In this interview, we’re speaking with Anna Walker about all things copywriting, including what it means to utilize customer-obsessed copy, how to leverage your clients’ transformation and overall copywriting best practices.
Anna is a brand strategist and conversion copywriter who helps coaches and counselors find the right words to grow their businesses. She’s got experience working with clients of all shapes and sizes – from solopreneurs to Fortune 500s – and a career dedicated to branding, marketing, and copy strategy.
How long have you been doing copywriting and how to get into it, Anna?
I started in a really large agency serving a $27 billion fortune 500 company. I was there for a couple of years kind of laying the groundwork for understanding marketing in general. Later, I joined a smaller agency where I got an in-depth experience with the marketing process. There, I got to be really close to the brand strategy process since we would develop brands end-to-end. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but that’s where I also learned what it meant to write effective copy too.
Ultimately, I decided to freelance and niche down to the wellness coaching and counseling space because I myself believe very much in the power of counseling. I’ve seen it change lives. I was looking for a counselor in a new city, and everyone sounded the same. That’s when I realized I can serve these companies while being very much behind their mission. I don’t just take on any client. I really want to believe in what my clients do, because that means that I can also write from a place of authenticity and truly provide my clients the customer-obsessed copy they need.
Yes, I get what you mean about being in line with your clients’ beliefs. It really helps make the work much stronger and better. This way, you’re not only enjoying the work – which is magnificent – but you’re also creating better quality work too.
Yeah, it’s all about authenticity and a more natural way of communicating instead of being forced. Good copy is all about coming across and presenting yourself in a way that, of course, resonates with your client. To do so it has to feel authentic.
When you make the leap to bring on a copywriter to help grow your business, they have to be able to interpret that as well, and then put you on the page in a way that sounds like you and connects with the people you want to work with. Believing in your client’s mission makes the job a lot easier, and ultimately, the copy more effective.
What are some of the characteristics or traits of your favorite clients to work with?
The main thing and this is something that I share with my own clients, is that we’re motivated by doing good work by serving our clients. They’re out there choosing to invest in copywriting, they’re choosing to actively grow their business because they have high standards for themselves. I do my best work and have enjoyed those clients the most because we connect on helping people.
I’m the exact same way. The most important thing for me when it comes to clients is that they have a bigger vision or mission within themselves. Of course, every business exists to make money, but it has to be bigger than that.
Absolutely it does. You can sense that out. I’m sure you as a designer, you can do the same thing when someone’s kind of just in it to make a buck. And, I don’t really care to work with those people. I want people that are making money as a byproduct of them doing work they truly believe in.
Not even as a designer, but a consumer is just so easy to spot those people out.
Yes, it is. As a copywriter, I’m responsible for reflecting my clients’ businesses and finding the words that are ultimately going to be displayed online. If I can’t get behind that, if it’s not true to that bigger vision, then it’s just not going to work.
Yes, very much so! Can you talk to me about what exactly does customer-obsessed copy mean?
A trap that a lot of people fall into is thinking that they need to talk about themselves. They want to establish themselves as the expert, they need to put themselves out there and all of their credentials in order for people to trust them. That’s a common mistake.
So, customer-obsessed copy is the term that I use to remind my clients that it is not about them. They’re the guide and the customer is the hero. Customer-obsessed copy is letting your customer know how you’re going to serve them. It’s putting your customer front of mind and ultimately speaking to what you can offer them and what makes you the right fit.
I’m loving this so much, I agree with every word you’re saying! Is there a process you have in place for crafting the customer-obsessed copy?
Yes, I do.
I do a lot of the work upfront. And this is something that makes me a little bit different. My process begins with what I call a ‘brand landscaping session’ where we go through a couple of exercises where we get really focused on what makes you different. I also take a look at some main competitors and do an analysis there. The customer-obsessed copy process includes looking at indirect competitors as well. So for a counselor, it could be a self-help book. I try to figure out what value does a counselor offer that a self-help book doesn’t. In this initial phase of customer-obsessed copy, we do a number of exercises to think through all of that. And, ultimately distill down what I call your unique differentiator.
A unique differentiator is what you can claim in your business that makes you different from everyone and everything else. That’s where customer-obsessed copy starts.
I also engage in customer interviews where my client puts me in touch with their past clients, or it might be me going out and finding people that fall into their ideal client persona, maybe joining a Facebook group or two and listening, asking or looking around. The idea is to sit down and to answer some really critical questions about the people you’d ultimately like to work with.
Because the best copy is not in your own head, it’s not in my head. And it’s not in a business owner’s head. It’s in the heads of their clients. It’s how their clients think about their problems, how their clients need to solve them. Hence the term customer-obsessed copy.
I remember when I was starting out as a freelancer, way back when, I made a list of ideal clients that I would like to have and actually emailed some of them as part of my market research. I asked them things like would you ever hire a web designer, for what and things like that. And this one woman from Flex, the alternative period cup company, she wrote a very thoughtful email. I basically just copied and pasted the whole thing onto my website because it was gold. And, I actually got a lot of decent leads with that copy and many compliments on how well I understood those leads.
