Writing effective copy is all about research and preparation. The more thorough your research is, the more effective your copy will be. Whether you are a new writer or an established expert, a checklist is a great way to make sure your research phase is thorough, efficient, and effective.
Here are some examples of ways to create a great copywriting research checklist.
Why Copywriters Should Use Checklists
Professional copywriting is a business like any other. Success is based on three key factors:
- Effectiveness of your writing. It all comes down to the basics. Does your writing hold the reader’s attention? Does it provide them with the necessary information? Does it motivate them to take the desired action?
- Client satisfaction. Whether you work for an employer or are a freelancer, your writing needs to satisfy your client. Does it meet their needs? Did you deliver on time? Was the process smooth and efficient?
- Speed and time. No matter how your writing is compensated, the faster you work the more money you can earn. Finding ways to improve your efficiency without decreasing effectiveness or satisfaction is the best way to increase your earning potential.
A checklist is a great way to approach your research, because it ensures that you are planning for effective copy and client satisfaction, while increasing your own speed and efficiency.
Research Checklist for Any Type of Copy
No matter what kind of copy you are writing, establishing these key factors will help you start off on the right foot. Always make sure you know:
- Target Audience. Who are you writing for? What are they looking for? What will interest them?
- Call To Action. What do you want the reader to do after reading your copy? How can you motivate them toward the desired action?
- Target and Secondary Keywords. Are there keywords or phrases that need to be included in your copy? If the client hasn’t provided them, do you need to independently research them?
- Distribution Platform. Writing for a web page is not the same thing as writing for social media, product pages, print advertising, or a blog post. Ensure that your tone and strategy matches the distribution method.
- Client Objectives. Client objectives are not always the same thing as the CTA, so make sure you understand what the client’s goals are for the copy. Does the client want to boost views or sales? Do they want a specific keyword density? Do they want social engagement? Make sure you know how your client defines success.
Research Checklist for Products or Services Copywriting
When your copy is intended to sell a product or service, here is a basic overview of the information you should gather before writing.
- Product Description. It goes without saying that you should be able to clearly describe the product. If the product has various options, like different colors or sizes, make sure you understand and can describe the options.
- Product Features. Product features are specific aspects of the description, describing the product’s capabilities. Features are often facts and statistics, and might include motor strength, variable speeds, ergonomic design, and other factors that affect its use.
- Product Benefits. Product benefits directly connect the features with consumer desires. For example, if a feature is that the product is machine washable, the benefit is that it’s easy to clean. If the feature is that it has a powerful motor, the benefit is that it completes tasks faster. Great product copy always connects a feature with a benefit.
- Product Purpose. What does the product do? Who was it designed for?
- Product Positioning. How does the product compare with similar competitive products? Is it better, faster, stronger, more durable, more affordable, etc?
- Unique Selling Proposition. What sets this product apart from everything else in the marketplace? Is it the most, best, biggest, strongest, cheapest, etc?
- Company. Many consumers want to know about the company before making purchase decisions. Does the company have a long history, great reputation, community values, or other factors that consumers are interested in?
- Price and Availability. Price is always an important consideration for a product, and it’s also important to research any availability factors. Is the product only available in limited quantities or distribution centers? Does it have long delivery times or expensive shipping options?
- Objections. What are the most common reasons someone wouldn’t buy this product? Can you persuasively answer those objections in your copy? For example, if it’s more expensive than a competitor product, can you explain that it’s more durable, more versatile, or a better value in some way?
- Testimonials, Endorsements, and Recognition. Research whether the product or company has any notable testimonials or endorsements. Look for any awards, positive press, or other third-party recognition.
- Special Offers. Are there any special deals or offers? Are these limited in time or quantity?
- Guarantee. Is there a guarantee or warranty? What are the terms and conditions?
Research Checklist for Specialized Copywriting
Depending on the product or industry, there may be specialized research topics that apply to your copy. It’s always a good idea to clarify whether you need to know:
- Jargon and Terminology. Specialized products for specific industries, and almost all B2B copy, involves familiarity with certain industry jargon or terminology. When applicable, use your research to identify industry terms, acronyms, metrics, and other terms that will be familiar and informative for a specialized audience.
- Taboos or Unwanted Language. There may be cultural or industry taboos that make certain topics or comparisons undesirable. You may need to avoid controversial aspects or use cases out of sensitivity for the reader. For example, eating beef or pork is forbidden in certain religions, so you may want to avoid those types of references.
- Restrictions and Disclaimers. Many products and services have legal restrictions in the types of claims that can be made in product copy. For example, the FDA regulates the types of claims that can be made about dietary supplements. There are also many legal restrictions that can apply to warranties and guarantees, medical products, children’s toys, and so on. It’s always a good idea to research and determine whether any restrictions apply to your copy, and whether you are required to include specific language or disclaimers.
Making Your Own Copywriting Research Checklist
These examples are a great place to start, but you will need to customize your own checklist over time. As you more frequently research similar topics and products, you will develop the checklist that works best for your clients and your copy.
The best way to perfect your research checklist is to reflect on your writing, taking note of what research was most effective, and what was missing from your research process. Reflecting on your own processes improves your effectiveness, your speed, and your copy.
Thorough research saves a writer time in the long run so that you can gather all the information you need ahead of time, in order to focus on the task of writing. A checklist is a great way to set yourself, and your clients, up for success.