Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What To Do If Your Copy Gets No Response

Ever had a project trip out of the gate?

You toil over research, write drafts, move paragraphs around, check some metrics, weigh SEO keywords, dress it up, put the copy out there - and it falls on its face.

Nothing. Cricket-chirps. Celebrities coughing get more attention.

Of course, you want to edit or replace the piece so you'll get a better result, right? But we're left with a dilemma. How do you find what went wrong - when there's not enough response (or none at all) to measure?

You might have already thought of looking at it this way, but -- no response is still *A* response.

It's customers saying, "This doesn't impress me."

They might have read it. But it didn't resonate. They don't feel compelled to respond. (Or they do, but the client is withholding feedback from you. Stingy bum.)

What then should we do? How to go about fixing copy when you don't know what's broken?

1. Re-analyze the purpose. Check your notes for the purpose statement you decided on when you started. Was it exactly what the client wanted? Was it what you wanted? (If my readers would like, I'd be happy to write a post on purpose statements.)

2. Does the copy accurately reflect the purpose? Go through the copy with your "customer's first look" glasses on. Can you, at any point, see the purpose statement reflected back to you there? If not, reworking the copy so the purpose shines through is what's needed.

3. Do your arguments have holes anywhere, or lose their flow? More than likely you'll spot this as you go through the copy for the purpose statement. When my copy fails (yes, I'll admit it), 90% of the time this is the problem. The linguistic equivalent of dropping the ball. A telltale sign? When even your attention starts to wander.

4. Is the call to action strong AND easy to follow? I've read many calls to action that are strong. Bold declarations of what the reader must do to gain all these wonderful advantages. The problem was, the actions weren't easy. Largely this comes from technical problems, especially online. Make sure your client's backing up whatever steps you're specifying in the copy. Talk with your client's host (if a website) about shopping cart departures, for one example.

5. If all of these check out, it's time to start over. Dump the copy and redo it from scratch. Some tiny, nebulous flaw in there is causing a poor return. If you haven't found it by now you're not going to, and you'd only waste time in searching. Head back to the purpose statement and try another angle.

Sometimes we figure out why readers aren't interested. Sometimes we don't. The important thing - and this is a lesson I'm still learning - is to not get personally attached to your copy. Yes, it's the result of your hard work. But it's still subject to the readers' whim. You can tear it apart for a rewrite from nothing. In fact, doing so might make the difference between no response and successful responses?

And isn't that what you should really be attached to?



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