I love that. That’s such a good testament to customer interviews! Because good copy, especially when you think about web copy, is about allowing your potential client to see themselves on the page. You’re using words back to them that are already in their head which allows you to make that connection that you couldn’t make in a million years if you didn’t have that background and understanding. I’m telling you: customer-obsessed copy is where it’s at!
Let’s shift gears a little and talk about what you mean by “selling the transformation”?
Again this goes back to customer-obsessed copy where you should talk about how you fit into your clients’ transformations. That’s the selling point. Ultimately, how you sell your offer and how you market that offer is all about selling the deeper motivation that your client has.
I’ve worked with a financial therapist and a customer comes to her to get out of debt. That’s the surface level. Yes, getting out of debt is a transformation but it’s deeper than that. Once you’re debt-free, the client could sleep better at night, maybe her marriage and overall quality of life would also improve because she’s no longer dying from stress and so on…
Selling the transformation is a big part of customer-obsessed copy because you end up digging into the deeper motivations of why someone would want your services. And this motivation is going to highly resonate with your audience.
So it’s about speaking to what change you provide?
Exactly! For example, copywriting and web design are both a commodity. But, when you start asking deeper questions you uncover that deeper transformation. It’s not “I give you a website” but “I give you business growth.“
Do you think it’s hard for people to express themselves in web copy?
I do. I mean, I struggle with this myself, and I’m a copywriter! So often, as business owners, we’re a little bit too close to what we do to talk about it. In writing web copy, I often see one of two extremes; people will get really vague and unclear because they feel like they need to talk to everyone or meet the needs of every single person that would land on their site.
Or, they want to offer everything upfront and say too much. There’s a balance between those two things that I think is honestly really tough to find when you’re inexperienced.
What are some best practices for highly converting copy you can share with us today?
There are some key things that I always suggest. The first is a crystal clear brand promise. If you don’t have this, start there, because it will serve you even outside of your website. Your brand promise is a single statement that that is directed to your ideal client and allows them to qualify themselves for your services right away. So for me, it’s “the right words to grow your business”. That is exactly what I’m offering you and the transformation I’m providing. I encourage everyone to have one of those present at the top of your homepage in the hero space.
The next thing is sharing your process. So often, it can seem obvious to us as the business owners what the next step is, or what needs to happen in order to get from point A to point B. We cannot assume that it is obvious to our clients. So anytime there’s engagement, anytime you’re prompting action, it’s really important to offer some context around it.
For example, on the homepage, write how your process works, such as the first step is to schedule a call. Explain how someone can engage with you, how much time do you expect from them, etc. Set those expectations by thinking through the questions that are in your clients’ minds, and then answer them before they even have to ask them.
The lower you can make that barrier before they go ahead and jump on a call with you or sign the proposal, the better.
Those are fantastic tips! What about the psychology of sales? Is there anything specific that goes through your head when you write?
There is a difference between content writing, which you’ll kind of see that term out there, or just plain writing, and conversion copywriting. Copywriting, especially customer-obsessed copy, is leveraging and understanding why people make the decisions that they do and then crafting the copy around that.
There are many studies on why and how people are influenced. I’ll leverage that research and understanding of psychology when writing. You have to display certain information in the right places, give priority to certain pieces over others, use different language, different word structure. It’s about bringing all that together and crafting a message that resonates.
Now, that’s not to say that it shouldn’t be tested and refined and tweaked. Copywriting should always include testing. But, it starts with using research and an understanding of that psychology to craft copy that you can be a lot more confident in from the beginning.
Is there anything about web copy that drives you absolutely bonkers?
Yes, there is something that drives me absolutely bonkers and that’s overly kitschy creative language. Especially using a lot of similes and metaphors. Or, the now popular “Hey, girl.” More often than not, it’s bordering on trying too hard. That’s how that comes across to me. I am all about being direct but silly metaphors just muddle it up for me. But, that’s more of a personal thing.
When it comes to what other people are out there doing, people often miss the mark with the headers of their pages. I think that’s just across the board. If you are not capturing your reader’s attention and speaking to their pain points or to the transformation in that space, you are going to lose people, fast. That’s a big missed opportunity.
What do you mean by missing the mark?
It goes back to not being customer-obsessed. It’s using the header of your about page to put “About” as the first headline instead of jumping in to speak to your value. Same with using the top of your services page to say “Services” or “What I Do.”
The person already clicked on services in your nav to get there, they know where they are, give them something, speak to them, let them know they’re in the right place. This wouldn’t have happened with the customer-obsessed copy approach.
Alright, it’s time to wrap this up. You’re offering a free website audit. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Absolutely. I would love to take a look at your website, if you’re interested and provide you with a free audit. I’ll spend between 30 minutes to an hour of my own time reviewing your website, making notes based on my five-question framework. In addition to writing a summary, I will record a video as I walk through your site so you can see exactly what I’m talking about as I offer feedback and recommendations.
Ultimately, you’ll be able to walk away with an expert review of your site and some really actionable recommendations on how to improve things.
Before you go, what is one takeaway you want the readers to have about customer-obsessed copy?
If you look at your copy on your homepage, if you look at your about page, if you look at your next email, through the lens of the value you offer your client, you can make your copy more effective instantly. No need to wait around.