About this guide
I created this guide to accompany my copywriting brief, which I ask all my clients to complete at the start of a project.
I thought it would be valuable to add some further detail and explain why I’m asking certain questions, in case that isn’t obvious.
Section 1: Your contact details
An easy one to start with. The contact details you provide here will be the ones I use to contact you throughout the duration of your project.
To keep things simple and ensure your project runs smoothly, I ask for one contact person, who can liaise internally on my behalf. This person should be someone who can answer my questions, get me any information I need, and collate your feedback.
Section 2: Your project
This is where you can tell me about the work you’d like me to do for you.
🔸 Is this project a one-off or is it part of a larger project or campaign?
If this project will be running alongside your other marketing efforts, you can tell me about those here — and attach examples, if you think they’re relevant.
Examples could include social media posts, ad campaigns, email marketing etc.
Seeing the bigger picture will help me ensure this project fits into your overall strategy and that your brand messaging is consistent.
🔸 What are the main aims of this project?
What would you like this project to achieve for your business?
More website visitors? More sales? More enquiries? More email subscribers?
🔸 What action do you want your readers to take after reading the copy — and why?
I need to know this so I can write your Call to Action (CTA).
The CTA is what we ask your readers to do at the end of the copy. That could be anything from reading another article, to signing up to your mailing list, to visiting your product page with their credit card in hand.
If we can also explain to them why they should do that and what’s in it for them, we can make it a Call to Value (CTV), which will be even more compelling.
🔸 Are there any suitable resources I can use to get further information?
When I’m writing your copy, it’s likely I’ll need research materials to work from. And, as experts in your industry, it’s likely you’ll have easier access to these, or know where I can find them.
Section 3: Your offering
This section will tell me what your organisation does and how you help your customers.
🔸 Describe exactly what you do in plain English
This is important, so be as clear and specific as you can. And avoid vague words like ‘solutions’. If it’s a service, tell me it’s a service. If it’s an app, tell me it’s an app.
As long as I’m clear about it, we can refine for your audience later.
🔸 How does what you do help or benefit your customers?
There may be a number of benefits, so make sure you list them all.
🔸 What is your value proposition?
I need to understand why your prospects would choose to buy what you’re selling.
To inspire you, here are some examples of how the big brands have done it.
- Uber: Tap the app, get a ride.
Uber is the smartest way to get around. One tap and a car comes directly to you. Your driver knows exactly where to go. And payment is completely cashless.
- Apple: There’s nothing quite like iPhone.
Every iPhone we’ve made — and we mean every single one — was built on the same belief. That a phone should be more than just a collection of features. That, above all, a phone should be absolutely simple, beautiful and magical to use.
- Subaru: The most adventurous, most reliable, safest, best Subaru Outback ever.
The 2022 Subaru Outback takes drivers to the most adventurous places in style with the most advanced safety technology.
- Imperfect Foods: Groceries that help you fight food waste.
Sustainably sourced, affordable, and conveniently delivered to your door
Now you understand what a value proposition looks like, you can decide what you want to put into your own.
Depending on what you’re offering, your value proposition might look at things like:
- Convenience for your customers
- Quality and why it matters to you
- Safety and how you’re ensuring it
- Ease of use/intuitiveness
- Solid/user-friendly/beautiful design
- Saving time/money/energy/effort
- Being more sustainable/eco-friendly.
🔸 What are your unique selling points (USPs)?
Your USPs are key differentiators that are unique to your business, products/services and brand.
You need to focus on what makes you different — not better — than your competitors, because ‘better’ is vague and difficult to measure.
🔸 How does the value of what you offer compare to others in your industry?
The answer to this question will show me where you’re positioning your business in relation to your competitors. Is it at the higher end, the lower end, or somewhere in the middle? This will determine the kind of copy you need to speak to your ideal customers.
Section 4: Your business/brand
I’ll need to know more about your business or brand if I’m writing an About page for your website, or if we’re working on your brand story.
🔸 Tell me about your business/brand and how it started
This part includes a group of sub-questions that will form the basis of your brand story, so if you want to elaborate on anything or add more detail, please feel free!
Your brand story is integral to your brand and should run through everything like you do, like the words on a stick of seaside rock.
It explores why and how your brand came to be and what problems you set out to solve. A good story gives your audience something they can relate to and helps you develop a connection with them.
You can use your brand story on the About page of your website, in your social media/email marketing and in your personal interactions. In fact, anywhere you want to reach out to your audience make that connection.
🔸 What are you best known for — or what would you like to be best known for?
What do people immediately associate your brand with? Is it what you sell, what you do or how you do it? Is it a word, a description or a slogan?
The simpler your answer, the better — because simple always sticks!
🔸 What is your brand’s vision/mission?
Not all brands will have a vision or mission, so it’s okay if yours doesn’t.
But they are things you’ll have if your brand has an ultimate goal.
For example, if your brand was created to:
- Achieve something specific
- Bring about a change
- Make a difference.
🔸 What are your brand values?
