Voice of Customer Research and Brand Messaging with Melissa Payne

A woman sitting on a porch reading a book.

If you’re interested in brand messaging — what we’ve been talking about on the podcast for the past couple of months — voice of customer (VOC) research is something you’re also likely quite curious about.

But what is VOC research, how do you get it, and more importantly, how do you use it in your business?

In this episode, I interview brand voice expert Melissa Payne and we cover everything you’re wondering about voice of customer research and how it relates to all the brand messaging work you’ve been doing in your business.

Copy says: Listen in to this episode of the Talk Copy to Me podcast

Here’s exactly what Melissa and Erin covered during their discussion about voice of customer research and how it relates to brand messaging

  • What voice of customer research is
  • If there is a better time that businesses should invest in voice of customer research
  • What goes into a VOC research document or a brand messaging guide that includes voice of customer research
  • How VOC data and research relates back to customer experience and creating business systems
  • When business owners can determine they’re ready to hire out for voice of customer research and who is the right type of service provider they should work with
  • How to plan for what you want to cover during your VOC interviews
  • What do you do with the research and data you uncover during your research and message mining
  • What type of voice of customer data you may already have hiding within your business
  • How to successfully use voice of customer research and brand messaging at the same time for marketing assets, such as a website copy, sales copy, and anything else you create
quotes from this episode of the Talk Copy to Me copywriting podcast

Quotes about voice of customer research from Melissa and Erin

“[Voice of customer research is] helpful, essentially, in every stage of building a connection with your audience, and it’s also a backbone for your business. So it’s helpful at any stage, not just helpful, but crucial.” Melissa Payne

“Scouting out the entire landscape is what allows you to place messages in the copy and understand where on the page it belongs, and on which page it belongs. And it helps you decide what benefits angle will actually matter and work for the audience.” Melissa Payne

Melissa’s homework assignment encourages you to start message mining for VOC research

New to voice of customer research? No problem. If you’re looking to dip your toe in, there’s a few different ways you can get started researching before calling an expert to interview your clients for you.

Specifically, Melissa suggests that you can start learning more about your audience by message mining on sites like Quora, Reddit, and in Facebook communities.

I followed up with two suggestions: First, use a timer to as you message mine to gamify your approach to getting voice of customer research as a DIYer. Second, take screenshots of what you see to make it easier and quicker to collect the data you find.

Mentioned in this episode on voice of customer research:

  • The series on Customer Experience we just did on the podcast
  • Melissa shared the most recent French provincial recipe she’s tried.
  • Melissa would love to be connected with other copywriters, especially the ones who attended TCC IRL 2022 in Nashville.
  • If Melissa could bring a classic American meal home back with her in Australia, it would be chicken and waffles. But — she plans to eat them with maple syrup and not corn syrup, like she had on her meal while in the U.S.
Meet this episodes guest expert on Talk Coy to Me

Learn more about your guest expert, Melissa Payne:
Melissa Payne (she/her) is maybe the most meta copywriter in the universe: a copywriter for copywriters. As a brand voice, quiz strategist, she helps copywriters and introverted women in business create wild brand love with evergreen quizzes, email sequences and jaw-meet-floor Brand Voice Maps that uncage your true brand voice.

She moonlights as a VOC researcher for other cool copywriters and they love it. Melissa has worked with A-list copywriters like Prerna and Mayank Malik of Content Bistro, Eman Ismail and Bree Weber. For more on Melissa, and to learn more about her ethical stance, Brand Voice Cartography and Obsession Oracle quiz packages, stop by her website.

Get to Know the Host of the Talk Copy to Me Podcast Erin Ollila

Learn more about your host, Erin Ollila

Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform – and even transform – its intended audience. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, and went on to co-found Spry, an award-winning online literary journal.

When Erin’s not helping her clients understand their website data or improve their website copy, you can catch her hosting the Talk Copy to Me podcast and guesting on shows such as Profit is a Choice, The Driven Woman Entrepreneur, Go Pitch Yourself, and Counsel Cast.

