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What if “they’ve already done the research”?

If you’ve been reading this for a while you know I rant on about doing your research before writing a single word of copy.

And it’s what I always do with clients, even if they already have done “some” research on their own.

Some think that, since they already done a lot (in their minds) of research, I can just jump in and come up with the magic words to sell their product.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Even when you interviewed or surveyed customers, prospects, even when you ran preference tests and brainstormed all possible pain points and objections on a Miro board with your team, if you hire someone to crystallize it all into the right copy and layout, at some point you have to hand them the keys.

In any creative project there are 3 elements that clients hire me for:

  • the right strategy
  • the right systems
  • the right team

The first two, strategy and systems, are where I take in all their research and come up with copy and wireframes that match the findings.

But it’s rare that I just take what they have and get to it. In most cases I have to fill in the gaps. Maybe they came up with personas after running a couple of surveys and haven’t spoken to their market.

Or maybe they have a crystal clear view of who their best customers are, but don’t know anything about the prospects’ mindset (visitors on their website).

All things I add to bridge the gaps in their research.

That’s why when a client tells me “We’ve done all the research you just need to write copy”, I either tell them that I’ll still need to do research (even if it’s just having to look at their materials) or if that doesn’t work, that I’m not the right person for them.

David Ogilvy had the same mindset when approaching his clients. One time when negotiating with KLM Airlines, his agency was asked to prepare “speculative” campaigns. Basically to just create example campaigns based on guessing or on what they knew about the client and market.

Ogivly’s response when asked if they had prepared their campaign:

“We have prepared nothing. Instead we would like you to tell us about your problems. Then you can visit the other four agencies on your list. They have all prepared speculative campaigns. If you like any of them, your choice will be easy. If you don’t, come back and hire us. We will then embark on the research which always precedes the preparation of advertisements at our agency.”

There’s a method to the madness.

Now, I applaud clients who conduct their own research. More and more should do it. Then it’s the job of the copywriter to know where and how to step in.

But it all starts with understanding that simply guessing is expensive.

Way more expensive than hiring a copywriter to look at your research and course correct if needed.

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