How to validate your copy

Presented live on Tuesday, May 7, 2019

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When you start the conversion copywriting process with voice-of-customer (VOC) data… and when you walk your clients through that VOC before presenting your copy… you don’t typically get push-back on your copy.

But sometimes.

Ah sometimes.

Sometimes you do.

In this live Tutorial, conversion copywriter Joanna Wiebe shows you one simple method she and the other copywriters at CH Agency use to validate their messages with customers before presenting copy to their clients. It’s how they totally banish “yeah but” and “I don’t like” and “well our web developer thinks” from copy reviews.

Validation Template


Joanna Wiebe:       I want to quickly jump over and show you a few things before we dive in to our training for the day. You can now see, you should be able to see where we have our new Tutorial Tuesdays page. This has our upcoming schedule. Right now we’re in this one for May 7th. I’m still checking the dates. Yes, but you can see upcoming topics for July, for September, et cetera, et cetera. We’ll keep this three months worth of topics up in events, essentially three months up in advance. Anytime you’re wondering what’s coming up and scheduling training around things, then you can go ahead and pop over here. There you go. Okay. We are getting into the topic of the day which is all about validating your copy ideally before you present it to your clients, but it doesn’t have to be only before you present it to your clients. You can validate your assumptions and how you’re interpreting what you’re hearing, like how you’re actually interpreting it and turning it into copy at any point in your process.
I’m going to show you how to do this, what we do before we present copy to clients. This is in most cases, sometimes we can’t because time doesn’t allow, which is always a tragic reason not to follow a process but that’s the reality. What I’m going to show you today is a really, really simple way to validate copy like a copywriter. If you’re a research pro, you might be like, “Joanna, there’s all sorts of biases in there.” Okay fine, but let’s just put that stuff aside. We’ve done our best to strip out however many biases we actually can. Okay, we talk a lot about the importance of voice of customer data going into the copy that you write. Voice of customer, which we’re going to call VOC for the rest of this tutorial when I mention it at all. You do this VOC research upfront and that helps you write great copy. Then you have to figure out, okay, so I listened to all these different data points, I heard these things and I was of course a human who was listening for copy that might be sticky. What if I got it wrong? What if I’m a little off?
What if my assumptions were just like, not quite. We want to always take VOC to write copy, but we also want to make sure that where possible we’re getting users to help us get a strong sense for whether we’re on the right track with our copy or not. Because if you don’t have users do that, then your client becomes the person who says, “Are you on the right track or not?” That’s perfectly fine. Our clients are not the enemy, they’re part of the process. In some cases, some team members can sometimes be argumentative and it can be nice with something like copywriting to have more data to support what you’ve done rather than less. We have data going in and we also have data validating. We have tutorials here on Copy Hackers. We’ll chat these links out for you, but you can find those tutorials over here. You can look in the planning and pre-work section to see all about how to do that research up front and more tutorials on the way.
You’ll also want to watch this tutorial on how to present copy to your clients. This is part of when you’re trying to get client buy in. Go ahead and watch that too. Now we’re going to get into what we’ve done and here’s the most recent example of how we validated copy. Know that if you go to Usability Hub, and there are other platforms like Usability Hub that can help you check in to, again, just see if you’re on the right track with the assumptions that you’re making. You can use some of the tools in Usability Hub to improve on your copy and make sure that you’re actually getting to a place where you’re not just creatively coming up with an interpretation of VOC. You have more to tell your clients about, here’s how people reacted to this message and here’s how people reacted to that message and we learned that this message was too creative so we changed it to that one. You can actually walk your clients through your process to develop the best possible copy.
This is the kind of stuff that will, again, keep your clients really happy, make those review processes really short, and also make you feel really good knowing like if you do go through validating your copy like these exercises, you go through it and you discover that the headline you thought was really clear is not clear. That’s amazing for you to know before you go into that session with clients so you can correct it and they won’t be the ones correcting it. There’s so many reasons to check your copy before you go into a client copy presentation or copy review. Checkout Usability Hub if you haven’t already. Have a walkthrough that. Now I’m going to walk you through a template (to edit this template, go to File –> Make a copy) . You’re going to get this template today. This is for a really simple way of validating your own copy. We did this one in particular recently with a client who brought us on board for a Slack integration that they’re doing and they asked us to develop messages for their audience.