Stay in touch with Erin Ollila, SEO website copywriter:

  • Book a Copy Coaching Power Hour if you need help with learning more about your clients
  • Learn more about Erin’s VIP intensives if you want her to do the voice of customer research for you
  • Reach out her on InstagramFacebook or on LinkedIn to talk more about how and why voice of customer research should a vital part of your brand messaging efforts

Want to know more about voice of customer research? Here’s the transcript for episode 22 with Melissa Payne

NOTE: This podcast was transcribed by an AI tool. Please forgive any typos or errors. SPEAKERS Melissa Payne, Erin Ollila Erin Ollila 00:04 Hey friends, welcome to the Talk Copy to Me podcast. Here we empower small business owners to step into the spotlight with their marketing and messaging. I’m your host, Erin Ollila. Let’s get started and talk coffee. All right, today we are here with Melissa Payne of story Scout digital. She is an audience researcher. And I am thrilled to have her here today because she is such a pro when it comes to voice of customer research. We spent the last episode talking about brand messaging guides, and how important it is to have information about your clients and know how to speak in a way that they can hear you. They can understand you and then the message that you want to relate to them actually gets relayed to them. But what you might not know about Melissa is that she is an avid slow traveler. She’s traveled as far north as the Arctic Circle. And as far south as windswept Tasmania. She loves learning to cook from locals and her absolute favorite thing to do on a weekend is to piece together recipes from old cookbooks which I absolutely adore. I did not know that about you. Is there a favorite recipe that you’ve done so far? That worked out really well for you? Melissa Payne 01:30 What a great question. I love making essentially peasant food, like categorically peasant foods or read something I love to making from a French provincial kind of a recipe from an old cookbook, which was so much fun to take off my local secondhand bookshop. So yeah, that was a lot of fun. I don’t share the recipe. So cool. All right. Erin Ollila 01:53 Well, everyone just you heard that she’s going to share the recipe with us. So we’ll put that in the show notes. And everyone is tasked with going home and making it and letting us know how they did. All right. So let’s just jump right into the good stuff. One thing, I think that would be really helpful. So everyone who’s listening is on the same page. And they know what we’re talking about is would you be able to share maybe a quick definition of what voice of customer research Melissa Payne 02:18 is? Yeah, absolutely. Sir. Voice of Customer research is essentially talking to your audience understand what words they use to talk about the challenges they’re having the beliefs or hesitations they hold or what they want. It’s really helpful to intimately understand your audience so that you can talk to them in a more precise way. That as he said, that validates their experience and makes them feel seen and heard. Because that’s how you build trust. Erin Ollila 02:48 Yes, that is absolutely true. Now, is there a better time and the answer may be as multiple different places, but is there a better time that people should be doing the voice of customer research for their businesses? Melissa Payne 03:01 Is this especially helpful when you are either building a new offer or you’re relaunching something, it can be any purpose, it can be for your website, it can be whether you’re relaunching an email campaign or relaunching literally coming up with a pre launch strategy for your launch offer, or your entire launch strategy. It’s helpful, essentially, every stage of building a connection with your audience, and it’s also a backbone for your business. So it’s helpful at any stage, not just hopeful, but crucial. Erin Ollila 03:37 Yes, I would agree. From my side, specifically, I usually see the voice of customer research being done when the websites built. And in that case, a lot of the times it is for a new business, or it’s for a business that’s doing a pretty hefty rebrand, you know, they’ve either outgrown their brand, or they are shifting slightly, let’s say. So when I see this research, I have always kind of seen a lot of it, right. It’s not just a few clients that you’re checking into. But when you started talking, one thing I realized is it’s really a smart thing to do, when there’s anything that’s being added on. So I think it’s important for people who are listening to understand that like, if you’ve done this before, in that bigger way, maybe when you started your business, or maybe you when you rebranded your website, that when you’re adding something to your offer suite, maybe it’s a new program or a course or anything like that. It’s a good idea to redo that client research, because maybe working for you and what Melissa said as the backbone of your business may not be the exact same information about this new offer. Is there anything that people need to know when they go into it? Like using the example I just shared? Maybe they have some voice of customer research, but they want to bring in a new offer to their business? Is there anything that they need to do to prepare differently at that time? Melissa Payne 04:58 Yeah, that’s a great Question, definitely keep the old research that you have, there may be some nuggets in there. But it’s definitely important to update your audience research, at least every year, I would say. And going into it, you really need to make sure that you’re adapting your research to gain insight into how you can actually optimize what you’re already doing, you can gain insight into how to position it differently. If it’s not quite working, it’s important to always be checking and keeping an eye on how something is working, whether it is working, whether it needs to be changed. Yeah, it’s important to keep a finger on the pulse of what your audience is talking about, and serve periodic updates, this should really be an evolving document that you continue to grow. Erin Ollila 05:51 One thing that we talked about before we started record, is that people might think that they know from casual conversations