How to Legally Steal Copy That
Converts Like Crazy

image of a bookshelf

Everyone knows better copy gets you more buyers, but professional copywriters are ridiculously expensive for a bootstrapped business, right?

And of course every entrepreneur should study copywriting, but it takes time to get really good. You want a great sales page today, not in three years when you’ve finally read all those copywriting books on your bedside table.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get high-quality copy that converts — for free?

Well, you can.

I’d like to share a process with you that’s straightforward, completely legal (and ethical), and won’t cost you a penny. We now use it in our business for every product we create, and it’s created fantastic results for us.

So let’s get started.

Step 1: Survey your customers

Let’s start by creating a survey. Google Docs forms work well and are totally free.

Write a one-paragraph overview of your product, then ask your customers just two questions:

“Given what you know so far, make a guess: would you buy this product?”

and

“What problem do you expect this product to solve for you?”

If you’re selling an information or teaching product, you can instead phrase the second question as “What do you hope to learn from this product?”

Use a text box for the second question, but limit the first to preset options to something like: no / probably not / maybe / probably / yes

Include a note saying that by submitting a survey response, the respondent authorizes you to use it for any purpose.

Step 2: Throw out the non-buyers

Sometimes people who respond “no” or “probably not” will leave interesting comments to the second question, and their feedback can help you position your next offer differently.

For this purpose, however, ignore them. They won’t buy, so don’t let them distract you.

Throw out all the “no” and “probably not” answers.

Step 3: Throw out the sure things

This one may seem a little counterintuitive at first. But your landing page doesn’t need any copy to convince a “yes” to buy — it just needs a buy button.

The point of a landing page is to convert “maybe” and “probably” to “yes”.

Set aside the “yes” responses and focus only on people who said “maybe” and “probably.”

Step 4: Copy and paste.

Most copywriting is making your best guess at what motivates your customers.

But if you just ask them, you can eliminate the guesswork. Your customers will tell you exactly what motivates them, and then you can repeat it back to them in their own words.

Copy and paste snippets of the remaining responses — those “maybe” and “probably” buyers — into your landing page. These survey responses form the core of your Features and Benefits section.

Step 5: Rephrase and generalize

Rephrase “I” as “you” and “my” as “your.”

For example, if a customer writes, “I want to know how I can get out of debt,” you might rephrase as “You’ll learn how you can get out of debt.”

Then take the specifics and make them general enough that your target market will find them relevant.

If you get “I want to learn how to keep my obnoxious aunt Betty from getting on my case when I visit her for Christmas,” generalize it to “You’ll learn how to keep your obnoxious relatives from getting on your case when you visit them for the holidays.”

Don’t generalize too much — for example, don’t generalize “obnoxious” to “troublesome,” or try to find a fancier way to say “get on your case.” The whole point of this process is to get your customers’ own words onto your landing page, so only generalize personal things that apply to just one individual.

Step 6: Profit!

That’s it.

When you go directly to your customer, find out the benefits and features they’re looking for, and use their own words to describe them (and, of course, to be sure those needs are addressed in your product), you’ll become a marketing genius. You’ll spend less time writing copy and your conversion rates will soar.

(And of course, you can make it work even better if you split test it.)

How about you — ever “legally stolen” copy from potential customers? What questions did you use? Did you use a survey, twitter searches, your blog comments, or another source?

Let us know about it in the comments!

About the Author: Pace Smith is the co-leader of the Connection Revolution, teaching people how to change the world through connection. Her latest project, co-created with Copyblogger’s own Johnny B. Truant, is a course called Profitable Idealism that teaches how focusing on your ideals can benefit your bottom line.

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Comments

  1. I’m here if anyone has any questions. (:

  2. Here’s a variant I’ve used and been very happy with:

    “What’s your biggest goal with [topic]?” and then follow-up question “What’s the biggest problem you’ve encountered in trying to reach that goal?” I got that from Glenn Livingston and it was super helpful for Blueprint, both in the launch content and then going on to the actual course design.

