How to Conduct a Good Interview

Finding a way to give your writing a distinct voice can make all the difference in how well it’s received by your target audience. And ultimately, in how successful it will be at achieving whatever goal it’s meant to achieve.

There are lots of ways to establish a unique voice. You can create a memorable, offbeat persona, you can tell an engaging story, or you can reveal a Unique Sales Proposition (USP) … to name a few.

Creating a strong USP is something you need to do at some point in any piece of sales copy you write. You may remember learning about the USP in the Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting. It’s something that sets a product apart from the competition and makes it memorable and more desirable.

But, finding a Unique Sales Proposition that’s really distinctive can be tough. It’s easy to fall back on price or customer service when it comes to creating a USP, but those don’t work as well as you might think. Price works fine until someone else starts offering a lower one. And, good customer service is something that most people expect — treating it like something extra can backfire.

So, what do you do? How do you find a USP that will really grab your prospects and not let go?

One simple solution is to conduct an interview.

There’s an old story that Bob Bly tells about a copywriter who was hired to write a direct mail piece for a piano manufacturer. He struggled to come up with a good, solid USP for the pianos. Fortunately, as he was conducting interviews and taking a tour of the factory, he discovered that every piano had a metal bar installed inside.

When he asked about it, the foreman explained that the bar stabilized the piano and prevented sound changes over time due to warping wood. The copywriter asked if this was a standard feature on pianos from other manufacturers. The foreman said that as far as he knew, they were the only company that routinely installed a stabilizing bar in every piano.

And so, a great USP was born. It would never have happened without an interview.

By taking the time to do an interview or two, you can uncover all sorts of information, anecdotes, and personality that you can weave into your writing, making it more effective and more fun to read. (More fun to write, too!)

Who to Interview

The first step in conducting a successful interview is making sure you interview the right person. And, it might mean interviewing more than one person.

Some potential candidates to interview include:

  • Happy Customers: Getting access to a company’s happy customers can yield copywriting gold in terms of colorful or moving anecdotes about the product or service you’re writing about. A single, memorable customer story can turn into a great hook for your copy.
  • Executives: The marketing executive, company founder, or head of development can all provide insights into the company’s mission and the care with which a product was developed,
  • Customer Service Representatives: People working in the Customer Service department are at the front line when it comes to customers. They know what customers ask for, what they complain about, and what language they use to do it … all valuable information for any copywriter.
  • Sales Representatives: Sales reps identify customer needs and desires on a daily basis — they overcome customer objections and they provide customers with upsell ideas. An interview with a sales rep can give you an inside look at why customers buy the product you’re writing about.

You might not be able to line up interviews with someone from every one of these groups, but it’s worthwhile if you can. That might sound daunting, but you can find out a lot of information in a 15-minute interview, so you really won’t have to spend that much time talking with people … and what you learn can make your copy so much more interesting and effective.

Interview Strategies

So, you know why to conduct an interview, and who to interview, but the real question is how to do a great interview. Follow these surefire tips and you’ll come away from your interviews with golden nuggets of information that will make your copy stand out from the competition. When that happens, you’ll deliver better results for your clients, and that will make them very happy … an all-around win.

  • Tip #1: Whenever possible, record your interview. A recording gives you ongoing access to everything you covered in the interview. It improves your accuracy and makes it easier to use quotes in your copy.
  • Tip #2: Do your research so you’re prepared going in. This means knowing as much about the product or service and about the company as you can ahead of time. That way, you won’t waste interview time covering basic information — you’ll be able to focus your time on digging deeper and uncovering something really useful.
  • Tip #3: Ask open-ended questions. Yes-or-no questions are boring and you’ve got a 50-50 shot at guessing the right answer before you even ask the question. Ask questions that get the interviewee talking. Even better, ask questions that potentially have surprising answers.
  • Tip #4: Listen! This might seem obvious, but it does happen that an interviewer will ask a question and then kind of zone out during the answer. It might seem okay to do that if you’re recording the session, but you’ll miss opportunities. A lot of times, what the interviewee is saying can lead to more questions — questions you hadn’t considered — if only you pay attention.
  • Tip #5: Be flexible. Of course you want to have your questions planned going in, but let the interview follow its own course. If you hit on new questions mid-interview, then ask them. The interview might go somewhere totally unexpected, but often that’s when you learn the coolest stuff … the kind of unique stuff that will set your copy apart.

Like so many other things, one of the real keys to conducting a good interview is to practice. Whenever the opportunity comes up for you to interview someone, jump on it. You’ll hone your skills, and before you know it, your interviews will be uncovering the kinds of things that most web writers completely miss … and your career will flourish for it.

This article, How to Conduct a Good Interview, was originally published by Wealthy Web Writer.

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Published: March 30, 2011

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