When someone uses their software and installs the Slack integration, they’ll get messages of course from the software saying a basic bot thing. We made the recommendations around the messages they would see. Slack in particular is a tricky thing. Slack is interruptive. There’s a sense of conversation having to move really quickly. There’s a lot of things that we wanted to make sure we weren’t just randomly wildly guessing at. Plus in the case of this client, we were coming up with messaging recommendations like actual copy that the Slack bot would use. Some of them had a neutral or no voice and others we recommended had a very strong voice where the end user in this case could change their settings and turn on the stronger voice. Which in this case happened to be what we called geek voice internally where it was just references to Star Wars and Star Trek and things like that, which can be fun. Our hypothesis around that for this client was, you know, we want to in Slack kind of separate ourselves and make it a welcome interruption.
Where we write, we don’t know. We didn’t know if once you put Star Trek, if you build the setting into your Slack integration to turn on this Star Trek or Star Wars voice, what if it’s annoying to people? What if it’s wrong? What if we were totally wrong about it and we made this big recommendation and it fell flat or it actually detracted from the brand? That would be a very bad thing. A lot of times we’re actually doing this, right? We’re putting together copy that could go either way, especially when you’re working on the whole breakthrough or bust idea where you’re pushing really hard to try something different so it actually stands out in the market. You need to be short or as close to short as possible that you’re not going to mess things up. What we did is we went through this template which I’m showing you today, which again, Sarah’s already chatted out links to or Carrie has. You can go through and you can make a copy of this yourself.
What you want to do is use it with your clients, starting out with your clients, with their end user to actually check your copies. Let me walk you through what that’s going to look like because me explaining it is not as straightforward as you actually watching. I’m going to go into presentation mode as well so you can experience what the end user experience. What we did is we set up interviews with about 12 of the people who were good match for the audience that would be using this particular integration. You would set up interviews, 30 minutes, 25 minutes interviews. You’re not going to interview them, you’re going to walk them through the messages and have them react to each message one per slide. You open up by telling them the moderator says to them, okay, here’s the assessment. Thanks for participating. We’re assessing whatever it is like Slack messages for, and then the client’s name. We’d love your feedback. Really straightforward so they get it. You do the setup. Awesome.
Over here in the gray area, you can put a logo or an image or anything else that feels right while being careful not to introduce bias. If you put a picture of a really happy person in there, it might make people feel things and you want them not to be influenced by what you’re putting in the slides. We’re keeping it as clean and clear as possible. Here we just put the logo for the clients over to the right in that gray area and I recommend you do the same unless you have a good reason to do something different. A person comes into this meeting, it’s me, the moderator, the other person, just the two of us in this room. We set them up in Zoom so that the person can see us. They can go on camera or off camera, that’s fine, it doesn’t matter. We’re just looking for their honest reaction to it. Going into this, they had a notification from someone on their team that told them what they were doing, so they already had a sense for coming in and giving their reactions to messages. Okay, cool. They know that going into it.
They’re going to give their reactions to some messages that they’re going to see on the screen. All right, then we walk them through. Again, this is moderated. You’re acting as the moderator or if it’s not you, someone on your team is acting as moderator. You tell them what they’re going to see. You will be shown probably a series of let’s say, headlines for landing pages or call to action buttons or something like that. After you’ve read a headline or a button or a Slack message aloud or to yourself, please react by stating aloud whichever of the following three options feels most honest or authentic to your reaction. Then you put three in there or the first one is the positive reaction. The second one is the negative reaction. The third one is does not apply. Where positive doesn’t have to be super positive and negative doesn’t have to be super negative either. We haven’t done it where we do positive, neutral, negative and does not apply but feels like you need to, explore that.
