How to Please Your Client Every Single Time


Photo credit Gualtierro Boffi

I have the secret. The never-fail secret to making sure your client is thrilled with the web copy you write 99.999% of the time.

Gather round me, children, for I am about to speak a word of power. Contained within this word is the secret to web copywriting that knows the heart and mind of your client – yea! Knows even their hopes and dreams and deepest desires for their online presence.

Come closer. I shall whisper the word in your ear.

Questionnaire.

That was rather anticlimactic, wasn’t it?

Yeah, okay, so using a questionnaire to gather information from a client isn’t a mystic legend, but it does work. We started using a basic questionnaire quite awhile ago here at Men with Pens, and doing so has accomplished two things for us:

  • Saved us, the guys who put the words on the page, a lot of time
  • Made our clients very, very happy indeed

What’s not to love about that?

Why You Should Use a Questionnaire

Questionnaires don’t just work for web copywriting services. They work for pretty much any service you offer, from web design to marketing consultation to any type of business where you need information from your clients.

The questionnaire’s job is to save you time. Years ago, we used to ask clients questions as they came to mind during conversations. “How do you want it to feel?” we’d ask. “What sort of laywer/blogger/sponge connoisseur are you, exactly?” “Do you really, really hate any particular colors or adjectives?”

(Answer: everyone hates the color puce and the word “moist”.)

That method of gathering information worked out pretty nicely, and not just because we were good at asking the right questions. And we realized that we generally asked more or less the same questions for each type of project. We had a pretty good idea of what we needed to know in order to do our job well.

Except the times when we didn’t.

Sometimes we’d forget to ask a question and have to send a new email to confirm a detail – that wastes time. Sometimes we’d word our questions in a way that the client would give us an answer we couldn’t use. Sometimes the client misunderstood our questions. “Well, I have a certification in windsurfing . . .” “No, sorry, we meant your qualifications for, you know. Your job.”

Sometimes we just plain didn’t have the time to ask the really good questions that helped us save even more time and do a spectacular job. When there are fifteen clients clamoring for blood, everyone gets distracted.

The questionnaire solved all these problems.

Ah, but not just any old questionnaire. We took our time with it. We included the questions we usually ask clients, and then we began asking more. And then – this is the tricky part, folks, pay attention – we saved it in a Word doc and worked on it even more.

I know. I am just going to let the genius of that sink in for a moment.

Not Just Any Old Questionnaire

Over months, we altered our master questionnaire. We added new questions that had been cropping up more often and we took out questions that weren’t really necessary. We began getting specific, asking questions that helped us get our clients even better results, and we saw results in our own success rate shoot up as well.

That success rate? It’s extremely rare to hear anything but, “I LOVE this,” around here.

Every single client gets the same questionnaire, and sometimes we need more in-depth clarification, but most of the time we don’t. Most of the time, that questionnaire gets us all the information we need to rock the client’s world.

Because when you have all the information you need to do your job to perfection – what tone and feel the client wants, what adjectives come to mind, the history and the story of their business, the way they want their customers to think about them, whether they want to be seen as funny or professional or cute or consoling . . . .

You are pretty much guaranteed to deliver exactly what they’re looking for.

So ‘fess up. Do you have a questionnaire for your clients? And if you don’t, why don’t you?

If you want to be one of our success stories with results you want to take to bed every night, contact us today. We'll ask all the right questions to make sure we give you everything you need to fall in love.

Post by Taylor

Taylor Lindstrom (fondly known as Tei) is a twenty-something copywriter and journalist from Boulder, CO. She’s the team’s rogue woman who wowed us until our desire for her talents exceeded our desire for a good ol’ boys club. She loves the color green, micro-point Uniball pens, and medieval weaponry.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. I use a questionnaire for my coaching clients and it works brilliantly – I’ve used one for the last four years or so. Before I used it a new client and I would spend the first part of a call doing the background stuff. Now we can get straight into the heavy duty coaching that they’re paying for.

    You have however, reminded me that I haven’t updated it recently and need to do that.
    .-= Melinda | SuperWAHM´s last blog ..How not to receive feedback =-.

  2. I use quite a detailed set of questions as part of my client brief/quoting process. Works a treat.

    One of the questions is ‘Where did you hear about me?’ – a good bit of client research to cover off on.