    I completely agree — having potential customers’ own words to describe the problem is amazingly effective.

  3. @Pace: Great Idea. I’ve used Google Docs before, but I didn’t know they had surveys. I looked but I didn’t see “surveys” listed anywhere. And once I find them, do they import into wordpress like analytics code?
    Regards,
    shane

  4. @Sonia: Ooh, I love your variant!

    @Shane: It’s under “Forms”. It’s a front end to a Google Spreadsheet, so you can export the data to Excel or anything else you want. I don’t know if it’s possible to embed a Google Form in WordPress; I always just send people there via a link.

  5. Very useful. I have an ongoing survey (SurveyMonkey) that goes to my e-mail subscribers after a couple of weeks via Aweber. Now I’m realizing I can use reader feedback not just for idea generation but also for sales. Cool!

    Thanks.

    • Glad to hear you found it useful, Mary!

      SurveyMonkey is fine — I used to use it myself.

      I switched to Google Forms because I like how it puts the survey data into a Google spreadsheet that I can easily manipulate. I didn’t find SurveyMonkey as user-friendly. Plus, SurveyMonkey’s branding is more obtrusive than Google’s.

  6. Pace:

    It’s nice to have more copywriting tips. But I wonder what happened to the Internet radio show this week. Will that be done Friday and/or next week.

    The tips here at Copyblogger are short and to the point. I used to read another copywriting blog, but unfortunately, the creator pulled the plug.

    Even if I’ve seen the tips before, I appreciate them being driven home – even if in a different way or manner.

    Randy

  7. Pace, this is perfect timing! I’m writing sales pages right now, and have a folder full of survey responses I’m going to dig into for inspiration.

    Awesome headline, by the way … very intriguing. ;-)

  8. Hi Shane! Since I am all thumbs when it comes to creating stuff like this, I googled how to make a survery using Google Docs and found this very helpful article. Hope it helps you too!

  9. Thank you for the step by step guide to copy testing. I like how you throw out sure positive and negatives and focus on converting undecideds.

  10. Getting rid of unnecessary points and using feedbacks is a great way to stimulate sales…I will look closely into this and hopefully gain from it. Thanks.

  11. I love using Google Docs! In my Giveaway posts, I include the link to the participation form. And includes 1 question “Any feedback / comments for Mummy’s Reviews?” Suddenly I get flooded with praises that can be used as testimonials and suggestions for improvement.

    Embedding the form in a WordPress post has one downside: Every time you edit the post, you’d need to embed the form again. Linking out to the form is much better.

  12. Great idea! I’m not sure I see why you would want to throw out all the people who said they wouldn’t buy. Shouldn’t your goal be to also convert the people who said no to a “yes” as well (not just the maybes). Maybe they only said no because the copy you wrote for your product description didn’t resonate with them and if it were rewritten they would be a “maybe”. Also, I think the comments left by people who said they wouldn’t buy could be very useful.

    • Jason,

      In my experience, attempting to convert the people who said “no” to a yes ends up converting nobody. It’s counterintuitive, but if you try to please everyone, you’ll end up pleasing no one. Better to make something that appeals strongly to a smaller group of people.

      • I actually agree with you on the issue of leaving out the no’s. I was in the middle of writing a response saying that I think the phrasing of the first question could leave out several potential maybe’s, but I think its not that big of a deal and could lead to more heartaches.

        Sure there will be some in the no group that should actually be in the possibly group and probably a lot more the other way around. Will you miss some valuable input with this crowd? Probably, but if you have a big enough sample size with the possibly’s then there is a good chance that you are answering the problems of those who say no and are more likely to be in the possibly.

        One thing that should be brought up is the sample size. If you need a sale of several hundred to make a decent profit then you need to make sure that you survey a good number of people. Which means that if your reader or customer base isn’t big enough to sample enough people than you should focus on building the base first so you can have good accurate numbers.

      • What if you took all those NOs and sold/gave/donated them to an entrepreneur looking for a niche?