Now, what are some of the things, some of the reactions that you’ll want that you might want to think about having people just think about your goal, right? If your goal is to test for clarity, you want to do messages in there that are clear, unclear, does not apply. Does not apply, you explain right away. Here we’re going to talk through these three options. You might say messages that are welcome, unwelcome or does not apply. Useful, not useful, does not apply. Clear, unclear, does not apply. Friendly, not friendly, does not apply. On brand, not on brand, does not apply. Funny, not funny, does not apply, or whatever it might be. These are just examples of what you might say depending on what you’re asking people to validate about the message.
For us, because we were testing Slack integration messages, we used welcome or unwelcome, does not apply. Like, is this message in your life welcome? Is it unwelcome or does it not apply? Okay, you would choose that one as well and you only choose one. It’s the same one that you ask throughout the entire assessment. Then you explain to them anything that’s a white slide by the way is part of template. This orange slide or anything orange is what you delete. Does not apply, you explain is used or you’ll use does not apply when the notification in this case for Slack is not one you would ever receive as it is outside the scope of your, let’s say job or work or life or interest or whatever that thing might be. Just help the people and help your actual user, the tester, understand why they would say does not apply.
Cool. Okay. Then you explain this further. This is still you setting up for the moderated user tests. Think of it like friendly in my workday, unfriendly in my workday. Friendly interruption, unfriendly interruption. Friendly in my life, unfriendly in my life. You fill that in, those blanks are all for you to fill in. We did for the Slack integration, think of it like welcome in my work day, unwelcome in my work day. Welcome interruption, unwelcome interruption. Welcome in my life, unwelcome in my life. This is just to help people do what you’re basically doing right now, which is figure out, how am I thinking about this? Wait, what am I doing? Give them a really clear example so they can start imagining a world where they could confidently react to message using the words that you want them to use. Okay? They can give you feedback along the way. They can ask you questions along the way at this point.
There will come a point when you step away and you go quiet. Okay. You got that and then you remind them like, do your best to state one of these reactions and no others with no additional verbiage. Unwelcome, welcome, does not apply. Then you let them try one out. Okay? We’re going to try one out right now. This is not part of the assessment. This is just to make sure you feel good about it. I’m going to show you a message just like you’re going to see but in this case you could still ask me questions, et cetera. Here’s the message. Here’s the example message where you have the choice of unwelcome, welcome, or does not apply. Ready? Okay. Then you show them the message. In this case, this is the Slack message and I’m graying out the parts that we had for our clients.
I say nothing. They know that they have to read. “You’ve just had a bowl of M&M’s delivered at the front desk.” Now they say welcome, unwelcome, does not apply. They can imagine now, there is no front desk because I work from home, does not apply, or I’m on a diet, unwelcome, or I’m super hungry, it’s three o’clock, welcome. Now they can really see clearly, okay, yup, got it. Moving on. Now they’ve gone through the process and you can then get to a place where you’re ready to actually start having them react one by one to each message using the right word that you need in order to actually get a sense at the end for which messages are clear or unclear or whatever that thing is that you’re looking to understand. You tell them more things about the assessment. Read about this is a moderated assessment. You’re allowed to take time to walk through this and you want to be sure that they really understand certain things like you’re going to be silent. They’ll have as much time as they need to react.
Try not to overthink their reaction. No answer is wrong and no answer is right. Don’t think about what other people might think. It’s all about how you are reacting in the moment. If you’d like to pause or stop at any time, please inform the moderator by saying pause or stop and you’ll have time at the end to give additional notes. Then if there’s anything else that they need to know in order to get confidently through what follows, add notes over the side. Okay, so you’re setting up this whole process with one user to test them, right? Remind them again, welcome and unwelcome and we want to make sure that we’re not, again, introducing bias wherever possible. We’re leaving with the positive against the negative, and in the last slide we did negative versus positive.
