First, let’s get clear about what I mean when I say “client interviews:”
❌ Not interviewing MY client, you, the founder of the company
✅ Yes, interviewing YOUR clients, the folks who have worked with you before
Second, IMO, client interviews are a NON-NEGOTIABLE part of copywriting.
I could list out a ton of reasons why (e.g. you get better customer insights than surveys, you have the opportunity to dig deeper than surface-level responses, it’s hard to see the client POV as the founder…).
But, really, it comes down to this:
You are investing a ton of money into your website launch. So now is not the time to rely on your (or my) “best guess” about messaging. You want to make sure that this website, without a doubt, speaks to your ideal clients. You want to do it right this time.
And the only way to do that is to go to the source — to interview the people who have hired your company, loved their experience, and gotten results. The people you say, “I wish all my clients were like this client!”
Not all copywriters do client interviews. Maybe not even most do client interviews.
So you might be wondering: This sounds really cool, but since I haven’t heard anyone else talking about this, is it really that necessary?
Well… my theory about why not all copywriters do this isn’t because they don’t think it’s *that* important (trust me, it makes our job so much easier). Nor is it because they’re lazy and just don’t wanna do it.
I think it’s because client interviews take more time and additional skills, like interviewing and knowing how to turn interviews into copy. So… you have to charge more.
And sometimes, like all humans, copywriters get scared of charging more.
But personally, I decided to just get better at articulating why client interviews are integral to the quality of work. As a result, the work I do is more powerful, and every single client mentions the interviews as a highlight of our work together.
Who to choose to be interviewed
Now that you know WHY I always do client interviews for website copy projects, let’s move on to the HOW.
…Which, funnily enough, actually starts with WHO.
As in, who do you choose to be interviewed?
In general, choose past clients who…
- Fit into your ideal client description, more or less
- Were great to work with
- Got results or had a good experience working with you
- Are fairly recent clients (within the last 2 years)
- Aren’t your friends or family members
- Have completed their scope of work with you (exceptions for monthly retainer clients)
But there are some other things to consider, too:
- Do you offer more than one service (that will be featured on your website)? If so, choose at least one past client per service. Ideally, go for an even split.
- Do you serve more than one audience/target market? If so, choose at least one past client per audience or target market. Ideally, go for an even split.
Finally: Go with your gut.
Are there a few clients you are just really curious about what they’ll say because you think they’re insightful? Are there clients you KNOW will be excited and forthcoming?
I’m pretty good at getting people to open up and dig deeper. But there are some people who are more reticent than others to share their experiences, and that does make it a bit challenging.
How to get a yes for an interview
Most people are very intrigued by the idea of client interviews. But there’s often some niggling worry that crops up too. Like…
“What if my clients are too busy and feel like this is an imposition?”
“What if my clients straight up say no?”
These are valid worries — these are your best clients, so you want to, above all, stay on good terms with them!
But what if I told you that these client interviews can be PART of staying on good terms?
Here’s how to make this request an easy yes:
- Tell them that you CHOSE them for a reason. They’re awesome, you wish all your clients were like them, you admire them, you particularly value THEIR insights, etc.
- Give them context for the interview. Let them know you have a specific purpose for this interview — your new website. Most people understand how huge a piece of marketing this is and want to support you.
- Outline how easy it is for them. Share that it’s only 30 minutes of their time. Can be a phone or Zoom call. No prep work required.
- Introduce your copywriter or interviewer. Either share the name of whoever will be doing the interview in an email or introduce them in an email, so that they know who they’ll be talking to.
- Give them an out. Include an acknowledgment that they’re busy, and it’s “no hard feelings” if they can’t do an interview at this time, so they feel they CAN genuinely decline if needed.
Done right, asking for a client interview doesn’t feel like a burden. It feels like an easy opportunity to share thoughtful feedback, get closure around an experience, and even avoid having to type answers into a feedback or testimonial form.
Plus, having a neutral third party (like your copywriter) conduct the interviews removes any pressure and awkwardness about sharing pain points or improvement suggestions.
To make it easy for MY clients to ask for these interviews, I share an email request template they can use that does #1-5 for them.
But my biggest piece of advice? If you’re feeling apprehensive, try to choose a new mindset where this request isn’t that big of a deal and is actually kind of fun for your clients.
