriting.
It’s much easier to find this gold if you know where to search and have helpful tools to dig it up.
I’ll cover what to look for in the following section, but before we get into that…
Why is Copywriting Research Important to Your Success?
Copywriting research is important to your success because without it you will never persuade your readers to take action.
If your readers do not respond to your copy (click your link, buy your product, exchange their email for a lead magnet, etc), you will not get results for your clients.
No results = no money for you.
So, if you want to become a top titty copywriter, you must spend a TON of time on copywriting research.
The goal of copywriting is to sell.
And the ultimate secret to selling anything, to anyone, is finding out what that person wants and then helping them get it.
It’s that simple.
And what your readers want are solutions to their problems.
But in order to solve their problems, you have to know WHAT their problems are.
You have to know what they want most, what pain they’re trying to avoid, what motivates them, what holds them back from buying your product or service, and so on.
Copywriting research holds all of these answers.
A common mistake copywriters make is spending too much time on the HOW and not nearly enough on the WHAT.
How you write - making your copy easy to read, highlighting the key points, making it engaging - is important, but ONLY if you are writing about WHAT interests your audience.
If you don’t…
It won’t matter how good your copywriting is.
As Gary Halbert said, you can write the best sales letter of all time, hitting all the major copywriting techniques and tactics, but it won’t sell a dime if you’re writing about the wrong subject. For example, writing about how great knitting equipment is to golfers.
How to Do Copywriting Research
When I was a naked & afraid newbie copywriter, I struggled a lot with copywriting research.
I didn’t know where to start.
I had no clue what questions to ask or where to find the answers.
However, after lots of crashing and burning (and from studying the best copywriters of all time), I’ve come up with a fool-proof method for copywriting research.
Here is everything you need to know about copywriting research, so you can improve your researching skills right away and write better copy.
What Should You Research?
There are the three main things I research before writing copy (in order of importance):
- Your market
- Your product (including the company you’re writing for: brand voice, USP, etc.)
- Your competition
However, your market is by far the most important.
I usually spend 80% of my time studying the market I am writing for.
Often, you can write successful copy without even studying the product or competition IF you know exactly what your customers want and what motivates them to respond.
The Copywriting Research Process
Whenever writing copy for clients or myself, I spend at least 80% of the time on market research.
To help you understand everything that goes into the copywriting research process…
Here is EXACTLY what I do when taking on a new project:
After negotiating the deal…
I send my client a copywriting brief.
This brief has 10+ pages of market research questions.
Specific questions about their market, product, competition, testimonials, brand voice, USP, etc.
Then, when I receive this copywriting brief, I study it intensely.
Plus, I usually do some more digging (using the 7 market research tools discussed in the next section) and add my findings to the brief.
After I’ve gotten all the market research info I need, I study this BIG list (usually 30+ pages by now), 3 times.
The first time, I just read it.
The second time, I mark it up to the hilt. Emphasizing the key points, emotional triggers, biggest benefits, negative emotions, positive emotions, biggest objections, advantages over competition, etc.
I rank the top 5-10 benefits, objections and challenges.
Then, I go through it one more time.
I usually give myself at least 2 hours in between studying this info.
Then, after I have gone through this 3 times, I give myself at least an evening to let it “marinate” in my brain.
Then, I write my first draft in the morning.
When I write this draft, I let everything flow out.
I write very fast and do not edit anything – misspellings, incomplete sentences, etc.
One of the biggest benefits of doing extensive market research is that it completely eliminates writer’s block.
Once you study your market this intensely, when you finally sit down to write, everything will flow right out of your head, onto your laptop.
If you cannot think of what to write, then you haven’t done enough research.
Depending on the project and deadline, I will spend anywhere from 5 hours to as much as 7 days on copywriting research.
The 10 Best Copywriting Research Questions to Ask Your Client
If you don’t have a copywriting brief filled with market research questions, then start with these 10…
These 10 questions were created by copywriting & marketing legend – Dan Kennedy.
You can learn more about them in his terrific copywriting book The Ultimate Sales Letter.
I still use these market research questions whenever I’m writing copy for a new market.
These market research questions are not your typical wet towel copywriting questions. They work so effectively because they tap into your market’s emotions – their pains, problems, desires, etc.
Use these 10 questions whenever you are researching your client’s market.
7 Copywriting Research Tools to Write Million Dollar Copy
These are my 7 go-to market research tools to answer your copywriting research questions.
I use them every time I write for clients or my own business…
Where to dig up market research gold:
Probably the best way to answer your market research questions is to talk to the people in your market.
This can be online or in person.
One way you can meet people in your market is to network.
One of the easiest (and fun) ways to meet new people in your market is to sign up for meetup groups.
Just type in the keyword and you’ll likely find a few groups on the subject and upcoming events.
(For example: if you’re writing to golfers, type in “golf”)
Then, TALK to these people.
Get to know them.
What are they gossiping about? What are they complaining about? What are they most interested in? What pain are they trying to escape?
There are several sites online where you can copy and paste your market research questions. Just type in “market research survey” and you’ll find a bunch. You can also ask these questions in forums and social media groups…
This is my favorite market research tool for uncovering the emotions, problems and desires of my market.
Here’s a few of my favorite sites… Reddit, Facebook Groups and Quora.
You can usually find answers to most of your market research questions on Reddit alone. Simply type your market’s keyword into Reddit’s search bar. I.E., “golf”.
Plus, you can type – “[your niche] + best online forums” – into Google to find some online forums where your market is congregating and communicating with one another.
Another great place to find market research answers are blog post’s comment section.
Be on the lookout for questions and common topics your market is talking about.
Search for relevant products in your niche.
I like to look at the common questions asked, the “by feature” section and the reviews (tip: look for EMOTIONAL reviews).
You can also uncover market research gold by typing a market research question into Google. Simply ask the question and add your niche (For example – “what makes real estate agents angry?”) Click on relevant answers, especially ones answered by your market (Quora & Reddit).
Study your client’s competition.
What are they saying? How are the saying it? What hooks are they using? What is their big USP? What emotional triggers are they using? Benefits? Etc.
Get inspiration from the competition and see if you can add/improve upon what they have.
It should be no secret by now…
Research plays a BIG role in your success as a copywriter.
If you research your client’s market enough, you can leap over 99% of common obstacles copywriters face and quickly improve your copywriting skills (and income).
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