with their audience the importance, but the casual conversations can only take them so far. Would you like to speak more about like how mapping it out is helpful from a strategic standpoint? Melissa Payne 06:09 Yeah, absolutely. Because if you’re only taking it on the surface, based on the conversations that you’ve had with the audience, you’re not really seeing the big picture. And there are always definitely going to be gaps, it’s important to have it all mapped out and laid out in a way that you can see that holistic, big picture and dive into there’s more fine grained details. Because otherwise, you’re going to be missing half of the picture, you’re not going to be able to prioritize which messages are most important because you are missing elements, it’s so important to be able to see it all in one so that you can actually make strategic decisions. Erin Ollila 06:50 Yeah, I love that. So we’ve talked about why customer research is important. Now let’s talk about what goes into the questions that we’re actually asking of our customers to get good feedback from them. What type of questions do you think are important to gain some information from your clients? Melissa Payne 07:10 So one of the misconceptions that people often have is that it’s about demographics and understanding, you know, the identity of the people that you’re talking to. But what you really want to be understanding is the beliefs that they have the psychographics is way more important. So when I’m crafting questions, often what I’m seeking to dive into is what they actually think and feel, what beliefs they hold that can provide insight into what myths we need to actually dismantle if they have any hesitations, or limited beliefs about themselves, it’s important to be able to understand their actual psychology, what makes them excited what they believe about the industry that you’re in, what they believe about your competitors, what they hope for, what they want to avoid in their lives, essentially what they want from me, so that you can show up for them in the very best way possible. And and that trust, because it’s not just about speaking to them, but it’s also about showing up for your audience and optimizing what you do to make sure that you’re actually offering them the best experience. Erin Ollila 08:16 Yeah, client experience is so important. And I feel like that’s something we’ve touched on in every series in most episodes, right? Like, a lot of the small businesses I’ve spoken to think that client experience is equal to customer service, I would say it is absolutely not right, like client experience comes from the planning the strategy, the actual implementation of how we’d like our clients to experience working with us. So when we’re doing voice of client research, like we’re talking about, in this case, just knowing what’s important to them can help us with all of our future clients, you know, we might not understand as service providers, or even as people who create products, we might not understand that something like a welcome email is very important. Or maybe for the product based businesses, a quick email that goes out to explain the product in detail. If it’s something more complicated. You know, for us, it may be simple, because we know our business, and we know what it is like to work with us and ourselves. But for that brand new client who may be making an investment or trying something new, whatever it is that we can learn for how to provide a good experience for them should really be implemented because it can change the entirety of the project. So that client starts from really excited standpoint. And we get that from that information we have from previous clients or anyone else that is willing, I guess to be part of this voice of client research that you’re sharing. Exactly. So I feel like we’re gonna have a group of people listening to this that think okay, well, I want to do voice of client research myself, and then we’ll have another group of listeners who think Oh, This is exciting. I love the idea about gaining more information about my clients. But what do I do to hire someone to do this for me? So maybe let’s talk about that group first. When do you think people are ready to find someone that can help them? Do this voice of client research? Is there a certain stage? Melissa Payne 10:18 Yeah, so it depends on essentially, where you’re showing up in your business, it can be overwhelming to say the least to tackle this kind of voice of customer research. Or, if you’re feeling nervous about adding that to your plate, then that’s probably the best stage to invest. And if you’re also in a huge pivot, it’s helpful to actually rely on an expert rather than trying to piece it together, there are a few things that I would recommend knowing about when hiring someone to do it for you. Ideally, you want someone who has good people skills, it’s important to have that sensitivity, but you want to find someone who has good people skills, and helps people feel at ease. Someone with a calming non judgmental quality, you also want to look for someone who listens thoughtfully and can seize upon those moments of insight. And also, probably someone with a little bit of a detective skill set, who can recognize when they actually have the opportunity to go deeper and follow the interviewer down a certain road that’s important to them. Erin Ollila 11:29 There’s so much in there. One thing I find when I’ve done some of my voice of client research, specifically for websites, is there is a bit of anxiety. I am a firm believer that people want to help other people. So I always remind my clients that their clients do want to help and for the most part, I would say people are excited to But while they may be excited to help, they’re a little bit nervous about, you know, what they say and whether or not the business owner will hear everything they say and how it will get translated. So one of the first things you said is to put them at ease. So as a service provider, who does this, you know, is there a way that you can make the person you’re interviewing feel more comfortable so that you can get the best information from them? Melissa Payne 12:18 Absolutely, sir. I really recommend, first of all, creating a sense of calm. And you can do