While comparing notes with a fellow web copywriter in a downtown Vancouver pub the other day, I got put on the spot. “What does your ideal website copywriting client look like?” he asked. Here’s what I said they would have:
1. Pain and a Healthy Dose of Guilt. The client already knows they need a new website. Maybe they’re sick of looking at their existing site, which is chock-full of information that is years out-of-date. Alternatively, they’ve been staring at an “Website Under Construction” banner for the last four months. Either way, they’re embarrassed to advertise their URL to their target market. Now, they’re desperate to have a website that promotes the company in a good light.
2. SEO-Friendly Attitude. The client understands the basics of how customers and supporters are supposed to find the business online. To stay on the front page of a Google search, you have to commit to adding new content regularly. Search engine optimization doesn’t work with static sites. There ought to be a commitment to content updates and maintenance.
3. Analytics. The client uses web analytics or out-tasks this to someone who does it for them. Website writing projects are a lot easier when you’ve already got a list of keywords for pages and an idea of what kind of content has worked (or failed miserably) in the past.
4. Clear Objectives. The client knows what they want to achieve with the website. Higher sales? More community engagement? More downloads of their resources? You have to have metrics for success.
5. Budget. The client has some funds set aside for this project and understands that writing is not a commodity product. Sure, this is an an age when teenage contractors on the Indian subcontinent are advertising in forums that they can produce a 60-page report for $20, while some unscrupulous weirdos on Craigslist are offering the princely sum of a penny a word for business articles; I understand clients’ confusion on this score. But website copywriting is a professional service. If you want a high-quality website that’s going to meet your objectives, there must be a realistic budget in place to achieve this.
When a client has met all of the criteria above, the projects tend to get completed quicker and with less stress for all stakeholders. However, those are characteristics of the “ideal” client.
In reality, many clients will only understand that they need a website for their business, but may not have a clue about SEO or analytics. Some clients will only have a vague idea about objectives. Others may be struggling to develop a realistic budget to pay for website content.
This is where a web copywriting consultant like myself must provide critical advice, strategic guidance and not a little education to help the project move from the planning stage to execution. It’s part of the job and can be a very enjoyable process, at that.
One Ideal Client, One… Not So Ideal Client