Cut research time in half with this copywriting checklist
Good copywriting starts with thorough research. So ideally, you should be able to take as much time as you need to gather background information.
But in reality, copywriting is always done on a deadline. Too often, you barely have enough time to write about a product or service, let alone do extensive research.
The answer? A copywriting research checklist. Below is a generic checklist I’ve used for years. I’ve also developed others for specific industries or project types. You can use a checklist to collect information quickly or as a structured interview guide.
ALWAYS do as much research as you can BEFORE you brainstorm idea or write a single word. Not only will a checklist save you time on research, it can significantly reduce your writing time because you’ll have something relevant to write about.
1. DESCRIPTION. What is the product or service you want to sell?
2. PURPOSE. What does the product do? What’s the “big idea” behind it?
3. FEATURES. What do you know about it? Facts, statistics, specifications?
4. BENEFITS. What will it do for people? Does it solve a problem, save money, save time, make a task easier?
5. UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION. What is it about this product that is really different, new, better, unique?
6. COMPETITION. Can you describe similar products?
7. POSITIONING. How does this product fit into the market relative to competitors?
8. YOUR COMPANY. Does the company have a special history, unique owner, awards?
9. PRICE. How much does it cost?
10. SAMPLE. Can you look at it or try it for yourself?
11. PROSPECT. Male or female? Income level? Family situation? Lifestyle and general description? In business, what is his/her title/responsibility? Biggest concerns, fears, attitudes? How will he/she use your product to get ahead or to keep from falling behind? For consumers, what main interest/desire/action does it appeal to?
12. SECONDARY PROSPECTS. Who else might want this product?
13. OBJECTIONS. Why would someone NOT want this product?
14. TESTIMONIALS & ENDORSEMENTS. Letters from happy users? Media coverage? Celebrity endorsements?
15. COMPLAINTS. Letters from unhappy customers? Phone calls?
16. ASSIGNMENT. Print ad? Direct mail? E-mail? Brochure? Insert? Broadcast spot? Complete campaign?
17. OBJECTIVE. Inquiries or leads? Direct sales? Traffic building? List building?
18. OFFER. Free trial? Introductory price? Premium? Time limit? Free information?
19. CALL TO ACTION. How will you ask for the order?
20. BUDGET. How much can be spent on this promotion?
21. SCHEDULE. When does this need to be done?
22. LISTS/MEDIA. What have you used in the past? What worked and what didn’t? What statistics do you have?
23. SAMPLES OF PAST PROMOTIONS. Winners and losers?
24. TESTS. Will you test lists, offers, price, creative, etc.?
25. REQUIRED COPY POINTS. What information or legal copy must be included?
26. TABOOS. What can never be said or promised?
27. RESTRICTIONS. Are there parameters you must work within?
28. METHOD OF PAYMENT. Check? Credit card? Purchase order? Bill me later? Installments?
29. METHOD OF ORDERING. Mail? Phone? Fax? Online?
30. GUARANTEE. What are the exact terms of the guarantee?
31. OTHER. What else is important? Research and background material? Demographic studies? Focus group reports? Creative briefs?
32. BACKGROUND READING / PEOPLE TO TALK TO.
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