We could just list your brand values, but showing your commitment to them will be much more powerful.
For example, if one of your values is:
We could talk about how your materials are sustainably sourced.
We could talk about your policy to recruit more diverse teams.
We could talk about the quality control systems you have in place.
If you’d like to, you can also explain why your values are important to you.
🔸 What would you like your brand to ‘sound’ like?
Your answer to this question will help me create a distinctive tone of voice for your brand.
The easiest way to do this is to provide me with your Tone of Voice guidelines, if you have them; give examples of the brand voice you’ve been using so far; or give examples of other brand voices you like.
If you don’t have any of those, you can give me 3-5 descriptive words instead.
Your 3-5 words should help set your brand apart from those around you, so don’t waste them on generic words that aren’t meaningful.
Like professional, for example. Because I’m hardly likely to make you sound unprofessional, now, am I?
🔸 Do you have any special accreditations or achievements you’d like to mention?
The reason I ask for a description of the accreditation/qualification/award/nomination, and what it means, is in case your ideal customers aren’t familiar with it or what it represents.
Section 5: Your ideal customers
🔸 Who are your ideal customers?
Your ideal customers should fall into one or more of these demographics, so fill in as many fields as you can.
🔸 How do you decide if a new prospect is a good fit for your product/service?
Well-written copy and content can help to qualify prospects before they get in touch with you, so you won’t have to deal with so many time-wasters and tyre-kickers.
🔸 What problems are you going to solve for your ideal customers?
I need to understand your ideal customers’ problem in as much detail as I can.
The pain point that’s needling away at them morning, noon and night. Their failures, their frustrations and their fears if they don’t fix it.
The answer to this question will give me a good start and I can then continue researching online.
🔸 What are your ideal customers’ interests, ambitions, dreams and desires?
Not all products or services are designed purely to solve problems.
Some products and services are designed for beauty, pleasure or status.
And some will be a combination of the two.
🔸 What do you think might stop your ideal customers buying from you?
This question is about the objections your ideal customers might have:
- About buying your product or service
- About buying your product or service right now.
Your copy will need to counter those objections and give them more compelling reasons why they should.
🔸 How do you want to make your ideal customers feel?
The answer to this question will also help to set the tone of the copy. It’s about the impression you want to make on your ideal customers and the feeling you want the copy to leave them with.
🔸 What are some of the questions your prospects often ask you?
Your copy and content can answer a lot of these questions for you, which could save you a lot of time.
🔸 Who don’t you want to work with/sell to?
Working with or selling to wrong-fit customers can result in problems you want to avoid.
If they’re not happy, it can cause you a lot of undue stress. They might give you bad reviews. And you might end up having to give refunds.
The copy and content I write for you can help to repel these wrong-fit customers — if I know who they are.
Section 6: Your competitors
If you’re wondering about the red notice at the top of this section, it’s because I’ve had clients who’ve refused to answer these questions in the past.
Some, because they mistakenly thought I was asking about their competitors so I could copy them.
Err, no, that’s not how I roll!
And some, because they said they didn’t have competitors.
They did have competitors. But their competitors weren’t direct competitors. They were companies offering a similar outcome, but with a different product or service.
🔸 What companies/brands do you see as your direct competitors?
Analysing your competitors will help us to differentiate your brand and give you a competitive edge.
Looking at their websites and how they’re ranking on Google can also be valuable if we’re working on your web copy.
🔸 What do you see as your competitors’ main strengths/weaknesses?
We can learn from what’s working for your competitors.
And their weaknesses could provide opportunities for you.
🔸 What are the differences between you and your main competitor?
Here you can tell me what you see as the main differences between you.
I may be able to see more — or opportunities to create more.
🔸 What are the other alternatives to what you’re offering?
If you’re struggling to answer this one, let’s imagine what you offer doesn’t exist.
How would your prospects be solving their problem without it and what would they be doing instead?
And why is that less effective than doing it your way?
Section 7: Your website
This section is purely for clients who want SEO copy for their website.
If that’s not you, you can keep on scrollin’ to the end!
🔸 What search terms would people type into Google if they wanted to find a business like yours?
This will help to guide your SEO keyword research.
🔸 What search terms would you ideally like to be ranking for?
You can be more specific here, if you like. I’ll do the research and see what the chances are.
🔸 If you already have a website, do you know what search terms it’s being found for? and where it’s currently ranking?
If you don’t have Google Search Console attached to your website, I’d strongly advise you to get it.
And if you have it, but aren’t sure how to read it, you can grant me access and I’ll do it for you.
Section 8: Anything else?
🔸 If there’s anything else you’d like to add, you can write it in the box below.
This is your chance to tell me anything else you’d like me to know before we go any further.
I’m committed to continually improving the way I do things and would love any feedback on your experience of completing the brief.
- Did the brief ask all the questions you were expecting?
- Did you feel any questions were missing?
- Were there any questions you found unclear or difficult to answer?
- Is there anything you’d add, remove or change?
- Was this guide helpful? How could it be more helpful?
You can send your feedback to me at my email address.