“Proper planning prevents poor performance.”

– Anonymous

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“What’s Your Work Process?”

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Every smart buyer of writing services will make sure the above question is answered to his or her full satisfaction. As for my work process, I take my cue from legendary adman Bill Bernbach.

“The magic is in the product…You’ve got to live with your product.
You’ve got to get steeped in it. You’ve got to get saturated with it.”

Bill Bernbach – Advertising Age Magazine’s Advertising Person of the [20th] Century

Bill Bernbach was the genius behind some of the most profitable advertising campaigns ever launched. His firm, Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB), helped clients generate billions of dollars in sales. And while DDB worked almost exclusively with consumer goods companies the thorough and detailed work process that produced these results is applicable to any kind of marketing. I take a similarly thorough and detailed approach when preparing to write your copy; I work to access and articulate the magic in your product, your service, or both.

It usually starts with the creative brief. A good creative brief will – at a minimum – define the project, identify the target market the work will be aimed at and explain where and how the work will be used and the result(s) you hope to achieve.

If you have a creative brief, great! If not, no worry. In almost any project of any size – even if you have a creative brief – I’ll undertake some version of the 5-step work process outlined below:

Step One – With your direction and help I’ll study your company, the product, the service (or both), your industry, and your top competitors. This includes reviewing all current advertising, marketing, PR and sales content pertinent to your project. If your organization prepares proposals as part of its sales process I’ll take a look at one of those as well. Plus, I’ll visit the websites of major trade magazines serving your industry and the websites of your top competitors  

Step Two – As I gain a better understanding of your company and your product(s) and/or service(s)… messaging ideas will come to mind. In addition, there may be details in your marketing and sales content that I need further clarification on. I’ll make note of all of this. When I’m done, I’ll have a list of specific questions to go over with you that will give me a deeper understanding of the subject matter I will be writing about. These questions will serve as the basis for our in-depth interview.

Step Three – I’ll email you the interview questions and we’ll schedule a time for a recorded interview. I prefer a recorded interview because this way I can give my full attention to what you are saying instead of trying to listen and frantically take notes at the same time. (Multi-tasking is overrated.)

In this in-depth interview your answers will trigger new questions and new information which will trigger new ideas. With your permission, I’ll have a transcript made of our interview. This transcript will serve as a reference tool, a source for ideas and, with editing and polish, specific content for your B2B copywriting project. (You’ll also receive a copy of the transcript, which can be a valuable training tool.) To read an actual interview transcript, presented with the client’s permission, please click here.

NOTE: You are welcome to have others from your company take part in the interview. Two or three additional people can usually be accommodated. For example, if yours is a direct response lead-generation project, input from a top sales executive would no doubt be helpful. We just need to take care to not talk over one another so that we get an accurate transcript.

Step Four – In this step I try to get a sampling of the customer’s point of view.  I will conduct brief, informal interviews with 2 – 3 of your customers to get their perspective on what it’s like to do business with you.  In addition to validating your beliefs or bringing new truths to light, these interviews can benefit you in other ways as well. For example, I’ve often been able to elicit excellent customer testimonials.

Depending on the size of your company and the stage it’s at in its development, step 4 may not be a part of the process; or, this information may be garnered from a review of your case studies.

Step Five – I’ll review the printed interview transcript(s), highlighting key sections and making notes. The transcript(s), together with information gained from customer interviews and the other referenced activities…will give me a rock-solid foundation of knowledge. Through this thorough process and resulting knowledge and understanding I will develop marketing content for your project that captures the attention and interest of your readers and produces the results for your business that you hope to achieve.