  3. It is really important not just what you ask but how much you ask, people will lose interest if the questionaire is exceptionally long.
    .-= Business Logos´s last blog ..Cancer Crab =-.

  4. I’ll be honest, I don’t have a pre-project questionnaire, though I do have one for after the project is complete. I’ve always just conducted mini-interviews to gather information I needed. I’ll be switching soon. Thanks!
    .-= Chris Mower´s last blog ..A Networking Casestudy with Northwestern Mutual =-.

  5. The questionnaire is key! If the client is thourough enough, they will end up creating your bullets, your headline, and the majority of the copy for you.

    All you have to do is have the eye to pull it out. Sometimes a recorded interview can be even more powerful as well. Here, you will get all of the little nuances from your customer, hearing that places where they get excited, and where the customers get excited too… bullets, bullets, bullets.

    If you are brave enough, I would love to see the questionnaire that you use (as I’m sure you other readers would, as well).

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire
    .-= Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire´s last blog ..5 Tips for Closing the Sale Without Beating Your Customer With a Hammer =-.

  6. yep… A questionaire is the first thing my clients will get before I kicks their behinds into shape.

    little do they know… They do 1/3 of the work for me.
    .-= FitJerk’s Fitness Blog´s last blog ..Feel The Fear… And Lift It Anyway =-.

  7. Yes, I created a questionnaire a few months ago and the first time I used it realized what a brilliant idea it was. Not only does it help me nail the project, but it also gives me ideas for other services I can offer to clients. Now, it goes out to every potential client.
    .-= Sharon Hurley Hall´s last blog ..Freelance Writing Bloghop – 3 Helpful Posts =-.

  8. Hi Taylor,

    I start with a conversation then move onto a questionnaire, but keep digging even after receiving it. It ends up being a 2 or 3 step questionnaire. More bite size that way.

    Thx this will be a helpful post for a lot of people,

    G.
    .-= Giulietta Nardone´s last blog ..What Are You Waiting For? =-.

  9. Mike Roosa says:

    I think a questionnaire is essential but it doesn’t mean your customer will be happy 99% of the time. Some people are never happy!
    .-= Mike Roosa´s last blog ..I’m Giving Away The Farm — Read This If You Like Free Stuff =-.

  10. Hey Taylor!

    Yes! I started using a questionnaire from day one of starting Stagg Solutions mainly because of the success I’d received creating custom questionnaires for others. They are very efficient tools indeed for acquiring useful information from a client. I highly recommend using them!

  11. Curious minds want to know, eh? You can take a look at one of our very basic questionnaires at the link below:

    https://menwithpens.ca/ebook-content-questionnaire

    What’s funny is that I once had a client say, “It’s right on your site?! Aren’t you worried someone will rip it off?” My answer was, “If they want to rip it off, by all means!”

    @Michael – Efficiency is key in business for sure!

    @Mike – Well, if you deliver on promises, I’d say 99% of people are indeed happy. There’ll always be that 1%, true, but you can’t please everyone all the time.

    @Guiletta – Sounds great. Just make sure that you’re not making clients jump through too many hoops – each extra step they have to take leads them closer to “forget it!”

    @Sharon – The amount of extra ideas that come from questionnaires is pretty amazing. Sometimes it takes just a little nudge to get the creativity flowing!

    @FitJerk – Do you send them flowers? I think they deserve flowers.

    @Joshua – That’s exactly it. Anyone can create a questionnaire and anyone can fill it out, but it’s the ability to take the questionnaire from just words to magic that makes all the difference.

    @Chris – Switch! And rejoice at your newfound free time!

    @Sally – LOL – “Where did you hear about us” is right on our Contact page. (I think. It used to be… is it still? Hm!)

    @Melinda – Updating is key. Within just a few short months, you may find that there are questions that need to be updated, changed, altered… always update!

  12. Thanks James. I was great to see an example of your questionnaires. It’s given me a few ideas of how to improve my own.

  13. I have always asked questions of clients but never in this type of format. I will definitely be investing a little time into developing this. Do you simply direct them to the link on your site or do you email the questionnaire to them? Thanks for the great tip!