        • In my experience, people respond with “No, and here’s why not” rather than with “No, but if you did this other thing X, I would totally be up for it.”

    • No, it makes perfect sense. You would be spending too much time trying to convince people, who already said they wouldn’t buy. They have qualified themselves as not your target audience.

      It would be much more productive to find other people who are your actual target market and get your product in front of them rather than trying to change someone’s mind.

      Reminds me of a show my kids watch – icarly…In one episode, the owner of a smoothie shop tries to sell bagels, that he carries around his shop on a stick, to the main characters. He asks them – “Want to buy some bagels” – “No, they reply”. He responds by trying to convince them with a better deal “How about half price?” – they reply “No!” – Then he tries again…”I’ll sell you the whole stick…$5!” – They angrily turn and yell, “NO!!!”

      They simply don’t want bagels and nothing he says will convince them to buy the bagels.

  13. Lovely post Pace, you want to know what your clients want? ask them! Amazing I think how people forget the obvious stuff sometimes isn’t it? Thats not meant to detract from your post Pace, I really enjoyed it, and the advice about limiting the answer format for question one then opening up to text in question two was really useful, as was the discreet disclaimer too! like that!

    Thanks Again

    Andrew

    • I know, right? You’d think this would be totally obvious, but I’m amazed at how few people use this technique.

      Or, (she says in a hushed whisper) maybe they do… and they just don’t tell us about it. (;

      Thanks, Andrew!

  14. Survey’s are the most underrated tool a marketer can use.

    Once you survey your customers as to why they bought you will see patterns emerge. You will discover the people who are actually buying your product, not the people you think are buying or should want to buy your product.

    I created a product and thought my target market was more advanced people. When I survey’s people who bought I found out around 80% of them considered themselves beginners or intermediates so I was targeting the wrong people.

    Ask your customers why they bought your product and you’ll find similar reasons that you can group together. You can then use the words of your customers to talk directly to who your target audience really is and hit their hot buttons in your next email broadcast.

    • I do whole seminars on the subject of surveys used in a great many ways. I also have a book “Know Before You Go: marketing basics for any business” on the subject to help small business and entrepreneurs.
      There are so many examples of how to find out from your target public what THEY want and then utilize it in any promotion, whether it’s online or traditional. Even PR articles, blogs, etc can be enhanced and generate more interest if using surveys to really get inside their heads and find out what they really want, need, demand, value or hate. It works! All the best to you, Lynda

  15. Terrific ideas on creating copy that speaks to your audience. Another varient on this theme is to listen to your customers, fans and community by going where they are and not actively engaging with them. Just observe and listen to what is being said, how it is being said and how it is connected to other conversations. Too often we spend too much time trying to get others to join our conversation which frames the discussion from our POV. Instead, try harder to find their POV.

  16. Great advice, I will try it right now. Thanks.

  17. I think I need to become a thief! Thanks for the great tips, I’m adapting this advice to my blogging scenario. I’m a not-for-profit blogging mommy who would love to drive more traffic and generate more comments. It hadn’t occurred to me to gear my product/content toward what THEY wanted. Thinking up a survey…Thanks!

  18. Great article. Simple but powerful. I’ve used surveys before and I’m doing it again for my upcoming program. The question I like to ask is , “What do you absolutely need me to answer in this product”?

    The responses can literally be my bullet points for the product.

    Try it guys.. It works!
    Hector

    • That’s awesome, Hector. I’ve had better luck phrasing my surveys toward the problem or toward the struggle rather than “what do you need me to answer”. But if that works for your audience, stick with it!

  19. “Fools rush in…” – Harlan Kilstein

    Any time you take copywriting – which is an art form as much as a technique – and you pretend it’s as simple as rewriting what the clients tell you – you are missing out on the art AND the technique.

    Clients and prospects can give you valuable clues as to what they are looking for. But in the end, it’s the skill of the copywriter that makes the cash register ring.

    That’s why we get paid the big bucks. It’s because we make our clients lots of money.

