During a recent workshop for the Kansas City Direct Marketing Association, a budding writer pulled me aside to ask, "Pat, how do you deal with writer's block? Where do you get your ideas?"
Here are the go-to resources I recommended to him and use almost daily — whether I'm writing direct mail, email, landing page or website content.
1. Go to the Source
Gather all the information you can from your client or project manager about your audience, product/service and competition; then review it. Keep what's pertinent; set the rest aside. I don't know how it is with other writers, but in my case, there's no such thing as having too much information. I'd rather be my own filter than have someone else do it. I never know where I'll find the nugget of an idea.
2. Get to Know Your Customer
Ask for testimonials, customer reviews and community feedback. When possible, talk with real, live customers (both first-time triers and repeat buyers) by phone or in person. Let the customer tell you what she/he likes and dislikes without having this information filtered by a product manager. If I can talk to a customer, 99.9 percent of the time I pick up a tidbit that will launch my copy.
3. Compare the Competition
Learn what the competition is saying online and off. Read competitors' customer reviews. Ferret out what makes your product different than theirs. Where are the missed opportunities? How can you make these the focus of your message?
4. Develop an Offer That Differentiates
Even if you sell a commodity item that's pretty much the same as everyone else's, that doesn't mean your offer has to be the same. Do some comparison shopping, and weigh the value of different offer elements. Repackage an existing offer with a new name that has greater perceived value. Often it's the offer that's the inspiration for what I write in email and direct mail.