If you want to write effective copy for your business, you probably already know that you need to focus more on what you do for people — and less on how you do it.

In business speak, that means showing potential customers the benefits of what you do, rather than the features.

Telling them that they get to work with you for three 90-minute sessions is yawnsville. On the other hand, telling them that by the time you’re done working with them their whole garage will be de-cluttered and completely organized so they can finally park their car out of the rain and snow is super exciting! That’s a benefit that they can really see.

Before you can talk about benefits in an effective way, though, you have to know what your customers want. Additionally, you have to know how they talk about what they want!

In other words, the one thing you need to do to write effective copy is to speak your customers’ language.

Here are three ways you can start learning your customers’ language so you can become an expert at talking about the benefits they’ll get from working with you.

#1 Ask Your Customers What They (Used to) Want

It’s good practice to get testimonials from your customers — whether you do that through Yelp, Facebook reviews, or email reviews that you then post on your website. These testimonials tell other potential customers how fantastic you are. But did you know they also provide you with valuable info?

When you ask customers about their experience, ask them about how they thought and felt BEFORE coming to work with you. Try any of these:

“What made you seek out my services?”
“What was your biggest concern before our work together?”
“What was your biggest struggle before our work together?”
“How did you feel before our session? Did you feel different following the session? In what ways?”

All of those are getting your customers to think about the state they were in when they made the decision to hire you. Look for the ways they describe how they were feeling and what was going on for them.

These are the specific problems that customers wanted solutions to. And the solutions are the results you offer.

#2 Strike Up Conversations with Strangers

The next time you’re at a networking event or a PTA meeting or the grocery store, try starting a conversation with a stranger.

Share what you do and see where the conversation goes. Maybe nowhere. Not everyone is in the market for what you do.

But if it seems like there’s any interest in the topic — not in someone hiring you, just the topic of your industry itself — listen and keep the conversation going!

If you do this in a compassionate, non-invasive way, odds are you’ll get an earful. We all like a kind, listening ear to talk about what’s frustrating us. Just by being a good listener and interjecting simple question like “How did that feel?” or “What happened then?”

People want to tell their stories. They want to be heard. If you give them an opportunity to do this, you’ll usually learn a lot!

The key is not to push your services, or even to make it about you. You just lightly throw out there what you do, and then listen for how your new acquaintance relates to that.

When I introduce myself by saying that I help people write books, they generally say they know someone (sometimes it’s the person herself) who wants to write a book. I don’t ask for that person’s name or try to hand over my business card. I just engage. I ask what the book is about or how long the person has been working on it. I start conversations about favorite stories and the power of telling our stories. Basically, I react the way I would to a conversation at a dinner party: I try to ask thoughtful questions to show my interest and continue the conversation.

Doing this has led me to hear treasure. People share their authentic experiences because they’re relating to me as a fellow human, not as a salesperson. They let down their guards and I get to hear all the cool reasons that people are thinking about writing books. I also hear about all the places they’re stuck and what they wish they could do.

When I think about what language to use in my live videos and even on my sales pages, I return to this language so that I know I’m offering solutions to problems authors actually have. And then I frame those solutions in the language I’ve been collecting.

#3 Hang Out with Your Ideal Customers Online

Ask questions on Facebook. Even from your personal page. Start a poll or ask a short question that fits on one of those colored backgrounds.

What do you want to know from your audience about how they think and feel?

I recently asked a question from my business page that prompted people to fill in the blanks. I wanted to know the real reasons people weren’t blogging. So I simply posted, “When I think about blogging for my business, I feel ____________, ____________, and _____________.”

A prompt like this takes seconds for someone to answer while giving them a space to vent their frustrations (or brag about their successes, as the case may be).

Try it out!

Or get even more direct.

In the last year, I’ve built several Facebook groups — some permanent, some temporary — focused on different niches within writing and education. When you make a group, Facebook gives you the opportunity to ask people a few questions as they join. These questions are private — only visible to the admins of the group — so you can get into a bit more detail. I like to ask people simply about their current frustrations and their goals. This allows them to share — at whatever level they fell comfortable — their reasons for following me. They often talk about where they’re stuck and where they need help.

This kind of candid response allows me to listen to what my potential customers really need and want, and then to reflect their words back to them with empathy, showing I’m listening.

One author I worked with, who signed up for a program through a live webinar, said, “I feel like you’re reading my mind.” I wasn’t. I was reading her answers to the questions in the Facebook group. 🙂

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When you use your customers’ exact language, you send them the signal that you get it. That you know how to help them. Not only are you telling them about the problems you solve and the results you offer, you’re describing those solutions in familiar language.

It’s no good using your industry jargon if your customers don’t know it. And even if you’re using plain and simple language, if it isn’t the kind of language your ideal customers would use, there’s going to be a disconnect.

Bonus: These strategies also give you a chance to practice the habit of deep listening, reflecting, and empathizing, which I’m willing to bet are tools you use regularly in your business.

If you want to write killer copy, you need to know what your customers really want and the language they would use to describe it. And asking them is the best place to start.

Which of the strategies above will you commit to trying? Let me know in the comments!