    • More power to ya, Harlan!

      I’m guessing that Copyblogger readers are more oriented toward DIY copywriting than toward hiring a copywriter, hence the angle of my post. (:

    • Clients and prospects can give you valuable clues as to what they are looking for. But in the end, it’s the skill of the copywriter that makes the cash register ring.

      I think that’s a fair statement. Pace is highlighting a technique that professional copywriters use as well, so in that regard we see it as helpful to everyone. We’ve also got over 5 years of archives that make clear that there’s a a whole lot more to copywriting than just this technique.

    • Any time you take copywriting – which is an art form as much as a technique – and you pretend it’s as simple as rewriting what the clients tell you</strike(Martin Kilroy wrote for the Wall Street Journal) – you are missing out on the art AND the technique.

      ;)

  20. This is a form of a survey which is excellent. When working with clients I find that the best results come from clients who are willing to do surveys. They can be done very inexpensively as well using tools like Survey Monkey. Good survey results are vital to marketing success.

  21. A huge thumbs down to Pace Smith on this article and a huge thumbs down to Copyblogger and the poor quality content they are churning out lately. By the way, this article is a slap in the face to us professional copywriters. How would the blogger feel if I posted how ridiculously expensive her rates are and that people shouldn’t hire her?

    Copywriting isn’t as “simple” as she points out in this article, and if you aren’t a professional copywriter then hire a professional writer. You don’t have to break the bank when you work with a copywriter.

    I also think it’s irresponsible to include the phrase “steal copy” in an article title (even if it does have “legally” in front of it).

    I absolutely agree with Harlan. This article simplified and “bastardized” copywriting as a profession and a craft. There are a lot of professional copywriters who read Copyblogger so you might want to think about your article angles in the future.

    Thumbs down.

    • Sorry you haven’t found the blog to be high quality, Therese.

    • Haha, I think that headline worked all too well, even if it lead to a negative comment

    • As one of “us professional copywriters,” I beg to disagree. Well, I won’t beg. I’ll just do it.

      I abide by the following acronym: CASE (copy and steal everything)

      There’s nothing new under the sun that hasn’t been done before, so my job as a writer is to make someone think what they’re reading is new, shiny and totally effing brilliant. Because it is. It’s written for them. Great copywriters ARE expensive, but there’s no harm in teaching businesses on a budget how to go about some basics. Man, if more of my clients read articles like these, my life would be like 1000 days living in a house built out of lemon cake and buttercream frosting.

      So I steal. I go out and see what my client’s competitors are doing. What works. What doesn’t. Most importantly, how we can take what works and make it work better. We are literary alchemists, yet there is a method to the madness. To deny that there is a process behind the talent that makes us worth the expensive fees, well, that’s just silly. I’m worth every penny my clients pay me and I wish there were more articles like this. Talking to an educated client cuts down the time I invest in educating and the overall time spent on a project. That, my dear, is called increased profit margin. (me like)

      I’m giving it a thumbs up, because I’m not a direct response copywriter and articles like this make me think outside the bun. Hell, I’ll throw in an additional thumb. I’m a giver like that.

      • You know, you can’t legally steal “think outside the bun.” I just called the cops.

      • Erika,
        I like you! You speak the truth even if it hurts a bit.

        I totally agree, educating the client could be a much easier, smoother, and faster process if they read blogs like this.

        Do you ever “eaves drop” on blogs to see what the masses think and/or need?
        Where should I go to for current streams? All I seem to find are OLD.

  22. Wow! This is the best article on copywriting I’ve ever read! I admit that I’m not that good yet in copywriting but suddenly I feel like a total export!

    Thanks for outlining everything here. This is going to be a very good starting point for me. I love it! Really! I’ll just tweak your instructions a bit by adding my own personality to it.

    – Mike

  23. Outstanding stuff. I’ve thought about doing a poll of some kind, and this seems to be exactly what I need. Thank you, @Pace.

