Last week I was part of what I would call a Reverse Focus Group. By that I mean: Instead of a small number of people studying a large number of people and their reaction to a product, three people in the proverbial white coats were all studying ME.
For four hours.
The people were from a large West Coast Software Publisher. That's all I'll say about them and their product because I am legally bound by a contract not to disclose what I learned about them or their product.
But that's not why I'm writing you, anyway.
Their product and my opinion of it are of little direct interest to people who write copy, anyway.
But what they hired me for is of great interest, and that's what I want to talk about to you today.
In the Reverse Focus Group, the people in the white coats asked me what I thought of this feature. That feature. The other feature. They asked me to perform such-and-such a task. They did not answer my questions. They just watched. They gave me no hints at all, in fact. They took meticulous notes. The whole thing was impressively thorough.
And spookily detached. Lab-like.
They weren't looking for compliments. Or criticisms, for that matter. They wanted to record in as much detail as possible my off-the-cuff reactions to their requests for my peforming an action... and my reactions to their product.
And the reason I'm writing to you is: you should do the same thing with your copy.
How often have you had someone sit down at a computer screen, and asked them to tell you what they understand and what they don't understand about your headline?
Your description of your product?
Very few people do it. When you do, you learn some amazing things:
- How many different ways people can interpret a word, phrase or sentence whose meaning was PERFECTLY obvious to you
- How confusing your "spiffy" Web design actually is
- How difficult (or sometimes impossible) it is to actually order from you, using your order process
... and that's just for starters.
Getting someone else to take this kind of objective, interactive look at what you have written is immensely valuable to you.
Oh, it might be a little hard on the ego.
But until you learn how people actually react to you Web sites (or sales letters, or postcards, or radio ads, or TV ads, or whatever medium you write copy for), it's going to be a lot harder on your bottom line.
So take a tip from the giants of software publishing. Do a "usability study" on your copy.
You don't have to send me a piece of the increased profits after you do. But a success story would be nice. :)
* * *
Hey, there was one other thing I wanted to tell you about, on Friday, but I had that Really Special Experience - my computer crashed. I lost an entire hard drive. Wear and tear. It happens. Inevitably. To every hard drive if you use it enough.
Now, I've been this way before and fortunately I had a backup system in place.
Well, almost. I saved everything except my Outlook files, (hint: NO, THE USABILITY STUDY WAS NOT FOR MICROSOFT OUTLOOK!) so I'm missing some email addresses, phone numbers, and most important, my calendar. So, if we have an appointment in the next few weeks, please send me a note so I can put it back in! (I've actually got most of these handled, but, just in case... thanks.)
Anyway... a word to the wise. Back up. And now, here's my new additional piece of advice: Everything. At least, everything you'll need when the inevitable occurs.
And here's what I wanted to tell you on Friday:
My friend Mitch Meyerson talked Mark Victor Hansen, Jay Conrad Levinson, Robert Allen and a number of other writers, including Yours Truly, each to contribute a chapter to a terrific, brand-new book, "Success Secrets of the Online Marketing Superstars." I threw in a 20-page (manuscript pages) chapter on headlines with material I have never released before.
Mitch is doing a promotion with a bunch of bonuses you really ought to check out. It's a great promotion to see - worth studying if for no other reason.
But I'd get the book if I were you. It has already hit #1 on a couple of Amazon lists, so there must be something to what he's doing, right?
And, the 34 bonuses are a great deal!
Check it out:
Publisher, World Copywriting Newsletter