Episode 229 Featuring Alex Bond

The Psychology of Copywriting and UX with Christopher Silvestri

The Psychology of Copywriting and UX with Christopher Silvestri

Christopher Silvestri is the head of Conversion Alchemy, as well as a conversion designer and copywriter. By bringing copywriting, user experience, and digital psychology together, Conversion Alchemy is a brand that's designed to make the internet a better place (and help awesome businesses make more money in the process). 

On this episode, Christopher and I discuss what makes good copy, the intersection between copywriting and UX, the importance of effective research, and much more.


What is Conversion Alchemy

Christopher Silvestri: So, Conversion Alchemy is, at the core, a conversion copywriting agency, and we work both with software as a service and e commerce businesses, but we also mix in a lot of UX design principles, a lot of conversion rate optimization. And digital psychology basically to help our clients convert more of their website visitors into customers.

Alex Bond: That's awesome. And so a lot of your experience comes from UX design and CRO and copywriting. When I looked at your LinkedIn a little bit, is that just a skill set that you fell in love with? What kind of made you get into those specific skills? 

Christopher Silvestri: So I actually fell in love, truly in love, madly in love with copywriting at first. It was actually first direct response copywriting. So the old school, yeah, info product copywriting, basically just because the basics, the fundamentals are. I've always been taught in that space, but then I stumbled on UX design because I worked for two years at an agency and that's what I was mostly doing.

So they already had a copywriter and they saw that I could actually bring a lot of value to the table as far as my my perspective, my vision on wireframing UX design. And so I started doing a lot of usability testing. If people don't know what usability testing is, it's basically having your website used by these testers who actually go through it and tell you what they think about it.

And you can see where they get stuck, what they find helpful and so on. So I probably ran hundreds and hundreds of those tests. And through that I kind of got much, much better at putting myself in myself in visitors shoes. And yeah, right now it's kind of natural to me thinking in terms of what these other people are thinking when they land on a website. And so I tried mixing copywriting and UX together. 

Alex Bond: And it seems to work well. I mean, when I look at your case studies, your background and your very clean website, there's a lot there in terms of how you kind of marry the two design and copywriting. I personally have never really come across that marriage before, before we step forward, just jargon wise. Could you explain to our audience? What wire framing is that anyone might not know? 

Christopher Silvestri: Yeah. So wireframes are basically non branded layouts of a website and I use them. It's typically what UX designers use to design their apps before they actually get the final user interface design. So it's kind of the skeleton of a design. And I typically use wireframing in my processes right after writing the copy. 

I basically turn the copy into these layouts and it's a really good way for me to convey the whole idea of how the copy should flow and for clients to understand as well. Yeah how the narrative goes on the website, how they, how users consume the content on the website, because it's basically, it tells you basically, yeah, this piece of copy goes here and, and you might have an image here. It blends together the copy with the design, even before the final mockups and before calling in a designer. So it's also a good way to cheaply test your copy if you want. 

How Copywriting influences customer conversion

Alex Bond: So to kind of circle back to copywriting as a whole, in your opinion, how important is copywriting in the decision making process for a customer? I mean, does it actually make a difference in customer conversion? 

Christopher Silvestri: Yeah, for sure. I'm a bit biased, but that's, I'm always of the opinion. And if you ask any copywriter, but also any designer, they would tell you that copy comes first before design. And that's because all the research, all the true knowledge and understanding of your audience, which is where you should actually start to craft your whole website experience.

That comes through the research that you do with copywriting and also UX design on the other side, especially if you have an app. Obviously, you can do some branding research to come up with your color palette, your fonts for the design, your illustrations, but that doesn't really tell you much about your audience. And you want to always start with your market when you have to come up with a message.

Integrating UX design with Copywriting

Alex Bond: So when you're doing that research, are you doing research both in what would be helpful UX design as well as copy? Because the more I hear you talk about it. There's an obvious connection and correlation between the two and how they can be involved with another, but you have to do research both on how people are digesting information in terms of UX, while what they're actually digesting is then creating a decision making process for the customer.

Christopher Silvestri: Yeah, yeah, totally. Because when coming up with the copy, it's important that you craft the right compelling message. But also how you, how you display the context in which the message sits. All of that is important because you have to understand how your visitors think, how they make decisions on the website.

And there might be different types of decision maker, right? You might have people who make decisions mostly emotionally. They need to see a lot of visuals or photos of realistic people on the website, or some other ones are more. On the logic side, and they might need to see more numbers, graphs, charts comparisons.

So all of that needs to be taken into consideration when, when writing the copy, because all of your visuals need to complement the copy. You need to have proof to back up your claims. So it's kind of a natural flow. Yeah, it's a good mix of copy and design. Always you have to keep in mind. 