  24. I’ve been using Google Docs for personal stuff for about a year now. On other websites I’ve seen Google Docs forms but never understood how they worked so this is a great article. I’ll start doing surveys now through Google Docs and use this article as a guide. Thanks for the useful information.

  25. Good insights, Pace, but I have to take issue with your opening statement, “…professional copywriters are ridiculously expensive, right?”

    The copywriting industry has been slammed over and over again, unlike any other I can think of, except for perhaps social media. Highly qualified copywriters who understand how to get real results – i.e., conversions- are not “ridiculously expensive”. You get what you pay for. If you get great results, you haven’t spent money foolishly. You’ve invested wisely in the future stability of your business.

    And how does one define “ridiculous” and “expensive”? Isn’t this highly subjective?

    Coming from a professional of your status, writing on a reputable blog such as this, is it really necessary to insult the entire industry to make your point? This is precisely the narrow-minded statement that makes it ridiculously expensive to be a copywriter today, carelessly creates bias among potential clients, and erroneously convinces “everyone” they can successfully write their own highly converting copy.

    Overall, your entire opening is poorly conceived. Throw out paragraphs 1 and 2. Start with 3. Congratulations, you’ve just un-insulted thousands of people.

    • You’ll have to blame me for paragraph 2, I added that one in the editing process.

    • Victoria, I totally get what you’re saying. We are advocates of professional copywriters here at Copyblogger, and we know you are worth your weight in gold.

      I think Pace was giving her perspective as a boostrapping entrepreneur (which she is) about hiring a copywriter. Because we know how hard she’s working with the resources she has, we didn’t find the opening offensive from an editorial standpoint.

      But from an outside perspective, we should have known better. Sincere apologies, and I’ve updated the opening paragraph for clarity.

      • Brian, thanks for commenting. It was just disappointing to read this article because there are many professional copywriters who read CB and use it as a resource (and I have passed along posts to some of my clients). I don’t feel like the content quality has been up to par lately.

    • And yes, we strongly stand behind paragraph two.

    • To Victoria, and to all professional copywriters:

      I’m sorry. I made the usual error; I overgeneralized from my own limited experience. Like Brian said, I am a bootstrapping entrepreneur, and my opinion of the professional copywriting services I’ve come across has been that they are ridiculously expensive FOR ME, given where I am right now and where our business is right now.

      I wrote the opening paragraph boldly, without these qualifications, and in so doing insulted you and many others.

      I’m sorry.

      • Thanks Pace and thanks for the personal reply (you and Sonia) on Twitter. I appreciate you responding directly to my feedback.

      • Pace, Brian, Sonia, et. al,

        Thank you for your gracious responses.

        OK, I might have been too harsh. It’s February in Philadelphia. I haven’t seen the sun in weeks. And my fear is that I may find myself washing my hair with Ivory bar soap, because copywriting doesn’t sell well right after Xmas.

        All kidding aside, Pace, I give you credit for offering a very unique strategy, instead of harping about pricing. I can’t stand one more article about pricing!

        I built my rep in copywriting, but I don’t work regularly in that industry these days. I used to often ask why police officers, child care providers, housecleaners and kindergarten teachers are so often paid poorly, and yet most of us can’t live without them. To that list, I will add copywriters. Steve Slaunwhite once told me, “There are brilliant copywriters struggling to make a buck, and average copywriters making six figures. The difference isn’t skill, it’s marketing.”

        It’s rather sad! As Lindsey commented, the profession is already grossly undervalued. I simply want to bring attention when others contribute to that mindset. Your comment was obviously inadvertent, but this is not always the case.

  26. This article made me sad. It’s actually a decent ‘Copywriting for Dummies’ tutorial for people who are too cheap to hire a copywriter. But it kind of devalues our already grossly devalued profession.

    In the end, my mama was right: you get what you pay for.

    And usually these people end up calling 18 months later to have a professional revamp their web copy.

