As an independent consultant who specializes in turning customer research into targeted messaging & copy, I often work with companies that need help doing exactly that — they need help gathering voice-of-customer insights and turning them into targeted, conversion-focused messages & customer-facing copy.
This usually requires me doing an almost intervention-esque overhaul of a company's existing copy creation process. I have to systematically conduct a multitude of surveys and interviews, analyze the data, and then compile the resulting mountain of messy data into a 50+ page tome of findings and recommendations.
Now, don't get me wrong: It's effective, and it's worth it, but BOY is it a ton of work.
Recently i started wondering if there's a better, more sustainable, heck, even automated way to bake customer research into a business's copywriting flow.
After all, customer insights should be a primary, ever-present force driving a company's evolution, not something that's collected in giant, high-effort bursts of investigation once or twice a year.
Think about it: If every reputable business book on the planet espouses making customer input the driving force shaping your product's long-term design and development, shouldn't companies have a way of making customer intel the driving force shaping their ad and website copy?
I've since updated and simplified my usual approach of diving headfirst into a client's customer & prospect base, doing weeks of intense research and drafting a massive report to execute, and come up with radically simpler, more sustainable method for turning VOC input into immediately usable copy.
It's not rocket science: Rather than deploying a battery of surveys and polls in a big one-off effort, you simply set up evergreen VOC collection "ports" into your existing sales funnels.
At key points in the customer journey, you use polls and/or popups to ask users short, simple questions designed to extract critical clues about their mindset and reasoning at that exact point in their decision-making process.
So rather than collecting it all in a one-off deep dive, you simply collect perpetual streams of feedback from these "VOC ports" 24/7. Then, on say a monthly basis, you extract the most prevalent messages from the latest cohort and use those messages as the raw material for editing new, testable ads, content marketing assets, and sales copy.
Let me show you what I mean (this is a framework I'm in the midst of working on with some clients. It's not groundbreaking or anything, but I do think it can really help any businesses who ascribe to a "lean startup" methodology in their product development but still need a way to incorporate it into their marketing) ...
To start, were's what your run-of-the-mill, full online business funnel looks like ...
You've got your paid ads driving users to some kind of lead-capture page and form, and then emails nurturing and prompting these leads to buy.
[Of course, you can also have more direct funnels where users are driven directly to sales pages, etc. but for the purposes of this post, we'll stick with this longer, more comprehensive flow.]
Now, here's how the standard in-house ad copywriting process layers on TOP of this funnel ...
Basically, the team comes up with ad copy ideas on the fly, usually based on: ad copy tutorials, whatever competitors have started doing, search keywords (if they're writing SEM ads), HiPPO ideas; and general gut-feeling hunches.
It's usually pretty rushed and random, with ideas coming in from all sides of what to promote and how to say it.
Note that the copy testing cycle shown above is entirely contained at the ad-click level.
Even though prospects are travelling through the funnel and dropping out at different points downstream (for unknown-but-probably-pretty-darn-important reasons), the ONLY customer feedback the team is basing their optimization on is ad click volume.
In fact, you probably shouldn't even really call it a "cycle," because there's no real iteration happening. It's just stop-start process of "try a bunch of random ideas and hopefully something sticks, then try to beat that with more random ideas."
There are a number of problems with this internal, click-focused, shotgun approach to copywriting. Specifically:
Issue #1: Ad ideas rely entirely on internal creativity & research, which limits variety of messages tested. This often results in hyperfocusing on the same messaging strategies over and over again.
Issue #2: Ad targeting is usually singular & broad, and winners and losers are often defined by how they perform across extremely broad audiences. This often results in companies not recognizing or not testing highly specific messages that work extremely well for highly specific audiences and constantly trying to come up with some holy-grail message that appeals to everyone (which, every copywriter knows, is the most effective way to never write good copy, ever).
Issue #3: No effort is put into finding out WHY users aren't converting deeper in the funnel, which may be for reasons that are complete independent from the ad copy being tested (or even from the copy, PERIOD).
Issue #4: No effort is put into finding out what's actually WORKING and why. Effective messaging insights & tactics from successful sales are never identified & put higher in the funnel, due to a lack of followup with actual buyers.
So, how do we fix this? By setting up, simple, 1-question polls at 3 specific points in your sales funnel, like so:
VOC Port #1: Set up a 1-question poll to ask about pain points
For example, you could ask "What's the #1 challenge you struggle with when [insert whatever your product does]?"
VOC Port #2: Set up a post-purchase question (via email) to ask customers about their desired outcomes
For example, you could ask "What's the #1 thing you hope to get out of using [insert your product name]?"
VOC Port #3: Set up a timed 1-question poll to ask about about objections / anxieties
For example, you could ask "Is there anything holding you back from buying today?"
Now, there are OTHER questions you could ask, but the general point here is to ask ONE question (at the exact right time) that susses out a key type aspect of your prospects' mindset which you can then reflect back to them as ad and/or landing page copy.
By baking these 3 questions into your funnel at the right time, you pretty much have EVERYTHING YOU NEED to come up with & test new customer-targeted ad + landing-page campaigns on a monthly basis. Here's how:
- Use people's answers from Port #1 to draft highly relatable ad headlines for cold prospecting traffic
- Use people's answers from Port #2 to draft compelling headlines and value propositions that are perfectly aligned with your audience's desires and motivations.
- Use people's answers from Port #3 to draft reassuring, objection-neutralizing body copy that reassures the reader in all the right ways that there's no risk to clicking that CTA.*
It's that easy — by continuously collecting answers from your prospects and customers at the exact right point in their journey (to and through purchase), then dedicating one day a month to analyzing that data, you can generate an endless stream of copy & messaging test ideas, with usable, straight-from-the-horse's-mouth copy, to boot.
Best of all, your funnel copy — including your ads — stays laser-focused on what your customers care about, instead of getting distracted by random ideas, hunches, and whatever your competitors did in their last campaign.
No massive 50-page reports. No protracted research phase. Just actionable customer insights streaming into your marketing department, ready to be mined, 24/7.