For Your Website Copy Interview, Consider Not Spelling Out Your Business Value

It can be tempting to tell the agency you've hired everything you think they need to know—but it can be better to let them discover that for themselves.

books binds

You’ll want to tell us.

Yes, you, too, will sit in our conference room, drink our fruit-infused ice water (refreshing!), and want to enumerate your value to your clients, in your industry, for all time.

It’s also possible that you want to tell us—but you can’t. And we’re banking on that when we say this, with all due respect: don’t bother.


Curiosity Made the Website Copy

In my eight years as a copywriter—and 12 years prior as a celebrity and food journalist—I’ve conducted interviews with easily more than 3,000 people. Our company has adopted my preferred style: playful, human, and curious.

 We’re curious about how you do your business. We want to hear nearly everything about your business model—how you get clients, which products or services you emphasize most, which ones you want to sell more of, what you charge, what they get in exchange—tangibly and intangibly. We have startled many a client with our line of questioning, but I can’t think of a better way to put myself in your customers’ shoes, to evaluate your worth, and to get at that 64 million question (the one we don’t ask):

What’s your value?

We’re so curious that we don’t believe in doing exhaustive research prior to meeting with you. We’ll read your materials, look through your existing website copy, and glance at a few competitors in your space. But the most important thing we can do is come to you with fresh, open, probing minds, and the filter of our broad experience.


Three Ways You Shouldn’t Bother

To anyone we haven’t spoken to yet, here’s what I say. Don’t bother spelling out your value. Don’t spoon-feed it to us. Let us intuit it. Please.

Don’t bother telling us how you’re different than the competition. Let us have those aha moments—you’ll see it plainly on our faces when we do. Then let us ask, Do you do this? If so, why? If not, have you considered it? Is anyone else doing that? Who? Do their clients like it? etc. etc.

By the same token, don’t bother telling us what your website copy needs to include. Let us gather our insights first—then allow them to inform our impression of your website’s reader experience, of your differentiators, of your value. If we’re doing our jobs right, our impressions ought to coincide with what your target customers love about you. If we’re doing our jobs well, we tell you what you’re all about. Most of our clients agree. Some learn a thing or two (pat back). A small portion may disagree—and then we have more to talk about.


Inductive Learning and Content Strategy

In a fantastic, year-long business skills course I recently finished, I gained an admiration for inductive learning. Prior to the lectures, the other students and I were asked to define broad concepts—concepts that everyone takes for granted. These questions were deceptively complex and their definitions elusive, and in the struggle to answer, we drew relationships, called upon personal context, discovered ourselves anew in the challenge. And that’s what inductive learning is. You learn it once. You learn it powerfully. You retain it forever.

I’m now a huge fan of inductive learning, and have discovered that at MarketSmiths, our content strategy process is just that. It’s a journey every time—for us, for our clients. It’s fun—and it gives us exactly the perspective we need to write website copy that’s crisp, engaging, and devastatingly actionable.


Jean Tang

Jean Tang

A champion of high-end content, Jean is a living tribute to copywriting for humans. In 2012, at a TEDx talk, she declared her now widely viewed “War Against Bland.” The visionary founder of MarketSmiths, Jean leads her growing team to captivate, inspire, and motivate readers. She has helped thousands of global clients generate revenue from words (up to 12,000% ROI), and transformed the writing of hundreds of seminar attendees at the SXSW Interactive Festival (2014 and 2015), SXSW V2V (2014), the Small Business Summit (2014, NYC), and other venues.

More from MarketSmiths

Vintage microphone

The Art of Mimicking Voice

twin towers

Badvertising: Plane Wrong

buzzworthy copy

What We Can Learn from Spotify’s Cringeworthy Copy

brand tone of voice

What Is a Brand’s Tone of Voice—and How Do You Make Sure Yours Is Right?

Inc 5000 content agency

M/WBE certified enterprise.

Design by WorstOfAllDesign. Digital Strategy by MadPipe. Photography by Chellise Michael.