this by keeping your voice really calm and gentle. Just when you’re grading them and setting expectations before you actually dive into the questions. Let them learn what the purpose of the research is, how much time it will take, what kinds of things that you’ll be asking about, really super important to reassure them that there’s no judgment being passed on them. And also, because people do have this anxiety, often I’ll have someone who maybe doesn’t want to show up on the webcam, or doesn’t want to be recorded at all. And that’s okay, you’re free to show them that there’s no judgment being passed on them. We give them that agency to share what they want to share and to be visible in the way that they want to be visible. And I always just say, I’ve got a notebook that I can jot down notes, if they don’t want to actually be recorded. It’s really helpful to create that sense of comfort and trust from the beginning. And then you’ll build on that during the interview. You can do that by narrowing that intonations very subtly. I mentioned keeping your voice very calm and gentle. And showing empathy and understanding like, don’t underestimate how incredibly validating it can be to just receive a or a yeah, when I look through my transcripts from my interviews, often it’s just me saying, yeah, yeah, like what? with it? Well, I Erin Ollila 13:49 think that’s helpful too. Because, you know, like you were saying it from the sense of like trying to put someone at ease, but just knowing from interviewing in general, and not even just client research, interviewing, when you want someone to continue talking, there’s a fine line that you have to walk between interrupting them, meaning like there’s a fine line between just encouraging them to continue and interrupting is what I meant to say. So I think that’s a really tricky line to walk on. Right? Like it’s like a tight rope. So I think that maybe this relates to what you were saying too, about being a good detective, you know, the reason why I think we would both suggest to anyone listening that they hire out for voice of client research is because of the work that it takes sometimes to make someone feel at ease while still making sure that you leave the call with as much information as possible. And there’s only so much that we can do to teach you about how to do that on this podcast episode. Right. Some of it I think is just inherent in the way that you communicate with others. So that’s why when you find a great person like Melissa, who does this and you know, this is her major way that she approaches her research is by doing her voice of client research. So when you find someone who really has that good knack, I think it’s pays well to invest in that regard, instead of getting on the phone yourself time after time after time, and potentially having clients clam up or walking away from that call and saying to yourself, because I’ve done this for my own business, and let’s just say I’m a little better doing it for other people’s businesses, you know, because sometimes you just want to talk and chat and like, you know, you go down a rabbit hole, and you can end up getting off the phone call and thinking to yourself, did I get anything from this? Right? Like, it might have been a nice conversation, but what did I learn? Can we talk a little bit about being a good detective in order to make sure that you walk away from the call getting what you need from them? Yes, Melissa Payne 15:55 absolutely. As I said, it’s really important to listen for those important moments without interrupting, this is all about listening thoughtfully, and essentially creating that safe space. by confirming your understanding, often, what I’m doing is listening openly, and then making a little jotting down a little note to myself. So I can pull it back on something that catches my attention, or something that really speaks out, while giving them the space to continue with what they originally wanted to share. And often I’ll end up with a big list of things to keep building upon. But it’s important to give them that space and make sure you’re following up on all of those little pieces that catch your interest. Erin Ollila 16:43 Yeah, so the one of the things I would say a lot of the times when my clients hear about the idea of voice of client research, and it might have been their very first time, or they’re new to it, at least, they’re excited, because what they want. And I mean this in the kindest way for any of my clients who have hired me to do this for them and are hearing this, what they want is to confirm that the what they believe about their clients is actually true. But the reason we do this as business owners is that we want to learn what it is that our clients need from us. We talked about this, I think just a couple episodes ago, we might think we know what our clients need, but the clients might come to us thinking they need something slightly different. And that we need to be able to kind of bridge the gap for them. Like why either we should put something to the side, why we should do that first, right like, and obviously that’s different for all business owners and how it appears in their business. But I think the key is learning where the clients are coming from, whether it’s for an offer, or for the brand as a whole, and assumptions can really get in the way of that. So for the people hiring it out, would they be responsible for giving you information like, what they’d like to learn from the clients? Or would it be better for you to kind of take the ball and run with it at that point, Melissa Payne 18:08 I always leave it open to asking them essentially what they want to uncover in the research. From there, I develop research hypotheses, and we basically go in with a plan for what we want the research to uncover. If they have a specific goal about I want to discover an idea for a lead magnet, or I want to make my program the best it can be, or I want to know what my email strategy should be. We always go in with some goals. But I do let them know that this is really about, as you said, uncovering what the audience needs from you and what they share they want and then actually piecing together what that whole strategy looks like. Rather than relying on assumption, you really do