How we made an unhappy copywriting client very happy (10 simple steps)

June 4, 2018 •
Dialogue makes copywriting clients happy

We don’t always get client copy right the first time.

Usually, but not always. Sometimes we miss the mark, and sometimes that makes the client anxious and unhappy. This is exactly what happened a couple of weeks ago.

The client is in the construction industry, and they engaged us to write some web copy targeting sport-loving, social-drinking, gym-going, predominantly male, 30-45 year-old construction professionals and tradies.

They gave us a pretty comprehensive copywriting brief, and the key messages that kept popping up in it were words like, “friendly”, “loyal” and “trust”.

So when we wrote the copy, we adopted a very conversational tone. No slang or swearing, but very approachable.

After sending draft 1 of the copy to the client, there was a long and very awkward period of radio silence. Followed by this:

“Unfortunately the copy does not reflect our market. I’m sorry to be blunt but it feels like a bit of a ‘sales’ pitch and the wording is very basic. If your team could refer to <competitor website> this is the standard of writing we are expecting. My thoughts are that the copy requires a complete overhaul and we need something that appeals to our niche market.”

I was gutted.

I always am when I get bad feedback on my copy. But I slept on it, and things didn’t feel so bad in the morning. At which point, I called the client and had a good chat to her.

I apologised that we’d missed the mark in draft 1, said it’s unusual but not unheard of, and explained that this is just the copy review process working as it’s supposed to. We then chatted some about her preferred style (a bit more corporate), and I and reassured her we’d be able to resolve it.

As it turns out, it wasn’t a big job to fix the copy, and a few days later, we delivered draft 2. This time, the feedback was much better:

“We are happy with the result and would like to thank you for the revised copy. I’ve noted a few comments and also included the requested detail i.e. contact numbers, projects etc.”

We then made the finishing touches, and sent the final version.

Today, I received this email from the client:

“Thank you for your effort and turning this around for us, I’m really pleased with the final result. Yes, we got there in the end!

I’ll definitely be in touch should we require any other marketing collateral etc.

Thanks again, it’s been a pleasure doing business with you.

So the client went from anxious and unhappy to delighted and ready to work with us again. And all because we did 10 quite simple things:

  1. Felt gutted
  2. Slept on it to take out the emotion
  3. Called and had an actual conversation
  4. Apologised for missing the mark (owned it)
  5. Reassured the client that it’s all part of the process
  6. Set aside prejudices and prejudgement
  7. Listened to the client’s feedback
  8. Thanked the client for her helpful feedback
  9. Incorporated her feedback
  10. Remained humble and gracious

I’d consider this a checklist of things to do when your client doesn’t like your first draft.

Feel free to comment...
comment avatar
Dane Alexander wrote on March 6th, 2019

Thanks, Glenn. Nice article. Sleep on it. Best advice. I had a similar experience once. Well, the beginning phase, anyway. The client thought the copy was a bit too salesy. So, I suggested that we all sleep on it and discuss it the next day. They came back and realised that it was actually what they wanted... Phew! Bullet dodged. The power of a good night sleep, eh? (admittedly, I knew the client pretty well, so I had a feeling they'd come around. Might not be so lucky with a new client... haha)

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comment avatar
Glenn Murray wrote on March 6th, 2019

Yeah, I've had that happen a couple of times too. Always a pleasant outcome. :-)

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