7 Effective Research Methods

In the recent survey I conducted, certain topics and questions kept bubbling up over and over again. One of them was “research.” Regular reader John probably asked the question best. He wrote:

One thing I forgot to put on your survey about what I’d like to read in your blog is I’d be interested in reading about how you research for projects. How you research your market, your product, etc. and how you put some of those ideas together for effective copy.

There are at least seven research methods I use on a regular basis…

Research Technique #1: Interviews

This is my favorite way of getting the research I need: interviewing the client.

Fact: Most clients are salesmen to one degree or another. They can pitch their product, they just can’t put their pitch in writing. So one of the goals of an interview is to get the client pitching his product to you over the phone.

A good sales pitch works whether it is spoken or written. In fact, I have taken entire paragraphs from a phone interview and used them verbatim in my sales letters. The genius wasn’t me writing anything; it was in asking the right questions.

The interview is where I uncover the story behind the product, the background and credentials of my client, what the benefits of the product are, etc.

Research Technique #2: Competition

In any profitable market, there will likely be competitors.

I like to study competitor’s ads for two reasons:

  1. To find out what they’re saying that’s already working. In some cases, we may be able to one-up them.
  2. To find out what they’re saying — so we don’t say the same thing. (Differentiation is key.)

This competitive intelligence is important because it will help you craft a pitch that’s both better and different.

Research Technique #3: Consume the Product

It’s not always possible to use or consume the product you’re selling. But when you can, you should. You literally become the customer.

With info products, the bullets come straight from the information in the course/ebook/interview. This often forms the “meat” of your sales letter.

And with consumer products, you will do a much better job of describing and selling the customer experience if you have experienced it yourself.

Research Technique #4: Search

Almost every pitch can be strengthened by statistics, quotes, and stories. This is where good ol’ Google enters stage right.

I will often have ideas for certain statistics and/or supporting quotes when I’m writing sales copy. I don’t know if they even exist. So I will go search for what I’ve imagined might exist and see if I can find it.

Google is a great starting point. I’ve also found Wikipedia and Yahoo! Answers to be enormously helpful.

Research Technique #5: Forums

Public online forums are a great way to access your target market and learn more about them — what problems they have, what they’re interested in, how they talk, and more.

Go see if there is a forum for the people who will most likely be buying your product. Create a new user account and start interacting with them. Ask questions. Get answers.

In short order, you’ll be thinking (and writing) like a member of your target market.

Research Technique #6: Customer Feedback

Some copywriters suggest interviewing customers to find out why they like or dislike products. This hasn’t worked well for me, mainly because:

  1. It’s hard to get a client’s customers on the phone for a scheduled interview.
  2. If you do get a customer on the phone, he will often be suspicious, as if you’re conducting an interrogation or something.

A better technique, I feel, is to review customer feedback and testimonials. I’ve often found great angles, bullets, and headlines “hidden” within testimonials.

Taking this to another level, I’ve found that collecting feedback on a blog to be extremely powerful. Even if it’s a blog set up only for the purpose of launching a product.

The moment customers and prospects start interacting with you in a natural, low-stress environment (like a blog), you’ll have x-ray insight that most of your competitors simply won’t have.

Perfect example: This blog post was a direct result of what you told me you wanted to learn more about.

Research Technique #7: Tap the Client

This last technique is probably the best of all because it shifts the burden of research from you and onto your client.

Is this fair?


Clayton Makepeace says he requires research from his clients before he writes a promotion. His reasoning: His clients spend a heck of a lot more time staying on top of the latest research than he does (especially in research intensive markets like stocks and finance).

It only makes sense that his clients provide the research since they’re experts at it already and it’s part of what they do every day.

When a client provides research, it makes your job WAY easier. You can then focus more on writing the promotion and coming up with the best possible theme instead of digging up obscure facts.

Depending on the niche you write for, you may consider making it a requirement of your clients that they provide research for you, as Clayton Makepeace does. If it works well for him, it can work well for you.

So there you have it: Seven effective research methods, all laid out for you. I hope you find them useful.

-Ryan M. Healy

P.S. Want to learn more about research? Then you might enjoy learning how to get inside your prospect’s head.

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Ryan Healy

Ryan Healy is a freelance copywriter, list manager, and the author of Speed Writing for Nonfiction Writers. Since 2002, he has worked with scores of clients, including Agora Financial, Lombardi Publishing, and Contrarian Profits. He writes a popular blog about copywriting, advertising, and business growth, has been featured in publications like Feed Front magazine, and has been published on sites like WordStream.com, SmallBizClub.com, and MarketingForSuccess.com.

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