need that data to be able to back up your assumptions, because it’s better to go in it with a bit of a clean slate and without those expectations, so that you can really gain a complete picture because otherwise, we may be missing something very important. Erin Ollila 19:18 Yeah, reminds me of like the science fairs that I did as like an elementary or middle school student, right, like so we have an idea of what we think will happen, like what our hypothesis is, and whatever our you know, science project we’re doing. And as we do the project, we may learn something new from that. And no matter what the end result will prove or disprove. Well, if you look at client research somewhat similar, what I think you can expect is we might have a general idea of what information we’d like to gain, we will gain some of that information. In addition, you’ll also potentially learn things you weren’t expecting from your clients. And you will learn that some of the assumptions you may have were in fact wrong, just from the line of questioning that you’re doing, would that sound right to you? Melissa Payne 20:04 And definitely, it’s almost like we are sketching out a plan for what we want to uncover. But what we actually uncover is completely open handed. And we want to be open to what that actually evolves to be. Yeah, we’re always evolving our understanding, Erin Ollila 20:22 which is really what we all want to be right. Like, as business owners, we want what we think about our business to always evolve, we want what we think about our clients to always evolve. So I love that that how that came up in this conversation. So here’s the question, right, we’ve talked about what client research is, we’ve talked about what to say, and why we need to keep the conversation where people are feeling uncomfortable, and keep it open so that they can share with us. But now, what happens is you have a lot of data. So what do you do with all that data, you have the data, and now what, Melissa Payne 20:58 sir, it’s so important to organize it correctly. Because otherwise the patterns will get lost. What I essentially do is I gather it all up, I begin to see the patterns by sorting it into different sub themes. And then the sub themes allow you to really see and hone in on what the messages are that you should prioritize, because they’re either occurring most frequently, or they seem like the language contained with them is really resonant and salient to the audience. Because it’s so emotional, you really want to be organizing the data, I use Google Spreadsheets, and then I combined it into a report for my clients. And then you can essentially see those patterns more clearly, once you have charted all the different dimensions of the data. And it can be overwhelming because it’s a lot requires both that holistic sense and that fine tooth comb to piece together the messaging strategy, but what you’re really looking for, is, there’s psychological motivations and beliefs that are so important to pull out into your copy. You want to be looking at the patterns, what are the most frequently occurring themes, what are the sticky and memorable bits of copy that you can swipe for headlines or your lead copy on your website, typically painting either like what the audience dreams of, or illustrating a particular pain point that’s bothering them. Basically, scouting out the entire landscape is what allows you to place messages in the copy and understand where on the page it belongs, and on which page it belongs. And it helps you decide what benefits angle will actually matter and work for the audience. Otherwise, as we said, You’re just essentially assuming, but we want to know and hone in on what the specific value proposition or what the specific story or about what will resonate. Erin Ollila 23:10 So I love that you said that one thing that my clients always asked me when I do that first round of the website, copy or review is like, actually, this is one of our talking points for how we do our editing of the copy is they’ll say something to the effect of like, I love this, what made you make the decision to use this on a services page versus use this on a homepage. And from what I heard when you were speaking is a lot of the times for me, it will come with intuition plus voice of client research. But that’s because I’m the copywriter. But for the people who may be listening to this, and they either are writing themselves, but they have a voice of client research that they had someone do for them, or they’re doing it on their own. Listen to what she just said. She said, what our clients are telling us that data that we have is what informs what goes on each page, or for sales page as an example, the data tells us, you know, what would need to be in like a Features and Benefits section, what would need to be in more of the social proof. And that’s how you would determine which of the clients that you did the research with, like everyone might say something wonderful and nice. That’s not a testimonial, but you’ll determine how to use that based on the data that they’re saying and based on the message that goes in that particular part. So it seems overwhelming. And you know, honestly, in some ways it is this is a lot of work, getting the research and determining how to use it. But the easy part is knowing that what message you want to relay you have that data from particular clients to say okay, not only does this sound good, not only does this make me look good, but this will convince future clients because I’ve checked all of the checkmarks I’ve done all of the work and I know they really want to know this, this would make them feel more comfortable. Exactly. The other question I had that would just quick for you, before we move away from this is when we started talking about organizing the data. Is there a way that you can get the data organized? before or during the question you’re asking? And I guess what I mean, is like, are you asking questions in a particular order? So that way, you know, okay, like, this is when I was asking this question, let’s piece these pieces together for all of the clients? Or are you really just looking at each and every individual’s complete data collection and pulling from there? Melissa Payne 25:40 Yes, when I start