Archive for July 21st, 2008

Dateline: A Dark Place. As freelancers, we know this fact: if all the jobs we had penciled in over the years had actually come to fruition, we’d be fabulously wealthy. Right now I’d be using my fortune to fight crime and/or subsidize the torture of all who had ever wronged me. At the very least, I’d be paying someone to write this blog and you’d probably be paying someone to read it for you.

I’m not talking about clients I’ve pursued but did not win. I’m not talking about hunches or guesses based on past experience. I’m talking about:

  • The client who says, “How’s your April looking? I’ve got something huge for you!” Then you finally hear from them in June that the whole project was scrapped.
  • The massive, 30-page website that becomes six pages.
  • The sales meeting that will consist of three video scripts, a welcome brochure and four speeches…that ends up being one video script and one speech.
  • Or, my most recent and most painful example, a $7500 brochure job that turned into a cloud of disappointment.

You think I would learn not to count my chickens before they hatch. But it’s the same every year. I look out over the rumored and promised projects ahead and say, “Dang. If these 7 things happen, it’s going to be a good year!” Then, invariably, four of the seven just disappear.

The thing is, there’s really nothing to be done about it. Nothing except learning to manage my expectations better. After all, it’s something we do on every project, with every client: under-promise and over-deliver.  So, here’s my advice to myself: plan to survive on a diet of Kost-Kutter brand cat food. Then, if you somehow manage to afford Fancy Feast, you’ll feel like a million bucks!

Just don’t eat it from a crystal bowl like on the commercial …nobody likes a showoff.

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Today, I’m off to an initial meeting with a web client. They have an existing site, and they will be doing their own design and programming. They just need a copywriter. I have studied their site and are familiar with some of their collateral materials, so I have my own ideas on how to improve it. But I want to hear from them some very basic information on their market, their current marketing efforts and their competition.  I have a generic questionnaire, and I thought I would share it with you, my ink-stained wretches. Please to enjoy!

Initial Website Questionnaire


What has “changed” recently? Very often, a change in marketing efforts is preceded by other changes, such as changes in:

  • Management,
  • Product, process or services provided,
  • Audience or customer preferences, or
  • Competition (either entities or the products and services they provide.)

So, what’s changed?


Describe your audience in terms of demographics.

Describe your audience in terms of their wants and desires. When they perform a Google search, looking for the types of product or service that you provide, what are they looking for?


In  your opinion, how well do your current marketing materials meet those customer needs?

Describe your thoughts about the content of your current site: Message, theme, tone, length, etc. In general, what works, and what doesn’t?

More on Content: In light of your new situation, some parts of your message are stronger than others. Let’s go though your current materials and rate each section. Basically OK? Needs some tweaking? Trash it and start over?

Are there other unique aspects you wish to highlight? Examples might include:

  • A “family” company,
  • 100 years of service,
  • Technological leadership, or
  • Industry recognition

Again, consider this in terms of what your customer cares about.


Going back to customer expectations, how do you meet those needs better than your competitor? What is your competitive advantage?

Do your current marketing materials state that advantage clearly?

Obviously, you have studied your competitor’s website and literature. What are THEY doing right? Are there aspects of their messaging that you would like to adopt/adapt?

*     *     *

So, those are the basics. As I said on my Defining Your Message page, figuring out the answers to these questions helps make for a coherent, targeted website. Often, it gets a client thinking strategically about their “message” for the first time. To me, that’s adding value.  Later, skaters!

Also, sorry I’m a little late to post this AM. It still hurts to sit because The Dark Knight kicked my ass so hard!!

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