The one question that changed the way I do business

The one question that changed the way I do business

Some times it’s the big things that change your business.

Some times it’s the teeny tiny things.

You can spend weeks planning, strategising and fiddling with an idea and it can flop like a damp sausage.

Other times you can dash out an idea in a few minutes and it can completely revolutionise the way you do business.

In this blog I’m going to tell you about one question that changed the way I do business.

No it wasn’t launching an amazing SEO course.

And yes it may seem insignificant – even little bit silly.

But maybe, just maybe, you can try something similar and have the same great results.

Okay so enough teasing

The question that changed the way I do business was this:

“What is your second favourite flavour of Jam?”

I added it to my contact page.

Why? Well at first I wanted someway of discouraging spam bots. I’m not a huge fan of CAPTCHA (or should that be C7pcH@) so wanted something different.

Of course from a spam point of view this was a completely dumb move and had zero impact.

I wrote ‘remove jam question’ from my 298 page long TO DO list and quickly forgot about it.

But then I got busy. Crazy busy. 10 enquiries a day busy.

So busy that for once I could pick and choose my clients, rather than jumping through fiery hoops to win them.

I needed to qualify my leads, but how?

When I did some research on how to improve contact form conversion and qualify customers and discovered this:

How to create a crazily awesome contact form

The experts tell us that the key elements of a nipple-tickingly good lead capture form are:

  • Positioning: Make sure your form appears above the fold (so users don’t have to scroll down to see it).
  • Length: The length of your form has impact on the quantity and quality of leads you receive:
    • Shorter: More leads, poorer quality.
    • Longer: Fewer leads, better quality.

Try to balance the amount of information you NEED to collect versus how much a potential customer is willing to complete.

Toon Tip: I tried the Olark Live Chat app for a while and found that the quality of leads coming through the messaging service was appallingly bad.

It was just too easy for people to submit an enquiry so it encouraged the tire kickers with dumb questions like ‘How much money is copy for website.”

I’ve since removed it.

  • Fields: Only ask for information that enables you to  contact and qualify the lead. Remember you can always ask for more information later, either over the phone or via email.Put simply forms with 15 fields are going to lower your conversion rate.
  • Privacy: It might seem like overkill to ask customer to agree with your terms and privacy policy. But it shows you take their security seriously and they can trust you.
  • Button: While the default is often submit, a study by Hubspot showed that ‘Go’ was much more powerful.

  • Extra: I also ask how a customer wants to be contacted – not everyone likes to receive a call after sending an email.

The ultimate qualifying question

For me the major factors that qualify customers are:

  • Money: Price is ALWAYS an issue and even if the client doesn’t have a budget in mind, they do know how much is too much.But rather than adding a ‘how much is your budget’ question, I decided to cut to the chase and state my copywriting fees on my website.
  • Business stage: Established business are often more easy to work with than start ups. They have a clearer idea of what they want and you spend less time counseling them through their issues and more time writing.Although easy sounds better, I enjoy getting involved in start up businesses. I’ve enjoyed writing brand copy for many start ups including Isabelle Oliver, Wovii, Afterglow and Seebo.So weeding out the start ups isn’t always a good qualifying option for me.
  • Personality: Working with a copywriting is an intimate relationship. You’re asking your writer to understand your business and address your customers’ beliefs, desires and fears. You need to trust and like your copywriter. And this works both ways.When I have good banter with a client, when we click, the copy bubbles out and flows like sparkling water from a mountain spring.When we don’t, the writing is like trekking up hill, in lead wellington boots through an avalanche of treacle.


I needed a question that could help me tell up front if clients were on the same wave length. And then it struck me, I already had one…

How do I use my magic question to qualify?

My little jam question works in a number of ways:

1. It shows a bit of quirk: I’m not asking for bra size or the name of their first lover. But the jam questions is perhaps enough to make it clear that I’m a little more ‘out there’ than some other copywriters.

If you like that, awesome – if not, escape now!

2. It’s prepares them: This is the first of many difficult questions I’m going to ask. Other questions include:

a. What’s your Unique Selling Proposition?
b. Why should I believe you?
c. Who are your competitors?
d. What are your brand values

If you struggle to answer this then you may struggle with the entire process. Harsh but true!

3. It speaks volumes about who the client is: while it’s not a hard and fast rule, I’ve found over the last few years that

  • Those who don’t answer it at all are a bit uptight and not my kind of client.
  • Those who write ‘don’t know’ tend to be a bit confused about what they want from me.
  • Those who answer something like ‘fig’ or ‘apricot’ are getting into the spirit of things.
  • Those who answer something quirky, funny, or unusual are going to be my favourite types of clients.
  • Those who answer ‘strawberry’ are liars because of course this is everyone’s first favourite.