planning my questions, I am making sure that we’re hitting certain notes, for example, making sure as you said, that we’re gathering insight into the wins or outcomes, or the pain points or their hesitations. And that will give me clues about where it belongs in the actual research report and the sub themes that we’ll hit upon. Yeah, that’s currently clear as you sift through. So it’s kind of a combination of both it is a large amount of intuition, but part of it is having a really strong process around where things belong, Erin Ollila 26:19 which is why I think the voice of client research is one of the harder things to DIY, you know, because, again, if you’re meeting and talking with people that you already have relationships with conversations, go aside a little, you know, maybe you start talking about the project. And while you’re talking about pain points, let’s say, you know, if you’re talking to your clients, and you’re saying, Well, how did you feel before working with me, like, what were you really struggling with, but then the conversation starts going into the direction of what they were struggling with, it could be hard to pull them back in so you can move into different topics that you know, you need to cover. The other question I had was about if you’re doing actual client interviews, but you’re also doing like a research questionnaire. In some clients, especially if you have bigger like a course, for example, you have hundreds of students, you may hire someone like Melissa to do this audience research for you, where they’re interviewing people, but they also might send out a questionnaire to gain information. Is there a benefit to one or the other? Is it good to do them both at the same time? Yeah, I Melissa Payne 27:22 think it’s actually great to do both at the same time. It depends on what your resources are, if your DIY survey might be all that you need. But an interview is really where you tend to get the more insightful, deeper answers. So essentially, I would start off, if you have a smaller budget, I would focus on surveys. And interviews are great if you have a really loyal audience that you know, will want to talk to you. But they do complement each other quite well. Often with a survey, I will include a question at the very end, inviting them to an interview. And then I will pick the people who have shared the most generously, people who obviously passionate or have a lot to say, I’ll invite them to an interview so that we can follow up and deepen our insights and understanding from that. Erin Ollila 28:17 Yeah, I love that. And I feel like when you do it that way, it helps you with the organization, right? The beauty of questionnaires is people are answering the same questions. So the organization the way to look at the data, not that the way to interpret the data, but at least the way to first look at the data is all organized for you. Right? What you might find is within those answers, you have to move them throughout different sections later as you choose to present that to the client. So that is a great place to start. But then, you know, like she just said, you get to then asked to follow up with people who may have been more generous with their answers. That’s when the detective skills really do well. Because now you have a baseline for your conversation, and you can determine how to take it a little bit further. So you get more information in order to speak to them and future clients to what they actually want to hear from. Melissa Payne 29:12 Another piece I’d like to share is essentially, if your DIY buying it, one of the things that may be difficult to see as a non copywriter is actually where the pieces belong, I often find that I’m going down different rabbit warren, with people on interviews. And yes, I have the scaffolding of the questions. But often it takes a particular nuanced insight as a copywriter to actually know how you would actually fold that into the copy and where it belongs. So that’s another reason why I might recommend investing in expert help who can actually help you define how to use this data? In an actual persuasive argument? Erin Ollila 29:55 I have one question about how to then use this information. Like once you’ve fully gathered it and organized it, but before we do that, let’s just stay and talk to those di wires for a second. They’ve heard us talk, they’ve heard the nuances of how this can be a little difficult and the skills that you need to gain the client research. But let’s say, you know, they’re adamant. I’m going to do my own client research and guess what more power to you guys. But if you are going to do that, what advice do you have for them, when they take on a big project like this, Melissa Payne 30:28 I would say, give yourself grounding time interviewing can be emotionally taxing, because you need to be fully present with the interviewee, sir, be kind to yourself and stagger the interviews with breaks in between, be aware of your energy and take care of yourself. But also, you might actually have data hiding up your sleeve, I recommend if you can, saving your sales calls. Obviously, if you have permission from the people you’re on a sales call with make sure that you have that first. But there is can also be great for supplementing your interviews, because then you have a chance to mine the beliefs and the pain points, hopes and dreams of your audience, before they actually engage with you. I also recommend, if you have trouble actually in lining up interviews, you can also include this in my audience atlases as well. But it’s helpful to dive into some message mining. And by that I mean, a very cost effective way to do this research is to excavate insights on Reddit, or Quora, or Facebook groups in your industry. So start there, if you’re looking for a way to bridge those insights, if you don’t have access to interviews, or just a survey. Erin Ollila 31:47 Yeah, that’s great. And the other thing I think I’d add to that is, even if you use that as a starting ground, so you do your message mining, and then what you learn from that, that’s how you create the questions. So obviously, you know, Melissa gave some great examples of what you want to get from your clients. And that could be things such as, like, pain points, or desires