Is Your Copywriter Enough of a Detective: Overnight Experts & the Art of Investigation

The other day, a prospect for our copywriting services wanted to know how we’d be able to channel his company’s expertise on bruxism (night grinding) and dental gear in its new website copy.

Simple, I said. The expertise of a worthy generalist copywriter includes the ability to gain audience-level insights. Let me explain.

Take Sherlock Holmes (investigating astutely across multiple realms) compared with a lab researcher (gathering data within a particular realm).

A lab researcher produces a mystery—an inquiry, the answer to which could help advance our world. He forms a hypothesis, isolates specific variables, then tests the hypothesis within this artificial construct. All must be carefully controlled, and in the end, the hypothesis is proven, disproven, or inconclusive.

Sherlock Holmes encounters a mystery, too. Like the lab researcher, he is driven to answers. But that’s where the similarities end. Sherlock isn’t able to control the circumstances around the mystery. Instead, his construct is mental: he knows what insights he needs to gain to advance the case, form a hypothesis, and (eventually) solve the thing.

We generalist copywriters operate this way, too. In the face of any topic (any), we know what insights we need to gain to advance the case (a clear understanding of your business, through the eyes of your target market), form a hypothesis (how we can effectively position you), and solve the puzzle (write engaging, urgent, actionable copy).

Sherlock’s knowledge—at least in Sir A.C. Doyle’s detailed imagination—comes from instinct and experience. Likewise, we copywriters know which questions to ask, what avenues to explore, and how to fill in any gaps on our own—through research.

In this way, it’s possible to write about topics as specific as tissue regeneration, as technical as cybersecurity, as narrow as futures commodity trading—and to write them for audiences as specific and technical as plastic surgeons, Chief Technology Officers, and futures traders—without specialized medical, technology, or financial training.

In a nutshell, a great website copywriter is the Sherlock Holmes of the copywriting world. A great thought leadership writer is like a lab researcher: similarly curious in outlook, but deep in his knowledge base and able to swivel like a precision laser within a narrower realm. This blog post isn’t to say one is inherently better than the other: they’re different—and equally dangerous. Get both on your side, and your marketing should fall beautifully into place.

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.

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