Yesterday, I received this Upwork invite:

“Re-write the content on our website with GREAT COPY! The content is already there. It is already pretty concise. Just needs to be re-worded to GREAT COPY!”

She wanted killer copy that would convert more clients on her website. In other words, she wanted conversion copy.

Like this client, a lot of entrepreneurs who need conversion copy don’t actually know what it requires. They mistakingly think it’s just about the writing. But it’s not.

So if your copy isn’t converting, and you’re considering a copy makeover… whether you do it yourself or you hire a professional copywriter, read this post first.

Conversion copy is not a matter of this word vs. that word.

It’s not often the case that conversion copy is as simple as making a few word swaps to the existing copy.

Swapping words works in the final stages of copywriting – when you’re editing for things like clarity, specificity, and persuasion – or in the optimization stage. That’s because you already know what your sales messages need to be.

Word swapping (like what this client above wanted) doesn’t work when you’re still trying to figure out what works.

Conversion copy is on built something far more important than individual words and strings of sentences.

The foundation of great copy is the sales message.

A persuasive, high-performing website, landing page, or email is built on 1 big idea and the sales messages that support it.

Most importantly, the big idea and core messages have to be aligned with what your customers care about most.

  • Not what you ‘think’ they care about.
  • Not what your business partner ‘thinks’ they care about.
  • Not what your copywriter ‘thinks’ they care about.
  • Not what’s easy to write about.
  • Not a list of benefits that make sense to you.

There is no ‘think’. There is only ‘know’. (Thanks, Yoda.)

How do you know if you have the right messages?

The answer is simple: data.

You need data. Some call it research. I call it customer discovery. No matter what you call it, you have to reach to out to real people to understand what they experience.

  • How do they describe their problems?
  • How do they experience this problem?
  • How does that make them feel?
  • What motivates them?
  • What gets in their way?
  • What have they tried before?
  • Why hasn’t that worked for them?
  • Why do they want to solve this problem?

… and so on.

There are a number of different techniques to do this. In my experience, the methods that get the best results are:

  1. data mining (e.g. on forums, blog post comments)
  2. customer discovery interviews**
  3. online survey**
  4. exit intent polls**

(**By the way, it’s isn’t enough to ask questions. You have to ask the right questions. But that’s a subject for another post.)

Your messages are the foundation of your copy. If they aren’t right…

it doesn’t matter how many times you swap individual words (or even whole sentences).

It won’t convert.

The next time you start a copy project, first consider the strategy.

How do you know these are the right messages?

If you can’t pull out a document, say “because I have data”, and then point to specific quotes that support your claims…

You probably don’t have the right messages. You’re making assumptions. And that’s standing in the way of copy that gets more of what you want.

So what did I tell this agency owner? Exactly what I just told you:

Words swaps. Foundations. Messages. Blah, blah, blah. Let’s look at the strategy first. Then we can see if a word swap will work. (Update: It wouldn’t.)

3 Things to Remember

If you browse away from this post and remember only 3 things, let them be:

  • A great piece of conversion copy is made up of core messages that are aligned with what your customers really care about – not simply a collection of nice words.
  • Customer discovery (or simply research) is how you find out what these messages should be.
  • Be cautious of a copywriter who agrees to a simple word swap (with the goal of giving you conversion copy) without checking your copy strategy first.