The Fun and Effective Way to Research Your Product
A lot of new writers think that one of the most difficult things about the writer’s life is battling writer’s block. But as many successful writers will tell you, writer’s block is nothing to be afraid of. It only happens as a result of not doing enough research.
There’s a two-step process that’s eliminated writer’s block for me. And I know it’s worked for many other writers too.
First, choose a niche you love. It’s always easier to write about something you enjoy.
Second, make research as important as writing. You have to research until you truly understand your product and market before you ever write one word of copy.
But how can we know how much research is enough?
According to Arthur Johnson, you should spend as much time on your research as you do on your writing. But if you want your writing to be really good, you’ll do more research than that.
When you spend a lot of time researching, you’ll find big ideas and unique selling propositions – something that sets your product apart from others. You’ll become more creative because you won’t have to stop to find bits of proof or facts. And best of all, you’ll be able to write steadily without experiencing writer’s block.
Unfortunately, many writers hate the research process. They feel like they’re wasting time, and they start writing too soon.
But the research process is one of my favorite things about the writer’s life because:
- I often get to use/play with the products I’m writing about.
- A lot of research makes my writing better, which makes it more fun.
- If done right, product research is usually fairly easy.
If research is starting to sound a little more fun and you want to turn it from the most boring, time-consuming part of your promotion into the most fun part, you can do what I do …
First, I always request a sample of the product.
Some writers clam up when it comes to this part. But if you’re getting paid to write about a product, asking for a sample is the easiest part of the negotiation phase. All you have to do is ask. The worst they can do is say no, but in my experience, that doesn’t happen.
So far, all my clients have been happy to provide a sample product for my use. By having a sample, I can really understand what I’m writing about, get excited about it, and get in the mind of the customer.
Plus, it’s a great way to get a little glicken, the little extra perks on top of the money you make.
If it’s a physical product, use it and take notes. If you chose a niche you love, you should have no problem enjoying this process.
Pretend you’re the target market; you ordered the product and it just arrived. If possible, use a tape or video recorder so you can record your first impressions. Think about and answer questions like these:
- What was your first reaction?
- What do you like about it?
- What don’t you like about it?
- How does it work? What does it do?
- What problem does it solve?
- What are benefits and features that make you want to buy it?
- Would you buy it?
- Which friends do you have that would love it?
- Would you recommend it to others? What would you say?
So far, my clients have sent me makeup, skin care, vitamins, motivational CDs, and a lot of info products. An info product is a product (like an e-book, book, audio recording, or video) that provides advice and information.
If your niche is self-help, business opportunity, or info marketing, you’re likely to get a lot of info products. Unless you love that kind of thing, I wouldn’t recommend those niches because you’ll be doing a lot of reading or listening as part of the research phase.
But if you did choose one of those niches, you probably love the type of products you write about. Going through them is likely what you’d be doing in your free time anyway.
That’s why I love research so much: it makes work more like play.
So to research the product, use it. If it’s a motivational CD, listen to it and follow its advice. If it’s a training course, read it and follow the directions. If it’s a course on building a website, build a website.
After you’re done, you’ll know if the program is as good, easy, or simple as your client said it is. You’ll have your own experience to make you believe in the product you’re selling. Which is important because if you’re writing about something you haven’t tried, you might not truly believe in it, and it will show in your copy.
Next, have a party!
Earlier, you asked yourself, “Which friends do I have that would love this product?” and “Would I recommend it to others? What would I say?”
This is your chance to use both of those answers.
Call up your friends who would love it and invite them over for a focus group party. Tell them what you have, why you recommend it, and that they can use it free … if they’ll give you feedback.
Set out drinks and snacks (and a video camera if your friends are okay with it). Then record their first reactions. What do they say? What do they love about it?
Listen closely for big ideas you can use in your copy.
If you do this right and ask enough questions, you could have a lot of your research done by the time your friends leave. You could have a big idea that will propel you through your entire writing project. And you had a lot of fun while doing it.
If you still need more information after your party, you’ll want to:
- Dig through your client’s marketing materials and notes.
- Interview your client’s staff – like customer service reps or salespeople.
- Talk to people who helped develop the product.
- And even look for possible studies that could help with your promotion.
You could also connect with people who have tried the product you’re researching on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Ask your friends and followers what they thought of the product to see what other information you can dig up.
Heather Robson wrote a great article on this process called “Research Tips for Web Writers.” I recommend checking it out to get this part of your research done more quickly and move on to the next fun step …
Finally, have “arts and crafts” time.
Another big reason I love the research phase is because I love to plan. I get out my index cards, highlighters, sticky notes, and colorful pens, and I start planning.
I write little nuggets I’ve heard on index cards, tag certain pages of research with sticky notes, highlight possible big ideas, and pile things up.
When I’m done, I usually have the bulk of my writing project planned. Now all I have to do is organize it. I do this using the method John Forde teaches in “How to Turn Your Pile of Research into a Seamless Promotional Package.” Basically, organize your research, index cards, and ideas into five piles: The Target, The Product, Credibility, The Facts, and The Offer.
At this point, you should be pretty excited to start writing your promotion. If you’re not, and you still think you might have writer’s block when you start writing, check out this awesome article, “Prove It! – 5 ‘Quick ‘n’ Easy’ Tools for Painless Research,” by Guillermo Rubio.
If you try all the tips above and you still hate researching, it might be worth it for you to hire a research assistant so you can do other tasks. Remember, the writer’s life is supposed to be something you enjoy. If there’s a part of it you don’t like – like research, accounting, or taxes – find someone else to do it for you.
To truly enjoy your writer’s life – and the writing process – never start writing without enough research first. Your writing will be more effective. And you’ll avoid writer’s block too.
What are your favorite ways to research? Or do you outsource it?
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