You’ll pay attention to that as we go through. Just follow it. Then you ask them. Ready? This assessment begins on the next slide after which you’ll hit. Once you got the go ahead from them, you’ll go quiet and the next slides will be just your messages and that might be 20, 30, 40 different slides that you’re going to go through and you just hit them. You’re in presentation mode this whole time. You let them read it, you wait for their reaction and then you move on. You do not react. You don’t raise your eyebrow, you don’t say anything. If it hurts, go off camera. If you’re used to being someone who expresses things, go off camera, that’s perfectly fine. They shouldn’t be looking at you anyway throughout this part of it. Then you begin. These orange slides are what you would replace with your own single message slides.
Make sure it’s clear. Clear that this is the message they should look at. Do your best to help them focus without adding anything extra to the scene. Okay? One slide per message, go through. Then once you’re done, that’s it. You say, “Thanks a ton. Any notes, feedback or the like?” They get to talk with you about like, “That was really weird when I saw that one message about that, or why are you talking about donkeys in this at all?” Like there could be any number of things that they have reactions to and you want to document all that and you want to be recording this whole session. When it comes to these actual messages, do your best to also repeat messages and randomize however possible. If you were testing button copy, you are validating buttons and you had things like one button on one slide was I want to start a business and the next button on the next slide was start a business. The next button on the next slide was, “I want to start a business.” That’s good.
You want to keep repeating things, moving things around, randomizing, making sure that you’re repeating messages at different points because their ideas about things may change with fatigue that comes along as they go through this process, et cetera, et cetera. Take away here is that this is a very … Actually, once you use this template, this is a really, really great way to get a strong sense for how people are reacting to your messages. We learned a lot when we did this. I’m just going to escape this presentation mode and stop sharing for now because we’re getting to the end of our tutorial. We went through and analyzed everything afterwards and it helped us figure out one big insight that we had when we did this most recently with the Slack integration was that people need things a lot, a lot shorter in Slack than we really gave them credit for that we really thought about. Like we knew, okay short, we want to be short.
It’s got to be fast but really short was one of our bigger takeaways like, “Come on, I’m busy here.” Like, it’s Slack, it’s not conversion copywriting where I’m on a sales page and trying to make a major decision. I’m just trying to get my work day done. We also learned that when it came to things that were like the more creative or that geek voice I mentioned, when we put geek voice at the start of something like, “There is no try,” and then we put something after it. People reacted less well to it when, “There is no try,” came before the important message. We learned lead with the important message like, “You have a notification over in this platform, there is no try.” That performed better than putting, “There is no try,” before. We wouldn’t have known that and the client wouldn’t have known that either. We would have wondered why people were annoyed with, “There is no try.” They asked for it. They opted into the voice.
Problem was that the way that we put that together proved problematic for some of our end users. We got that insight too. Not only is that good for us to know, it’s also super badass to present that insight to your clients who didn’t expect this in the first place like they didn’t know you’re going to go necessarily and heavily validate like this in ways that others just simply won’t do. It doesn’t take a lot of time when it comes down to it. We get great insights and then you get to make your client feel extra confident that what you’re recommending is the best way for them to go. That there might, sure, be other better ways out there, but knowing what we know at this point in time, this is the best path to move forward with.
You’ll feel good, they’ll feel good, you’ll have good copy to put out there. Cool. If you’re like, “But when and how, and where do I use this?” Go back through and watch the replay to 30 minutes. It’s 29 minutes after the hour. We are finito with this. Any further questions that you have, please go over to Word Workers on Facebook and have a discussion over there about this and anything else you’re wondering about copywriting as well. Thank you Sarah for that final Tutorial Tuesday from Sarah. Well done, well done. Carrie, thanks as well and welcome to Tutorial Tuesdays. We’ll see you all next week for our next Tutorial Tuesday. Thanks guys. Bye.

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