  14. My questionnaire history is similar to yours. I noticed I was asking clients the same questions, and getting better results when I did it consistently. So, I wrote them down, and now pose them to all new clients. They seem to appreciate the attention to detail, and I have found the process to be critical to project success.
    .-= Karen Marcus´s last blog ..How to Write a Corporate Brochure =-.

  15. The questionaire…aka asking questions is the foundation of listening and learning. Sage wisdom but too often overlooked. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Lisa Zahran says:

    Super tip and great reminder. I normally do a recorded Q&A, but formalising a questionnaire would work so much better.

  17. Thanks for sharing the questionnaire. I have read posts about questionnaires but you’re the first to share an example.

    Thank you, this is a huge help.
    .-= Tammi Kibler´s last blog ..Writing Career Goals – Plot Your Destination =-.

  18. Yep yep. We’ve got a questionnaire too. Well, actually two of them, one before the web design project starts and one after the project starts.

    Not everyone gets the same second one, but everyone does get the same first one.

    And yes, it does save a ton of time and makes things so much easier. True story.

  19. Wow, this is brilliant! I think that using a questionnaire saves great time and money. It also helps you gauge the status of your client-provider relationship. I believe many freelancers forget this and it’s good that you wrote this post to many who forgot, including myself. Thanks!
    .-= Issa´s last blog ..7 Things Freelancers Can Do During Slow Times =-.

  20. G’day James – I came across your post just as I was updating my copywriting discovery questionnaire. I have always used questionnaires to gather the background material I need to write my clients’ copy.

    The problem I have faced is when the client doesn’t really have a good answer for my question. Here are a couple of real life examples:

    Q. Who would buy your product/service? What does a typical customer look like? Please give as many demographic and psychographic details as you can.

    A. Difficult since I don’t believe there is a typical customer.

    In a perfect world, our customer would ideally be Gen Y, AB, those who are confident and successful, tend to lead not follow ‘tho not necessarily aspirational. They’d be adventurous, employed and self employed, higher managerial/professional through to intermediate and junior managerial (corporate especially targeted) but not to dispel wealthy middle-aged/older people who are adventurous and have no job, retirees, people who love to travel, blue collar workers, people who are not label driven or even impressed by brand but do their own homework, people who are not wine conservative and follow only say straight varieties (e.g. not blends), the novice wine drinker, come on down, I’d love to be adopted big time by the gay Mafia but they are mostly quite discerning. And Gen X’ers who go to AC/DC concerts and Neil Diamond and Johnny Farnham, the younger at heart of that generation who don’t just buy their wine from Kemeny’s and Woolworths and also, those who go to BYO’s and take interesting bottles.

    Or this one:

    Q. Please list the most important benefits of the product/service. (Benefits are what users gain as a result of using a feature e.g. the benefit of an anti-lock braking system (ABS) is increased safety and peace of mind.)

    A. N/A

    The way I get around the problem of “non-answers” such as these is by collecting the answers to my questions in an interview. I email the questions, let the client mull them over, then interview them, record the interview, get it transcribed, and use that as the raw material for my copy. (BTW this is also a great way to capture the client’s tone and voice.)

    The interview allows me to probe deeper and clarify details on the spot. I have found many clients – business owners and marketing managers alike – can be very sketchy on marketing fundamentals such as target markets, calls to action, uniqueness, offers, etc.

    I’ve also found very few non-copywriters understand the difference between features and benefits, and virtually no one can recite the benefits of their business/product/service off the top of their head.

    So I was excited – and a little bit sceptical – to read this post. I would love to just email my questionnaire and just wait for the client to fill it out, as you recommend and as one of my colleagues does (see http://www.divinewrite.com/blog/copywriting/attention-copywriting-clients-heres-copywriter/).

    But my experience shows that I usually don’t get good enough information to write high quality copy without probing and encouraging my clients to think a bit deeper about their answers.

    There are a couple of other issues too:

    1. I worry that the client will resent being made to write out their answers when they’re paying me to write.

    2. Making the client fill out the questionnaire puts the timing of the project in their hands i.e. you can’t start until they return the completed questionnaire. Also, if the deadline is tight it make it more likely you’ll get glib answers.