  27. Thank you for the article! I find it helpful. It makes sense – and I do like when things make sense.

  28. I do some copywriting work outside of the work I do on BlogWorld and at my own blog, and I didn’t find Pace’s comments offensive – but I could see how “ridiculously expensive” could be a little strong for some people. I’m fine with it, as long as we can all also admit that the blog consulting or products copywriters are writing about are also usually ridiculously expensive. :) Ridiculously expensive, but worth it, right?

    In any case, I wanted to say that I’ve used a version this technique to create blog posts as well. I throw out a survey question via email or on Twitter and then directly copy/paste answers into a post, linking back to the commenters. I’ve seen some other bloggers do this too, and it always seems to go over really well. It’s quick for me to write a post that way and readers LOVE when they are featured on a blog. So, it’s good for community building and I save time. Win.

  29. I’m huge on diy and finding the shortcuts, especially for small businesses and entrepreneurs. I know this article pissed some people off, but it shouldn’t. The people who will act on this article are probably the ones who wouldn’t be able to afford a professional copywriter anyways.

    Great article Pace. It was a great article to wake up to.

  30. Hi Pace,

    Teachers do exactly the same thing and it is the most effective strategy to connecting with learners. Here are some examples:
    1. Doing a Pre-test (or suvey) at beginning of topic. That way you work out what the students already know, and not
    2. A KWL Chart when starting a topic – K for what I know, W for What I want to Learn and L for what I Learned
    3. Listening to the questions asked and putting the answers into the lessons for the next class

    Your strategy not only works for Copywriting but is also beneficial in creating membership courses as well.

    But to answer your question, I have used Yahoo Answers in the past to scan common questions and language phrases for my Study Skills blog. This strategy has helped with SEO. I am sure Quora could be used the same way as well.

    All the best

    Ainslie

    • Ainslie,

      That’s awesome! And you know, I’d even be so bold as to say that this strategy will work even BETTER in blogging than in teaching, because in blogging you can choose what course to teach in addition to what particular topics.

  31. I think copywriters are like L’oreal; expensive, but worth it.

    (waves to Pace)

  32. I love the survey idea. I did not read all the comments. That said, one might use surveymonkey.com or zoomerang.com for easy, free web enabled survey tools. I have been using zoomerang for quite some time with great results.

    And step 6. Show me the money.

  33. Totally intriguing method, Pace. I find it weird that pro copywriters would find any problem with this though. Isn’t it the good folks at Copyblogger that taught us that teaching your customers doesn’t stop them from hiring you? And isn’t Copyblogger all about empowering readers to learn the art and skill of copywriting, negating the need to hire someone else? Just a thought.

    Personally, I’m glad you presented this because this method goes way beyond just writing sales pages and can (and probably should) inform every aspect of your business. I say thumbs up.

    • Daniel, it’s not the technique that the pro copywriters are taking issue with, it’s my angle/presentation. By calling copywriters “ridiculously expensive”, I came across as implying “not worth it”. The wording of the original post has since been edited to be more precise.

      Thanks for your comment, and I appreciate your thumbs up. (:

    • We actually think hiring a copywriter can be exactly the right move — it depends on the situation.

    • And it definitely is the right move if you have my sales copy skills. But again, I appreciate the effort in this post to help someone like me improve my skill, rather than turning to someone else.

  34. I liked this idea so much I started putting it into practice on one of my sites before I finished reading the post! (sounds like hype, but totally true)

  35. Really you guys?! Can we shake the poopie-pants attitude?

    I AM a copywriter … one of the “ridiculously expensive” kind and I do NOT take one bit of offense to what Pace posted here. Good copywriting ain’t cheap. So what? She’s being honest.

    But more importantly, Pace is giving some solid, usable advice to bootstrapping entrepreneurs who simply can’t lay out the cash for an experienced copywriter.

    Does money invested in copywriting pay you back? Generally speaking, yes. But let’s get off our high horse … there’s more to good marketing than *just* copy.

    So, stay focused on Pace’s 2 big takeaways here:

    1) Write like your best customer would TALK … and want to be talked to.
    2) Write ONLY to your best customer and forget the rest.

