Don’t Tell Me What I’m Thinking: Does Your SEO Copywriting Miss the Mark?

It’s funny when television mirrors reality so closely.

I was watching Mad Men, the AMC series about 1960s-era advertising executives. The setup: A client, Playtex, craved a new advertising campaign. A group of men (who assumedly have never tried to squeeze their man-breasts into a push-up bra) and one woman were assigned to the campaign. The group (without the woman’s help) developed a campaign around the assumption that women wanted to be like either Marilyn Monroe or Jackie Kennedy, and all advertising should be centered around one of those two female icons.

Problem is, the men didn’t ask any women if they related to either Marilyn or Jackie. They didn’t even ask the opinion of the lone woman working on the campaign. In fact, they even dismissed her opinion after she disagreed with their ideas. Just like what happens in hundreds of companies and ad agencies every day, the men of Mad Men ignored the real data in front of them, and chose to make assumptions about their target audience.

And that’s not smart.

Fast-forward to a conversation I had the other day. When I asked a marketing executive why “free shipping” was considered their top benefit – even though all their competitors offer the same thing – her answer was, “Well, we think people really like free shipping.” Had they done studies to prove this? No. Does their customer feedback back this up? No. They just assumed people would respond best to a “free shipping” offer because they like it.

The problem is, a faulty marketing assumption means your messaging – and your SEO copywriting campaign – is always off the mark. Sure, “free shipping” may be a good benefit statement. But what if the customer really cares about personalized assistance and customized solutions? Instead of satisfying your customer’s needs, you’re telling her what to think (free shipping is the most important benefit). And that’s not good.

Much like a romantic relationship, where one faulty assumption can cascade into five years of costly marriage counseling, assuming what your prospect is thinking can have disastrous effects. And just like the advice you’d get during marriage counseling, if you really want to know what your prospect is thinking, the solution is simple. Just ask her.

Don’t roll out new SEO copywriting campaigns hoping you’ll “connect” this time. Don’t create something sexy because you’re sure your idea will work. Just open your mouth and ask your prospect …

“What are you thinking? What do you care about? What do you need?”

It’s really that simple.

Here are some things you can do right now to open up the lines of communication with your prospect:

  1. Follow-up with your customer with a survey or phone call after her purchase and find out what she liked – or didn’t like – about your service. Although this personal approach can be extremely time-consuming, the conversations you’ll have will be worth their weight in marketing data gold. You can easily fold this information into upcoming SEO copywriting campaigns and test responses.
  2. Invite a small number of your customers to participate in a focus group, and ask them questions about what they currently like about your company – and what they’d like to see. Getting a group of people talking about your product or service can spark some great feedback.
  3. Talk to your customer service representatives and ask what feedback they’ve heard about your products. Your CSRs are your front-line people, and they hear it all – good and bad. Believe me, these folks know exactly what your customers are thinking.
  4. If you’re too “close” to your own data, hire a content development consultant to comb through your feedback, talk to your customer service department, and retool your marketing messaging. Outside experts are great to help get you out of your own marketing head, see your services in a different light, and rewrite your SEO content to match your new messaging.

Finally, don’t be afraid to change. Your customers’ comments may make you feel defensive, edgy – or plain piss you off. You may rail about how “they don’t understand” and “how could they even think that” about your product. But shut up and listen.

Yes, it IS hard to do. Because no matter how snarky some feedback can get, there are always nuggets of gold buried within. Learn from them. Don’t take them personally (even if they’re dissing your campaign!). Make the necessary marketing tweaks and move on.

Change in this case is very, very good – and your messaging will be better for it.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


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Published: September 24, 2008

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