A big scary favor to ask >> asking someone to talk about themselves for 30 minutes on their commute home from work.
By the way, I’ve never had ANYONE respond negatively to this request. Very occasionally, people will decline politely, and that’s respected immediately. If you have a particularly time-poor client base, I recommend reaching out to 6-10 people (instead of 3-5), with the expectation that some will decline.
Questions I’ll ask
Let’s move on to the questions I ask during client interviews.
I start with a baseline of questions, and then I let the interview take its own shape. That is, I ask plenty of follow-up questions and unanticipated questions that spark based on something they said.
The baseline questions I ask are in 4 parts:
- Before their experience with your company
- Decision about working with your company
- During their experience with your company
- After their experience with your company
To get an idea of the types of questions I ask, let’s take a look at a current client, a personal styling company for professionals:
I usually don’t ask every single question to every single person, as I want to prioritize creating a natural conversation and follow the insights where they lead — vs. sticking to a rigid list of questions.
This means every interview is a little different. And sometimes, something one person says sparks an idea to ask the next person a new question, so the question list changes as we go.
Using the interviews to write copy
Finally, we’re digging into how to leverage client interviews to write website copy.
Here’s how simplified:
1️⃣ Break down each interview into messaging categories:
- Pain points
- Unique selling propositions
2️⃣ Amalgamate the interview snippets in each category into simpler themes
3️⃣ Use those themes when writing website copy
- E.g. If I’m writing a section where I want to empathize with potential clients, I use the pain point themes.
- E.g. If I’m writing a section that uses “future pacing” (helping potential clients understand how their life will change with this service), I use the outcome themes.
I also keep track of any “sticky phrases” an interviewee says — something that feels memorable, pithy, or just so accurately put. These I may end up using verbatim in the copy if it makes sense to.
Here’s a screenshot of what my initial spreadsheet looks like for a current client, Next Level Wardrobe:
This is hefty work to do, but it’s worth it to be 100% confident you have the right messages to craft your website copy with. Because what good is copy that flows well, aligns with your values, or matches your voice if it doesn’t convert?
If you work with me on your website copy, I do this for you — and share the results with you, too.
If you’re DIY-ing, you can BORROW my voice of customer templates (like the spreadsheet in my screenshot) to make organizing your data a lot easier. Click here to access them (for free) 🎉
Consider it a big thank-you bonus for being an awesome blog reader!
Bonus: Using the interviews to craft strategic testimonials
I create testimonials from the interviews I do for clients because 1) it means you don’t have to make another ask to get a testimonial and 2) many clients RAVE about your services during these interviews, so it’s an ideal time to grab testimonials.
From each transcript, I pull together quotes that roughly outline a before and after transformation. I edit them to remove speaking quirks such as “like” and “uh” and to form a cohesive narrative.
I send the proposed testimonial to each interviewee to approve or make changes to. And then — voila! — fresh, story-driven testimonials to bolster your website copy.
Here’s an example from Next Level Wardrobe:
“I reached out to Next Level Wardrobe because as a CEO and founder, I didn’t want to wear jeans and a t-shirt to sales calls. I needed to start looking like the owner of a successful company, but I didn’t know how to do that. Next Level Wardrobe’s executive image consulting was exactly the solution I needed.
When I look back at the experience, what I remember most is that Cassandra put so much care and personalization into everything that she did for me. She designed my professional brand around aspects of my life and what mattered to me. I felt like she cared about me.
Since working with Next Level Wardrobe, I feel confident in my ability to put together outfits — and this confidence has been helpful beyond getting dressed in the morning. If I feel confident in what I’m wearing, then I also feel confident in showing up at a business meeting. It’s a benefit I didn’t go into this process expecting, but it’s been huge.”
Bottom line: don’t assume what your ideal clients are thinking and feeling, ask them
In 2022, in preparation for a rebrand and a narrowing of my target market, I had my junior writer interview seven of my past clients.
Before doing the interview analysis, I thought I had a pretty clear idea about their pain points, motivations, desires, and more. But the insights I gained from this process blew me away!
I’m moving into my rebrand, new services positioning, and yes, of course, my new website copy firmly grounded in how my ideal clients think, feel, and talk.
When you hire me as your SEO website copywriter, I do these interviews and the analysis for you. But if you’re DIY-ing, click here to grab my VoC templates to keep your data organized.
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