Edmund Burke, a British statesman, once said, “Facts are to the mind what food is to the body.”
Exactly right. Facts are the beginning for clear thinking and for powerful copywriting. To create effective direct mail or ads, you have to have something substantial and relevant to say. Puffery and empty technique just don’t cut it.
That’s why I always go through a set of basic questions when I’m starting a copywriting project. In fact, I have a standard advertising and marketing questionnaire to help collect the information I’ll need. This questionnaire covers the product, the prospect, and the promotion.
Here are a few examples:
- What is the product, service, or cause?
- What are the features? Which are most important?
- What are the benefits of these features? What problems are solved? What needs are met?
- What is the unique selling proposition? How is this better, bigger, cheaper?
- Who is the prospect? Demographics? Needs? Beliefs? Work titles?
- What are the common objections from buyers, customers, donors?
- What is the objective? Inquiries? Direct sales? Donations?
- What is the offer?
- What is the budget? (You’re joking!)
- What is the deadline for creative? (You want it when?!)
- How are orders/responses accepted? Mail? Phone? Fax? Web?
- What is the guarantee?
Read the full questionnaire at my main site. This is really just a starting point. I can easily ask over a hundred questions. The more information, the better.
For many copywriters, the temptation is to start writing immediately. That’s a huge mistake. The best work is always based on facts. And facts take time to find and understand.
When people ask where I get ideas for headlines or sales letters, I say, “I don’t know.” I really don’t. What I do know is that they generally pop into my head as I’m slogging through tons of information.