In today’s episode I answer a listener question I get pretty frequently.
“Do I need to understand an industry in order to write copy for it?”
This is a question that a lot of freelance copywriters ask themselves. And I totally get it – it makes sense that you should stick with what you know best, right?
In fact, sometimes deep knowledge of an industry can even be counter-productive if you want to write great copy.
In today’s episode, I explain why.
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Hey guys, welcome to Write Bites: a series of 10-minute episodes on writing, marketing and freelancing. In today’s episode, I want to answer a question from Mike.
Mike asked: “Do I need to understand a particular industry in order to write copy for that industry?” – and I think this is a pretty great question.
I’ve gotten it several times in the past, and so I wanted to take a moment and dive into that on this episode.
It’s All About The “Why”
Now, when you think about copywriting, you know that you need to really understand the customer. And so what can happen is a lot of times people think that also means they need to really understand the company and by extension the technology or the particular solution that the company is selling.
And so the idea becomes that if you don’t understand this industry very well, or this technology very well, or this particular niche very well, them you’re probably gonna struggle to write copy for a specific business in this industry. And the reality is that’s just not the case.
Or at least, in most cases, it’s not true.
The first thing we have to understand is that the most important aspect of copywriting is not what or how. It’s why.
It’s the core reason that your customer base is going to want to purchase the product or solution that you are offering.
And you’ll find as you work across various industries and niches that the why is kind of always essentially the same.
Make it easier, make it faster, make it more profitable, make it more reliable, make it more secure and make it more enjoyable, make it more effective, make it doable in the first place, et cetera, et cetera.
And the application is obviously gonna vary across every product, every company, every industry, every niche, but it all boils down to the same thing. People make purchasing decisions based on the benefit more than the specific feature or how to.
Now, obviously this isn’t always the case, particularly when you get into really saturated industries and products. Or places where a product is competing against a lot of very established products.
In that case, maybe there’s a particular feature or a particular aspect of how the product or service is delivered that provides its unique value proposition.
So this isn’t necessarily a universal idea, but you’ll find – by and large – most purchasing decisions all boil down to the same core rationale – the same core reasons that people have to make purchases.
Whether I’m purchasing email software, or whether I’m purchasing a new desk for my office, the core reasons I might choose to go with any given company are often the same.
If It’s Too Complex For You, It’s Too Complex For The Reader
The second reason you don’t necessarily have to really understand an industry to write copy for it is that most of a given company’s customers aren’t really gonna understand the technology.
If the explanation of how it works is too complex for you to understand, it’s also probably too complex for a lot of the customer base to understand.
Now, again, obviously this is relative.
Some people just have better kind of initial comprehension of a wide variety of concepts than others.
So it is possible that if you’re someone who just really has a lengthy learning curve to understand new concepts, then maybe you do need to spend a little more time in an industry before you start to be more comfortable writing copy.
For the most part, you are comparable to the individuals in any given company’s customer base.
As someone who is pursuing freelancing and entrepreneurship, I’m going to hazard a guess that you are not of drastically below average intelligence.
And so, if you are someone who is of average or higher intelligence and comprehension, you’re going to be right in line with the people that a lot of these companies are selling to – or even quicker to understand these types of things.
If a technology is so complex to the point that that you just can’t understand it – and listening to the company, explain it – that’s going to be a problem for their customers for most companies.
Unless it’s a company that’s working like selling almost exclusively to very, very deep industry insiders then a overly complex explanation just isn’t going to fly.
So it’s if the technology can not be easily explained, it’s not going to sell unless they can find a way to explain it that is simple and that is easy to understand.
And that’s where, you know having niche expertise – spending time in an industry and getting to understand it – will help you create simpler explanations.
That way, you can work with clients who really struggle to communicate it succinctly and you can come in and very quickly pick it up, fill in the gaps and figure out how it works and how it’s important to the customers, and then make it really simple.
The better you understand something, the easier it is to make it very simple in terms of explaining it.
Learning On The Go Is A Normal Part Of Being A Copywriter
What I’m just trying to communicate is typically the process for working with the company is you send them the questionnaire and they explain how everything works and what about it appeals to the customer based on direct customer feedback, based on the existing customer base.
Your job is to find a really great way to communicate all those things.
You don’t have to supply the core data points. You’re just more taking the data points and putting it into a narrative.
Over the course of my career, I’ve had many projects where I came in and had no clue: I had never worked with a company in the industry before , had no clue – when they first explained what they were doing – what it was all about.
And then, after I sat down and put them through my questionnaire, had them explain it to me, I picked it up pretty easily and was then able to write great copy for it.
So if that’s something that has been a point of concern for you – you’ve been wanting to get into certain industries, but you’ve been worried that “Hey, my level of personal expertise in this area or personal knowledge isn’t going to be enough to write the copy” – just dive in and get started.
Start working with clients and you’ll pick it up probably a lot quicker than you think.
Remember That It All Comes Back To The “Why”
And even if you don’t, again, it all comes back to the why.
People essentially make purchasing decisions for the same reasons across every industry and product line and business.
People are people. We buy things for the same reasons. The reasons are always a lot simpler than most of the sales copy we read.
That’s probably one of the single biggest issues I find when I’m reviewing sales copy: people try to get overly technical and complex when that’s not what that’s not what selling the product.
I use ConvertKit for my email software.
I’m not using that because I have a deep understanding of email technology or I have some deep appreciation for the underlying tech that ConvertKit is using.
I don’t know jack shit about any of that.
I just know it helps me do the things I want to do. And it’s easier than the previous things I’ve tried.
That’s what got me to try it in the first place.
That’s why I’ve continued to use it.
If I ever switch over to another service provider it will be because they said “Hey, I can help you do this, this thing” you know, this simple thing that ConvertKit’s not allowing me to do.
Or I’m going to have people that I work with who do similar things to me and are running similar businesses say, “Hey, I just switched over to them, and it made this, this, and this way easier or more fun or enjoyable, or “it’s more effective”.
Those are the reasons that we make our purchasing decisions.
Even if we have a more technical explanation that we can provide. It’s not really the reason we made the purchase in the first place.
So keep that in mind.
I hope you found that explanation helpful.
If that’s something that’s been concerning to you, feel free to throw some questions my way and I will try to get to them on future episodes. That’s it for now. I’ll catch you guys in the next episode.
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Share Your Thoughts
I hope this was helpful, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
Do you agree? Do you disagree with the fierce heat of a thousand suns?
Let me know in the comments below.
Plus, if you have a question you want answered on a future Write Bites episode, ask in the comments or shoot me an email, and I’ll add it to the schedule.