Over the years I’ve had some great answers I wish I’d saved them all. But here are some that spring to mind.

  • “Bacon jam.”
  • “Does vegemite count as jam?’
  • ‘Toe Jam” (eeew!)
  • ‘I’ve been struggling with this question for 15 minutes, I’ve asked my wife, the dog, I even Goggled. I’m left feeling broken and foolish. Please don’t judge me.”
  • “I’m going with Lemon Kurd and if you don’t think that’s a jam you can f**k right off.”
  • “Jam frightens me.”
  • “Traffic jam” – not really but I’m trying to be funny.”

Using this one question I can work out who I’m going to gel with.

So instead of making 10 call backs a day I now only have to make one or two.

It also means that when I do make the call my conversion rate is usually 99%.

Don’t steal my jam

I hope this post doesn’t spawn a host of copywriters asking about the name of people’s cat, or forcing prospective clients to pick between Justin Beiber and Miley Cyrus to get through their contact forms.

But I hope it does make you think about how you speak to clients in those first interactions.

Often it’s not the big brand messages on the home page that make the difference. Rather it’s the little details and the microcopy that helps make a real connection.

Over to you

What questions do you ask on your contact form? Do you try to pre qualify? Can you share a tip or an example of making a strong customer connection through micro copy?

Want to have a chat?

If you need a Copywriter, SEO Consultant or Information Architect, then please contact me.

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The one question that changed the way I do business was last modified: by
  • Lucy Smith

    I do like this! To be honest, I don’t get a lot of enquiries through my website – it’s mostly word of mouth – but I did make one tweak to cut down on crap. I’ve got it set up so that enquiries that come from certain countries – the ones that want me to subcontract to them or promise they can get me to #1 in Google, and which I never get genuine enquiries from – can’t see my contact details, and it works a treat. It doesn’t weed out all those, of course, because obviously I can’t cut out every country, but it has definitely made a dent.

    FTR, plum. My favourite is raspberry.

    • Hey Lucy, that’s a good ideas. I should try that. And while I don’t 100% approve of your jam choice – I’m allergic – I do love your comment. Thanks!

  • Cassie

    Ah.. Kate my friend.. I know that your article will bring a smile to my dial (is that how you say it?). Clever way of finding out new clients whom you’ll know in advance if you can gel with them. Must try this for myself (am stealing the idea but not the ‘jam’ question because I don’t eat jam – stop judging me!)

    • Glad I made you smile. But I’m afraid our friendship is done. How can I possibly be chums with a jamhater?

      • Cassie

        I don’t hate jam. I prefer peanut butter. Besides I thought our friendship was based on tassels??

  • But Kate, you never answered my question:

    “How much money is copy for website?”

    • You’re right. Okay here goes “It cost much dollar.”
      Hope that helps.

      • Oh, no can do then. I only have many dollar, not much dollar.

        Good luck. I will continue search.

  • Justine Hardman

    Strawberry jam is not my favourite – that’s raspberry jam. It’s not even my second favourite – that’s Brixton Jamm (no, I’m not plugging them. It was one of my fave haunts.)

    • haha, I used to live in Brixton and met my husband there. So I consider your answer truly awesome.

  • Sharon Smith

    Strawberry jam is my favourite, but I usually buy plum so I can save the strawberry for special occasions.

    • I like that idea of pleasure delay. If I’m honest I’m a marmalade or Lemon Curd girl, but don’t tell anyone.

  • robinsons lime marmalade (with the peel) which I remove!

  • Joan Martin

    Love this – micrcopy can make a huge difference on experience! Its fig jam… I’m boring as berry is first (any berry!)

    • I love me some fig jam – yum! And thanks reading @disqus_aB5KaTdsAX:disqus

  • Blackcurrent. Even though it has bits in which I usually don’t like. Strawberry is the favourite although I wish it wasn’t. I wish I could lie as I wish I could look more unique, less the same, not like everyone else. But strawberry is my first love and I’ll never forget that.

    Sorry Blackcurrent but I love you strawberry!

    • I think all decent people in this world like strawberry the bestest @graham_todd:disqus – I would fear for the sanity of anyone who did not 🙂 Thanks for reading.

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  • Eva

    I prefer cookies because I’m too lazy to make jam sandwiches! Awesome post, Kate 🙂

    • Thanks Eva. Jam on toast is the food of the gods, Just saying.

  • kathy gates

    Too hard to choose a favourite let alone a second favourite

    • Ah you see, you have to think about it 🙂 Nutella counts as a jam if that helps.

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