    That is, IMHO, SUPERB advice for any entrepreneur trying to write his/her own copy.

    Good post, Pace. And keep your chin up ;)

    Karri

    • Thank you, Karri.

      I can’t help but wonder what the response would have been if I had written this post as “Here’s a tip that will take you one more step toward mastery of the esteemed and respectable art of copywriting” instead.

  36. Pace,

    First – Awesome. I’m saving this for later use.

    Second – I love how you’ve structured this post as a step-by-step how-to, instead of just discussing the theory behind your process. I find this kind of post far more useful than most.

    Thanks for sharing!

  37. Pace, as a copywriter, I take no offense at all to your premise that good copywriters are expensive. (Of course, I’m a copywriter who has traded writing services for a bottle of whiskey—though it was very expensive whiskey.)

    As other worthies have pointed out, this doesn’t devalue good copywriting, doesn’t preclude hiring a copywriter for future projects, and doesn’t prevent you from trading your survey results for a bottle of whiskey. It just provides a good (and clever!) tip on solving a certain kind of copywriting problem. And it solves it well.

    Now, can you figure out how I can get my novel written by this method?

  38. Using Google Docs for surveys is something I’ve never ever thought of. Thanks for the great tip!

  39. Nice article, do you have any methods to find the survey audience if you don’t already have one?

  40. No doubt the hints given in this post are highly useful. But, the problem with writing good content about your own product is elsewhere. For example, when you start writing, you get the same ideas about your product that you wrote about many times, and such copy is repetitive and boring. In such cases, the customers feed back from the surveys gives new insights about how others see your products. Learning from that you can address those problems using the content from feed back, both negative and positive. Copy written that way can be great content ‘for the sake of writing good content’ and also to address problems faced by your customers. So it serves not one but two purposes.

  41. Great post. Loved the bit about entrepreneurs studying copywriting. Totally agree. Thanks for sharing.

  42. Oh yes, this is great for many uses indeed. I especially liked the angle of this post; so what if it upsets some people because it’s different? If it works, go for it ;-)

  43. How about scouring through the emails that customers have sent to you all these years explaining what they need and want, in their own words? I use that a lot for keyword research, but yes, it can and should be extended to sales copy too. Pretty obvious but needs to me brought to the stage.

    • Oh, yes! If you have those emails, they are golden — you don’t even need to do a survey! This process is for people who DON’T have those emails to get the same benefit.

      Thanks for mentioning that, Ashish.

  44. This is super stuff. I have immediately configured a survey and send it over and also taking it to my blog.
    Thank you Pace Smith. Hats of to you and Also thank you to Sonia Simone.
    I am excited to have this thing in place.

  45. This is a brilliant strategy! As someone who is building a business on a budget, what a great way to boost your conversions with a simple and free method. My only concern is for the customer. If you send this survey out to your subscriber’s list, what value are they getting in return for their feedback? One of my goals is always to provide the most valuable and useful content to my subscribers as a way of building that trust and relationship. So, how could I utilize this method while also continuing to provide great value?

    • Excellent question, Dalas!

      What I like to do is, after I’ve collected, grouped, and analyzed all the survey responses, to write a blog post and/or newsletter summarizing the responses, what we learned, and what we plan to do based on the valuable feedback we received.

      So many times people feel like the time they take to answer a survey is wasted, but if you show your readers that you are listening, paying attention, and taking action based on their feedback, they will appreciate it A LOT.

  46. The part about surveying your customers is really important. So many people overlook this step, and they end up on “guessing” about what their readers want — which is not very effective.

  47. I love everything about this idea.

    To me the most important part is asking your market for advice on what they want/need. If you’re not comfortable with Google Docs (I’m a Google Apps geek), would it be worthwhile to solicit feedback in Facebook or LinkedIn Answers.

    It doesn’t make your data collection easy. But it might increase your sample size to a more meaningful level.

    Like I said. Love this idea.

