Ruth Steven's recent article "How Well Do You Know Your Customer Data?" got me thinking about the important role data has played in my writing career. I totally agree with Ruth's advice, "It's a real disadvantage, professionally and personally, to shun data." Advice from Pat-your-fellow-writer: Don't let a spread sheet scare you.
My fascination with data started with my first job as a catalog writer at Current Stationery. Fortunately, my Current cubicle was next door to the marketing guys. This gave me the opportunity to have them explain their reports that summarized my copy test results. I learned how to look for winners, losers, and reasons why they won or lost. The experience hooked me on being a writer who writes for results and beats controls.
That's one of the reasons I ask so many questions. I want to understand the data that affects the projects I write. And if it's not included in the creative brief I'm given or project kick-off meeting I attend, I ask for it. I encourage you to do the same. Smart companies understand the value of sharing data with partners they trust. For example, when I was a senior writer at Fingerhut, the 20- to 30-page Tuesday Report circulated through the creative department each week. This gave us the chance to track how the test mailings we wrote/designed were doing. It included everything from response rates and dollars generated to product returns.
Here are five more reasons to take Ruth's advice.
• Data lets you walk in your customer's shoes and understand what motivates your customer's behavior. It provides factual insights about how, when, why and where customers (and prospects) take an action such as buying, searching or sharing.
• Data gives you a snapshot of your audience–inside and out. If your creative brief doesn't include it, ask for geographic, demographic, psychographic, behavioral, even purchase and search data. All are useful when building a buyer persona. Plus, customer data can be used in writing more relevant cross-selling messages that save customers time by focusing on their interests. Amazon does a great job of this.
• Data tells you how and when customers prefer seeing your marketing messages — online and off. Thanks to the immediacy of social media this includes the time of day and day of the week. Use this info to tailor the appeal of your marketing messages.
• Use research data, specifically numbers, to help tell your story. For example, Arabic numbers are eye-catching, easy to scan, and difficult to ignore. For more info on using numbers, check out this article that includes 14 tips for how and why to use them.
• Last but not least, use data to demonstrate the effectiveness of your copy when showing samples to prospective clients ... or asking for a raise. Your case is more compelling when you support copy samples with response metrics such as open rates, sales generated, shares, views, number of comments, search rankings, average order size and conversions.
"The best-paid copywriters in the 21st century won't just be wordsmiths--they'll also be analysts. The copywriters of the future (and some smart ones today) are able to analyze the client’s business situation and create content strategically, instead of simply completing an assignment to get it done."
Understanding data makes you more valuable to the team.
In today's cross-channel data-driven world, writers need to understand both basic customer data and marketing metrics to do our job. It's the difference between being a good copywriter and great copywriter (and one who makes good money versus great money.