    But these reservations aside, I want to try again to get my clients to fill out the questionnaire themselves. Hence the rewrite.

    So I’m curious: what’s been your experience? Have you run into these problems? Or do your clients always return your questionnaires brimming with usable information?
    .-= Charles Cuninghame´s last blog ..Search Engine Strategies 2010 Conference Highlights =-.

  21. Oops! Sorry! I meant to say G’day Taylor.
    .-= Charles Cuninghame´s last blog ..Search Engine Strategies 2010 Conference Highlights =-.

  22. I use a questionnaire as well and it’s incredibly helpful. Since I’m a dating coach and the service is so personal, we DO talk beyond that but the questionnaire still saves a lot of time. I’m able to get a sense of the client prior to meeting them and then can dig deeper by asking follow up questions when we get together. Some of thw questions in the questionnaire are personal and writing down a number or word make people feel better, rather than having to discuss it and give an explaination.

  23. You are so right; a consistent questionnaire saves a lot of time in revisions later. I also suggest trying to see if they will let you ask the same questions to whoever handles their customer service. Clients have a ridiculously hard time seeing past the features of their services or products, but the customer service reps, who speak to the target audience every day, are often a gold mine of good angles and tipping points. They know exactly what matters most to the audience—they just don’t realize it and usually neither does the owner.
    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..Sneezing Gypsum =-.

  24. Hey Charles,

    You raise some good questions, and I have answers for you!

    It’s true that clients don’t always have good answers, or their answers are vague and thus become unusable. Our typical response when we receive an answer on a question that we can’t work with is to do one very important thing:

    Stop.

    We contact the client and mention, “In question X, we’d need more clarification.” Then we do something else that’s critically important:

    We explain why clarity is important to our client’s success.

    You see, every client has a goal. They want customers of their own, or they want more clients, or they want credibility or fame… there is always a single goal. And as service providers, be we writers or designers or marketers, our goal is to help our clients achieve what they want.

    So if we see an answer that doesn’t work, or that won’t give clients the results they seek, we feel that it’s our job to explain to them why it matters, and how it matters, and we ask them to put more thought into it. We take the time to help them understand how each answer affects their success.

    The thing is that clients don’t KNOW what an ideal customer is, or how to figure out who that person is, or what the features are, and why benefits matter more, and what are benefits, and why blue and not green and why bold language versus soft.

    That isn’t their job to know. That’s our job, as service providers.

    So, when I see an answer that isn’t productive towards helping me help my client, I take pleasure in slowing down and talking to them, giving them a little more information and helping them learn. They’ll be better for it, their site or copy will be better for it and their results will be better for it.

    And that’s a job well done.

    (On a side note, you mentioned your process and that you’d love to shortcut it – I’d recommend looking into that, as it does seem there are a lot of steps and hands-on involved.)

  25. Hey James – thanks for your prompt and insightful reply.
    .-= Charles Cuninghame´s last blog ..Search Engine Strategies 2010 Conference Highlights =-.

  26. Deb Lamb says:

    I love using a questionnaire, but I realize it can be time consuming. I typically ask my clients what works best for them. Would they like to have a little time to go through it, fill it out at their leisure, and then email it back to me, or would they prefer to conduct it over the phone? I’m trying to meet their needs as much as possible and still gather the information I need. I’m flexible and willing to help them in any way I can. Some people just don’t like spending the time to complete it, however, as I always tell them….help me to help you, and we’ll both be extremely satisfied and happy!

    Deb 🙂
    http://www.youreverythingservices.com

  27. I found your sales process quite intriguing. You’ve made it very easy for the potential client to “buy now” and you also save your self the from having to close the deal in person.

    I know after they pay they get redirected to a questionnaire. What I would really love to know is how you handle the “agreement”. Do you have your clients download, sign, scan and send you back a copy, or maybe you just have a “click here to agree to terms”.

    And finally, do all your clients willingly pay with PayPal, or do you find their is still a large percentage that wants that human touch, and would prefer to hand over or email you a cheque?

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  2. […] a client questionnaire? I’ve been using one for a few months now and Taylor’s post on How To Please Your Client Every Single Time reminded me that I’d planned to tell you more about it. Like many writers, I’d been […]

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