28 Sep

Getting to know you

The world of online dating represents a good analogy for what I want to say in this post.

Personally, I avoid online dating like the plague (partly for the reasons I’ll now set out), but think of the basic premise: you see a picture of someone, which may or may not be recent. You also get to read a paragraph about that person – as much as the word limit would allow them to write – and a few vital statistics, their interests, their job etc.

This might be enough to judge them on, and get that judgement spot on, or it might not be. The only way you’ll know for sure, is by meeting them. There’s only so much you can tell from a static 2D picture and some carefully typed words.
Seeing the real life, animated person will allow you to get a much better handle on how they really look, what their personality is really like, and whether they truly match their online profile.
If the date/dates go well, then – further down the line – you’ll get to meet their friends and find out a bit more about your new ‘chosen one’ from them. Ultimately, you end up with a more rounded idea of who the person really is, giving you a greater chance of really getting to know and understand them.

…now to tie this in to a relevant, business-based point…

Last Thursday, I met a new client whose web copy I’ll be writing. Up until that point, I’d viewed their existing content, seen their pictures on their ‘Meet The Team’ page, spoken to them on the phone, and had them fill in a briefing form with lots of information.
The thing that kept coming up was that they offer such a personalised service, comparative to their competitors, but  – and I’m sure they won’t mind me saying this – this doesn’t come across in any of their existing content/marketing.

So, I arrived at this client’s business, had a chat with them, and had a look around their place. Within just five minutes I was already getting a sense of why they said their offering was more ‘personalised’.

I was then allowed to speak to some of my client’s clients, who were waiting in reception, all of whom were more than happy to have a quick chat with me;
a) because they really rate my client and the services they offer.
b) because the general vibe at this place is friendly, and everyone is ‘like family’, so they had no qualms sitting and giving information to a relative stranger.

I jotted down six testimonials and took down notes from both the business owners and their employees. The same themes came up consistently (including nailed on confirmation of the ‘personalised service’), from real life, animated people who were thinking ‘on the hop’ – not people looking to give neatly polished testimonials.

I could tell that the themes/comments that kept coming up, would keep coming up if I asked another 100 people what they thought of my client’s business.

These themes offer plenty for me to build this client’s content around, and I now have a feel for them and their business – in a true sense – far beyond what I could’ve gleaned over the phone or from some typed notes on a document.

It’s not always possible, or realistic, to meet all clients face to face, but where it is possible, it’s a great idea to do this: it allows you to find things out that are really hard to work out when just staring at a 2D screen, and it allows you to write copy/content that’s genuine, true, and clear.


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