or any other types of struggles or places of friction. But when you’re not really sure exactly what to ask. And let’s say you happen to do some message mining in a Facebook group, and you see people say things like, Oh, I’m really struggling hiring photographer for my products, all the photographer’s local, they’re great, but they’re people photographers, and I really want to have someone come and do these products. I’m not good at it, the lighting is bad, you know, just XYZ keep continue that imaginary Facebook posts. When you do that maybe the questions that you have, if you’re approaching that for yourself is like, what type of issues? Do you have taking images for your own products? What type of struggles did you have when you worked with other photographers? If there was any way I could wave a magic wand and give you the perfect product pictures? What would you be looking for? So I think it can be overwhelming to immediately decide what those questions are. But if we’re looking at the message mining skills you can take to gather those questions. It’s a really great starting point. It’s kind of like when we sit down to write and we just see that white page with a blinking cursor and it’s very overwhelming. But if you simply just kind of jotted down, take five minutes, maybe put on a timer and outlined it. Even if you don’t have complete sentences or you just use one or two words like that are like clues to what you want to say in that section. It’s a lot easier to sit down and fill in the blanks. So I’m comparing two different things here. But I assume that’s really a great place that would help a DIY or start when they’re not sure of what to do. Melissa Payne 33:51 Definitely I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said. Erin Ollila 33:55 Thank you so about the people who are ready to hire now this is something I wasn’t even thinking to ask you. But with copywriting for example, a lot of the time copywriters will say okay, you know, you need to come work with me with a lead time. So if they want a copywriter to write sales copy for them, you know that pre launch content may need to be like a month, six weeks, eight weeks in advance, but they also have to factor in the lead time it takes to work with a copywriter. Does the same issue arise when it comes to audience research? Meaning is there a lead time before they would have to work with someone like you? And then I guess the secondary question is, how long does a project like this take so that they can factor this into their bigger projects. Melissa Payne 34:41 So an audience that loves project typically takes from start to finish three weeks. And so you should definitely add that in as a buffer before you’re launching something or planning for your website to be written by the copywriter. The copywriter definitely needs this information before they actually start writing. So depending on what your copywriter is communicating to you about the time that they have in their schedule, I would recommend definitely making sure that you’re booking before that time. Erin Ollila 35:13 So one thing that we had talked about was, what do you like? Do you take a brand voice? Is that the same thing as your voice of client voice? How does one figure out how to speak in their own copy when they have both the data from their clients? And who they would like to sound like within their own brand voice? Melissa Payne 35:37 Yes, that is such a great question. I would say that it’s a matter of intuition. But there are guidelines, there are specific pieces of copying, that you will want to rely more on VRC data for, and some pieces where it makes more sense to lean into your brand voice. For example, you may use the audience research to validate what the experiences are that you want to make sure that you’re relatable to your audience. And to make sure that, you know, you’re sharing how your experience overlaps with this, but then you’ll be communicating it in your brand voice. Whereas for your homepage, often that is where audience research takes pride and center. Even if you think that your homepage copy is about U of T, it’s more about your audience. And so it’s a balancing act. There are no rules, really. But it really is about finding that balance. And often you’ll blend the two often, you’ll take a piece of Voc research, and then you’ll catch it in your voice. Erin Ollila 36:46 I love that I love how that you say that. One thing I’m constantly telling my clients is, when it comes to like that mini about section that are on a lot of home pages for service based businesses, or especially for the smaller businesses, those especially that have personal brands, when it comes to their about pages, is there is a fine line that we have to walk between empathizing and showcasing ourself as someone that they can relate with, while also still being the expert. And I like to think that this is a great place for voc and brand voice to come in. What you want to do with the VOC research is, speak to your client have what they need to hear, like take that message that you’re distilling from the data and say, they would feel more comfortable working with me if they knew I, whatever, like fill in the blank is for that. But then you use your own brand voice to still stay with the message but showcase why you’re the right person to work with. Again, I know that’s kind of tricky to understand. But I think it’s like if you can empathize and show them you understand where they’re at, that’s usually lead with the voice of client research. But then if you speak to them, as you hate to say authoritative figure, because I don’t mean in authority in all cases, but if you speak to them as the right person to work with them, for whatever reasons, you’re doing that in your brand voice, as you know, compared to what you’d get from the VOC. So that’s one way that you could look at living in both worlds. But then I think the simplest way to think of it if you’re listening and you’re confused as like, your brand voice really is how you want to show up as a business, right? As long as you’re speaking to your audience. And you’ll, I guess, feel comfortable that you’re doing that if you have the right data from the research, as long as you’re speaking to them in a way that they’ll