    • That’s a great idea, Carl. Your results won’t be as fine-grained — it’ll be hard to sort out the “no” and “yes” answers, because they’ll all be mixed together — but the more feedback you get from your market, the better.

  48. Pace I really appreciate this information. This is a new business for me after I decided to find other means of employment due to the present economic climate and appreciate every bit of help I could get. I will put it on my website, and all my social network sites for anyone who need good advice to help them succeed.

  49. Very cool – I really like your piece!

    The best solutions always seem to be simplest and most intuitive.

  50. Hi Pace,
    Having not done a survey before, could you (excusing my ignorance) tell me the best way to get it in front of potential clients? I don’t have a large mailing list yet so should it just sit on the homepage and be linked to via social media for example?
    Any advice would be a great help.
    Thanks

  51. Dave, this is a very good idea. Never the less, being an entrepreneur and working hard towards success, is the best thing one can do. Believe me, during this journey, you will meet lot like minded people and will give you great comfort and success. Cheers mate.

    Witness above, we have great people helping each other achieve their dream. This blog is super..

  52. Thanks for making copywriting sounds a lot more easier. Particularly like your step 5: “Rephrase and generalize”. It is a great yet simple strategy! Thanks for sharing!

  53. Wow!! Pace! You rock! I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the ‘comments’ were not at all what you expected — but I love them! What is the purpose of a blog if not to learn – from the blogger – and from each other?? Seems to me EVERYONE has picked up a thing or two from this post – about copywriting…and about their own personal ‘triggers’.

    No doubt your intentions were good – and, as always, you wrote from your heart and then it was hurtful, I’m sure, that when you did so…others took offense. No worries… we have all(Sonia and Brian too!) walked away from this post with a little something more than we had when we arrived. And, if I were you, I’d risk that again any day! (I know u will!!).

    For my part, I have experienced every side of this coin. As a reporter, I’ve seen a job that used to pay $$$ discounted to $, with little or no standards for quality. As an entrepreneur, I’ve used 99designs to get a logo I could afford – but that I certainly could not have created myself. It’s not about being ‘cheap’, as described by at least one person – it’s simply about working within a budget. Is a copywriter ‘cheap’ for buying a watch that tells time but is not a Rolex?

    I’m sure we would all prefer to pay the best of the best to do our designing, our writing….heck…our eyebrows….but living within our means is not only responsible — as an entrepreneur, it’s critical.

    Like I said, you rock.

    Amy Parmenter
    The ParmFarm.com

    • Thanks, Amy! I see both sides of the coin, too. On the one side, when you’re bootstrapping, you keep your expenses lean. On the other side, you’ve got to spend money to make money. But in any given post, I’m not going to write a “pros and cons” list. That’s dull. I’ll pick one side and focus on it. And in the next post, maybe I’ll focus on the other side. But I find that when writing, it’s best to make one point boldly.

      I appreciate your comment! (:

  54. Nice useful tips Pace, I don’t know that Google Doc has survey form builder either. Learned new tips today, thank you.

  55. Hi Pace,

    I have read lots of ebook about affiliate marketing, but too much is confusing LOL.

    But your post just rocks, and really clear as well as easy to understand, love the way you gave the steps, it can be converted to an ebook! LOL..

    Thanks.

  56. Pace, I think you may actually be a genius!

  57. Thank you for this useful information

    Being stolen Copies is a bit usual, given the fzct that I see the same ones a little everywhere.

  58. GREAT article, I use this method for pretty much every salesletter I write.

    Also another trick I use for event copywriting:

    When an event is going on that is similar to an event I am writing about, I’ll look for its Twitter hashtag and watch the feed for that event. If people say “oh i wish i learned more about XYZ” I’ll take note of it. At the end of the event, I basically have a list of bullet point ideas for my salesletter of the event because I know exactly what people are looking for.

    If I’m the one presenting, it also helps me come up with a kick-ass presentation that fills in all the gaps as well.

  59. Atreyu Smith :

    This is a great article! Very smart idea on surveying. It is fundamental, yet many don’t know it I’ve noticed. Thank you.