Need Better Copy? Ask The Right Questions!


(By James Bahm) Walking into a client’s office for a Client Needs Analysis allows you to learn not only about their challenges and growth opportunities, but, if done correctly, you can learn a great deal about their customers, and target consumers.

I’ve heard from colleagues across the country who struggle with how to write good copy if you don’t know anything about the client’s customers. It’s not too terribly difficult if you know what you are doing.

Here are a few questions you can ask, and how you can use the information gleaned to write good, effective, engaging copy.

1. When you talk with new customers, what are some of the reasons they share for coming in and choosing to do business with you?
2. Put yourself in your customer’s position. What makes them choose to do business with you when your competitor down the street offers a similar product/service at a lower price?
3. What intangibles do you provide that your three biggest competitors do not? Not from your perspective, but from your customer’s and target-consumer’s point of view.
4. What are some of the biggest objections/fears you hear most often from the customers you work with?

Most business owners I meet with are likely to give multiple answers to questions 2 and 3 entirely from their perspective. Let me ask you this: When you have a need, do you care about anything the person has to say if it doesn’t relate to you and your need(s)? I know I wouldn’t.

Don’t be afraid to ask those questions. I have never had a client get offended by these questions. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Any professional will ask challenging questions to get to the heart of the matter. Doctors, attorneys, CPAs, etc. ask questions to ensure they are helping fix the right problems. As an advertising and marketing professional, why would you chicken out and not ask questions that allow your clients to think about their company from their customer’s perspective?

Based on meeting with a local jeweler who wanted to emphasize their custom work for engagement rings, I may use this:

“Buying jewelry can be a stressful experience. Do they have the right setting? The right stone? Are they easy to work with? At ABC Jewelers they work with you to create a piece of jewelry that is as unique as the person wearing it. Only you can appreciate the value of designing the jewelry you really want! Make a fashion statement regardless of the occasion…”

Remember, you are a consumer, ask yourself:
• What makes you choose to purchase a product or service?
• What would make you choose to do business with your client?

Copywriting reminders: NEVER use these (or any other) clichés: “A friendly, knowledgeable staff,” “Dedicated to providing outstanding customer service,” “Our techs are ASS Certified” (Thanks for that one, Paul Weyland!), and “Conveniently located/convenient locations.”

I heard a spot taking my daughter to daycare that said: “We’re conveniently located …” This particular place is about 25 miles from my house and it is anything but convenient for me. I never hear McDonald’s or Starbucks say, “We’re conveniently located…” Why not? Because if you want to find the nearest location, you’ll Google it.

I tell every client I meet with that the first place they’ll see results is with their Google Analytics. The first thing our audience will do is look them up online by searching from them by name. Therefore, don’t waste precious seconds by giving information they can find online.

Don’t shy away from asking your client tough questions.

The more engaging you are with your questions the more you will differentiate yourself from your competition and come across as a professional resource. And the better your clients’ spots will be!

Bottom Line: The difference between mediocrity and greatness is a small measure of effort to not be like anyone else.

James Bahm is a 25-year broadcasting veteran, an advertising and marketing resource, and owner of The Bahm Consulting.


  1. I am eager to agree with James that a little more client/customer info could be helpful when engaging in the production of better copy.
    Yet, practically, are there any significant distinctions between “Wally’s Chev-Olds” and “”Elmo’s Chev-Olds” or the customers of either one? None that can be gleaned from either retailer or by tracking down customers for deep, personal interviews..
    Sellers and producers of advertising are NOT compelled to KNOW the minds of clients or consumers. They are required to massage, cajole, trick or otherwise manipulate the minds of clients and consumers.
    If all of this seems a tad Orwellian, Big Brother, 1984-ish, well, there it is.
    Further, more info is not automatically going to assist in producing more effective copy. Plus, how is this better copy to be generated – perhaps by the old “poof” method?
    Perhaps the default strategy will just have to suffice, that being, “The copy just writes itself!”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here