understand, you’ll balance between brand voice and voice of client research Exactly. Like I don’t think you should give up one for the other, right, like so let’s say you really invest in voice of client research, and you find all this great data and all this great inspiration to start writing copy. If you’re straying from what is true to you, and your own business and how you’d present that to your audience, then you’re not living in alignment with your own brand voice. Right, exactly. But you’ll still get key information to help you move the marketing message towards your clients. Melissa Payne 39:18 Yeah, definitely. And vice versa as well. If you have your brand voice developed, which is something that I also do quite a lot, if so that you have your brand voice really well mapped out. If you don’t have the audience viewer see and then you might risk talking about things that you care about that aren’t actually validated in research as mattering to your audience. And you want to make sure that both of those things are equally important. Erin Ollila 39:45 Yes, I completely agree. We’d like to end these episodes with a few types of connection questions. But before we do, one of the newest questions that I’m asking everyone is if you have to give a homework assignment to to our audience, based on what we talked about today, what would your quick and easy homework assignment be? Melissa Payne 40:06 I would recommend starting off with that message mining go onto Reddit or Quora, or a Facebook group that you run or that is in your industry and have a little bit of a snoop, see what people are sharing? See? What are the things that matter most to them? How are they actually communicating that? What is the lens that they see the world through? And use that to start shaping the question Erin Ollila 40:32 and think about it, everyone, that is a completely free exercise to do. Even if you’re worrying about like how much time it takes, you could set a 20 minute timer, if you’re going to be diligent and actually stay in whatever, you know, whether it’s Reddit, or it’s the Facebook group, set the timer be focused and just jot down some notes or I mean, if you don’t have to be an old lady like me, jotting down some notes, I mean, take a screen share of things, there are so many tools that we have on our computer that can make this easy for us to be able to process the data. One trick that I do sometimes when I’m feeling especially unfocused is I will come into a Zoom Room by myself and I will screen record, but I will talk to myself as I’m finding information. So maybe it’s as simple as I’m doing a website audit for a client, I’ll pull up their website, and I will say like, the hero image really doesn’t match the message that we’re trying to get across. Like, this is supposed to be a product all for a woman. So why are there men in the hero image like silly things like that. But then what you can do is you can just transcribe the video, or the audio, and all of the information that you would have taken notes on or added to like any type of screenshots. It’s all there for you. And it’s already been transcribed. So I think that’s an easy way to accomplish this, especially if we’re going with a great homework assignment that anyone can accomplish as long as they have internet and you know, the time to do it. That’s a great one. Thank you. Definitely other AI is a lifesaver. Yes. Agreed, as well. It also is, especially for people who work in the businesses that we do, even just a few years ago before AI tools like otter that really got advanced cost a lot of money to have calls and videos transcribed. Not that it wasn’t worth every penny of it, but it is a wonderful thing to have a tool like that. Okay, so next question is a connection question. And if you could meet anyone in the world, you can take this question any way you’d like. Whether it be someone in your industry, someone not in your industry, but business related. If you could meet anyone right now, who would that person be? Melissa Payne 42:38 That is such a great question. Perhaps some of the copywriters that I didn’t get to meet at the recent Nashville TCC. In real life, there’s something about the world that we’ve been living in, that makes me really, really appreciate seeing people in real life. Erin Ollila 42:57 Yeah, I love that. I’ve asked this question so many times now. And well, I think everyone has answered this in a completely different way, that there’s no more answers, but you just gave one that really truly was a completely different answer. Okay, final question. And this is the random one that I always think of last minute. Okay. So Melissa is from Australia, and she has just recently traveled to the US. So what was one of the maybe foods differences that you had in the US that you’d like to bring back to Australia with you? Or opposite? What is one of the things that you’re like, oh, man, I wish I just had something different at this point. Melissa Payne 43:36 So I actually went to Nashville, which is a very, very strange place where your first US experience to be but what baffles me was the whole idea of chicken with waffles. Yes, yes. And so I tried it out. I would like to take that home with me, but with a different twist. I’m actually thinking I may make it soon. But I’m going to be swapping out the corn syrup for maple syrup. That’s my decision. Erin Ollila 44:06 Oh, so you had corn syrup when you were eating yours? Because I’ve ever had chicken and waffles. It’s usually with like a maple syrup. Melissa Payne 44:12 Yeah, this was my very first time having concert. Yeah, and I would never repeat. Erin Ollila 44:20 Alright, I can understand that I can understand that. All right, friends. So we are done talking about voice of client research. We have a couple more episodes to go in our brand messaging series, but we appreciate your time today and we will be back next week with another episode. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Top copy to me. If you enjoyed spending your time with me today. I would be so honored if you could subscribe to the show and leave a review. Want to continue the conversation. Head on over to Instagram and follow me at Erin Ollila. Until next time friends
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