As a copywriter, I’ve been blessed to work with professional editors who make my work better. And for the most part, client edits add substance and focus to my work as well. Every now and then, however, clients do what every writer dreads: suggest (or demand) changes that suck all the life out of the copy and diminish its lead generation power.
What can copywriters and agencies do to prevent clients from editing out good sales copy?
Creative Briefs: The Pre-Emptive Strike
The best way to avoid bad client editing is to pre-empt it by nailing down objectives and talking points in the creative brief.
Creative briefs emphasize the purpose of a piece of content — the audience, the value proposition, the desired action and the talking points to drive that action. When the writer and client agree on these issues, there should be no surprises when the draft is submitted for review.
The usual cause of bad client edits is what I call “organizational accretion.” When clients review content, they fall into a panic because their pet talking points are missing. If the client review process involves many departments, these additional talking points will grow to the point where the second draft is twice as long as the first — and half as persuasive.
In the review stage, these clients forget the purpose of the content, which is to generate leads, and instead see the content as some sort of internal position statement. Without a documented creative brief to remind them, the content easily takes on a life of its own. Suddenly it’s the client steering the creative ship, instead of the creative team it hired to do so.
The Compromise: Testing
In the absence of a locked-down creative brief, or when the brief fails to settle the issue, a split test is a good fallback position.
Flat-out arguing with a client over edits is a losing proposition even when the writer/agency knows it is right about the comparative effectiveness of the submitted draft and the edited draft. No matter how much anecdotal or data-driven support the writer/agency pulls out to support its opinions, clients may still feel creative differences are a matter of opinion — and in some organizations, sorry to say, internal priorities sometimes trump the marketing objectives that caused the content to be created in the first place.
So the writer/agency is caught between a rock and a hard place: either irritate the client with an argument and get fired immediately, or implement content it knows will not generate leads, and get fired later.
A split test is a way out of this dilemma. Run the “client” version and the “agency” version of the content and see which produces more leads. Testing works especially well for landing pages, product/service pages and sales collateral. In addition to tracking leads, metrics to distinguish effective from ineffective content include time on page and bounce rate.
One thing that trumps internal organizational politicking is results. Show a client that content version “A” produced 100 leads and version “B” produced 10 leads, and … well, if the client still wants version “B,” you really need to find a new client anyway.
Consider this, too:
Testing presupposes that solid phone and form lead tracking are set up. If not, the lead generation effectiveness of any given piece of content will always be open to debate, rendering the writer/agency perpetually vulnerable.
Over to You
What works for you in overcoming bad client edits? How do you keep copywriting on the right track?