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Four Tips for Customer-Centric Copywriting

by Sharon Ernst  |  
October 21, 2008

When you sit down to start writing a new marketing piece, are you intimidated by the blank page on the screen?

Maybe that's why people often ask me for the best way to get started. They think my copywriter's bag of tricks might hold the key to jumpstarting that project, so they ask: Is an outline best? A rough draft? A brain dump?

The answer is "none of the above." In fact, the best way to start writing has nothing to do with writing at all.

The best way to start is by getting into your customer's head.

Customer-Centric Copywriting

In my copywriting business, the message that most resonates with potential clients is how customer-focused we are: Not on our clients as customers, but on our clients' customers.

We want first to know about the client's customers, their pain points, what they're really buying and their worldview. We want to know whether those customers are even aware whether they need out client's product or service. We want to know who actually buys the product vs. who gets the marketing message. Not until we understand the customer do we ask our clients to tell us how they help those customers with whatever it is that they're selling.

It sounds simple, right? But, in reality, when we talk to our clients about this approach, they inevitably have an "ah-ha" moment.

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Sharon Ernst is marketing maven for We Know Words, a Seattle-area agency focused on customer-centric copywriting.

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  • by Chris H. Tue Oct 21, 2008 via web

    Great advice, difficult for some to put into practice and even more difficult to determine when you've made it customer-centric enough. Often, there is a need to speak to multiple personas within the same copy.

  • by Tammy L. Tue Oct 21, 2008 via web

    I agree that it is incredibly important to get to know your prospect. If you need help understanding this and other copywriting techniques that will help you boost your response rates and the effectiveness of your promotions, I highly recommend American Writers & Artists, Inc. (AWAI) Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting. It's a home study program with lessons and exercises so you get to actually practice the methods and the writing. For more info, go to Or if you don't have time to learn the techniques for yourself, you can find a copywriter at It's a free jobs board where copywriters and marketers meet.

  • by Desiree Duffie Tue Oct 21, 2008 via web

    As a manufacturer we constantly have to change our message from a voice that speaks to our direct customer (distributors), to one that speaks to trade press, to one that speaks to retailers, to one that speaks to the end consumer.

    I disagree, Chris H. If you think the same copy can speak to everyone then you are not communicating as effectivley as you should.

    You have to understand your core demographic and speak to them directly. The copy you use should be different on your sales collateral from the materials you put at the point of purchase. The package copy needs to speak differently from your catalog copy. You should not draft one neat little message and expect it to cover everyone.

    Nice article. Small typo in the second paragraph under the Consumer-Centric Copywriting headline, though. "Out" should be "our". (:

  • by Anish S. Tue Oct 21, 2008 via web

    Thanks a lot for the wonderful article! This really changed my perspective. These are great tips, I suddenly feel copywriting is so simple! and being a student of creative brand management, I am sure to practice this approach in my daily life. (

  • by Hamish Gilbertson Fri Oct 24, 2008 via web

    Good advice here.

    Really hear you when it comes to clients having "'ah-ha' moments" when you get them to adopt their target audience's perspective.

    As an web copywriter and website optimiser, that moment often comes in the context of a conversation about "speaking your customers language," keywords and keyword research...

    I ask clients to think about what people looking for the benefits their product/service offers would type into their favorite search engine. This immediately gets a client thinking from their prospective customers' perspective.

    It also provides context for the importance of keyword research. Knowing what people search for around your service/product area offers immediate insight into the language you should use in describing those products.

    And, in my experience, that doesn't always align with the way a client is describing a product/service.

    Indeed, keyword research can be a great help when trying to convince a client that the language they're using isn't right. Why? Because it gives you numbers to support your argument.

    Common conversation (with names changed for the purposes of illustration) with companies I work with: "Well, yes. I understand you call your product 'H2O' but people will search for 'water' and that's the way they'll think of it. If you want to talk your customers' language..."

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