When you struggle to write copy that connects you can feel it.
You might not be able to put your finger on what it is, but you know it feels out of sorts. Like wearing ill-fitting clothes. You might be able to force it, but it won’t be pretty (or comfortable).
Your copy should be easy for prospects to read, and I’m not talking about plain-speak and nicely edited sentences, it should be easy because it feels comfortable, familiar. In my last few posts I’ve talked about trying to put yourself in your customer’s mind, to speak to the conversation they’re already having in their head, and the technique I’m about to share with you should be another tool to help you do just that.
When I was going to be a famous scriptwriter…
I studied screenwriting for film and television for 3 years. Earned a degree in it.
No mum, I don’t think I’m going to be a barrister any more, I don’t think I need a law degree I’m going to be a scriptwriter, and this is the only degree of its kind in the country! My future will be set.
Fast-forward 3 years.
I’m burned out. I am NEVER writing again.
*How to tell parents…?*
Mum, dad, I’m not going to be a
barrister scriptwriter anymore, I’m going to Canada for a year! The degree? Bossed it. Everything’s fi….
*Line goes dead*
I got a good degree, but I never wrote anything for the big screen. Oh wait. But the narrative lessons I learned were invaluable when I started copywriting. One of those lessons was the ‘character monologue’.
You can’t write a well-rounded character unless you’re really in their head. If you know what they think, what they say, what gets them upset.
Most importantly – What they would say that you wouldn’t.
My tutors saw a lot of students writing stories about… students. Who sat around and had conversations about… being students.
“Stop it. Stretch yourself. Write about someone who isn’t you.”
They encouraged us to create characters that weren’t like us, and to do so effectively you had to research these people. You had to build their background, know how they spoke, uncover their values.
Even though we were writing about fictional characters, to feel authentic you had to work hard to get to know them until they became real. We would write reams of background documents on our characters, highlighting the events that shaped their lives and outlooks, and at some point we would write a character monologue.
This could be a character randomly speaking to themselves, but to make it interesting it worked well when they were experiencing conflict. A mother about to have her daughter taken into care, a sea fishing apprentice working on a trawler for the first time.
You would write as them. In their voice, in their words, and with their cadence until the essence of you was removed. At that point you really just became a vehicle for their story. The result could be some powerful writing that could unearth new plot points, and deepen the character in your mind so that you could write about them with authenticity.
Do this for your customer
stole was inspired by this technique and use it in my copywriting workshops, only it’s a customer monologue.
I LOVE seeing the results from this exercise, especially people who need more confidence when it comes to writing copy because it shows to them that they know much more about their customer than they think they do. As people read out their monologues you can almost see a switch being flicked, a change taking place as they take a step closer to their customer – by momentarily becoming their customer.
What’s wrong with a customer profile?
Nothing. But you write them from an external perspective. For example, a brief, high-level customer profile might be:
Hotel-owner looking to get more leads and bookings so they can increase capacity
I’m deliberately keeping the detail light but the point I want to make is that the above content is you writing about someone separate to you. How would it sound if you were writing as though you are that hotel owner?
Conflict reveals character
Lajos Egri wrote The Art of Dramatic Writing which is an excellent book for fiction writers, but also for copywriters if you want to learn how to write a compelling narrative. In the book, Egri talks about how conflict reveals character. When a character is placed under stress or duress, you will see what they are really made of. Will they run away? Will they stand up to the pressure?
When I ask people to write a customer monologue I want them to think about the conflict their prospect faces. And I provide a simple 3-part framework to follow which is:
- I’m sick and tired of…
- I wish I could…
- But I don’t know…
In our above hotel owner example – what might this look like?
“I’m sick and tired of the hotel industry being dominated by big chains with no character. It kills me when customers tell me we’re so much better than other hotels, but that they found us by accident and decided to ‘take a chance’. I wish I could let people know we’re here but Hotel booking sites take too much money and I just don’t know how to compete online without a massive budget.”
Now we have some evocative and emotive ideas that we can work into our copy. Whether our product is an airbnb style site, or sales and marketing training, we have themes of frustration and desire that we can play with as ideas to test in our copy.
But for me, it’s really a technique to help shift perspective, to bring you closer to your customer, so that when you write your copy you can ask yourself: is this tailored to my customer? Or am I trying to force copy that just doesn’t fit?
In my experience, businesses know this information, but it’s so deeply ingrained it’s overlooked. The customer monologue makes you revist your customer from a slightly different angle, and who knows what great copy ideas might emerge if you go through the process yourself?
What do you think?
Can you see this working or do you prefer a traditional customer profile? How do you transfer what’s in your customer’s head to what you write on the page? Let me know in the comments!