Alex Bond: And how do you perform that research exactly or more specifically? Because that's pretty intimate things that you're trying to figure out, you know, can't just Google it. 

Christopher Silvestri: Yeah. So all of my projects are like the research that I run is custom based on the goals and the needs of the client. But typically, it's always important to consider two aspects of your research. So you have actually three aspects. So you have the client side, you always want to speak with the client, their team, you want to run some interviews to understand their voice and tone, their message, what they know. 

And then you have the other side of the coin, which is the prospect side and customer side. So you have website visitors who is the guys that you have to convince to buy and then you have the customers who have already bought and it's important to get the perspective of all of those a good way a couple of good ways to understand on the more on the website visitors side is for example using a software like hot jar.

Where you can install heat maps, you basically see on the website. Okay, where do people click? How far down the page do they scroll? And it also records users using your website. So you see videos of people using the website. You see where they click. You see if they rage click on something, they go back and forth because they don't find information.

So all of those are really good. You can also run website surveys. Which are those sometimes annoying pop ups, but if you do them well, you actually get a lot of responses where you can basically ask people why they're on your website, what's their goal, whether they found all the information that they need to find or not.

So this is on the prospect survey side prospect research side on the customer side it's the highest ROI that you can have is interviewing your customers because that's where you get the most vivid insights the most vivid pictures that you can use in your copy. But you can also run customer surveys, right?

So emailing your list with an invite to a survey, asking a couple of questions, and when you run those, it's always important to get the full picture. So asking them on the situation before even thinking about your brand and what they were using other solutions. And it's important to narrow down to the moment that they switched.

Or decided to buy from you and also understanding the obstacles that were the might have prevented them to reaching out or signing up or by because that moment of friction is what you want to remove from your whole flow. Once you've done that once you figure that out it's much much easier to convert. 

Implementing findings from research to live website

Alex Bond: Is there a difference between a customer who's had a positive experience versus a negative experience or say the frequency with which different customers visit a website? 

Christopher Silvestri: Yeah, yeah, totally. So when looking obviously at those heat maps, it's always important to distinguish between returning users. Or new users that's a lot of times it's one of the biggest differentiators, but also when it's not only important to research customers or people who buy, but I often ask questions or send a survey out to people who don't buy, or if you have subscriptions, people who churn, maybe.

So it's important to understand all the different facets of the business and as far as the importance, not that one has more is more important than the other one. They all contribute in giving you as full of a picture as you can get. So all of that is anything you can get is important. 

Alex Bond: I totally understand that. And the reason we're breaking this down so much to anyone listening is that, you know, Christopher, you've stated that 70% of your work is actually in research more than the, the design or the copywriting. The job title, you know, really, you should be called a researcher more than anything else. 

Christopher Silvestri: Yeah. Or a detective. 

Alex Bond: Yeah. And I like that analogy that you use on your website of being like a private investigator, you know, and a lot in. What you do is kind of a philosophy that I've learned and was taught, which is, you know, find the problem, find the solution, implement the solution. And I kind of see that in the way that you operate in your processes.

So I'm curious, the research is kind of finding the problem, right? So in terms of finding the solution, how do you start to implement those findings specifically into copy wireframes and ultimately a live website? 

Christopher Silvestri: So what I do, it's basically for every project, I fill out this document, which I call the positioning formula, and that's because positioning, it's also another important milestone in all of my projects.

Positioning is basically understanding what you do, who you do it for and how you do it in a unique way. Once you have all of that jotted down along with the research, voice of customer. All of that, basically I crystallize it into, I channel it into your value proposition, which is typically the way that you start the homepage, right?

So those are the words that tell your potential customers what you do, who you do it for and how you do it in a unique and different way. And that's typically the way that i start behind the value proposition there's this idea of a idea of the big idea which comes actually from something that i learned from direct response right so they it's the unique angle the underlying theme behind the whole copy that basically tells you ok this is what you do.

And this is why it's special, right? It's kind of the exciting, exciting element behind the copy. So it's everything starts from the value proposition headline copy. And from there, it's just basically a process of putting together all the talking points that you collected from the research in the right priority. Because that's also important. You have to speak to people the way that they want to hear you speak and in the right sequence as well.

So it's mostly just a matter of figure out figuring out where to put all the different bits and pieces they collected through research. 

Alex Bond: And I'm curious, literally just popped into my head when it when it comes to copywriting is when you're working with a client, you're essentially kind of ghost writing for them a little bit, you know, so they have a certain idea and you have a certain idea for what their voice should be right? 

And I think there's something interesting about like corporate tonality where say, if I'm writing an article or we're writing a blog post, you do a newsletter, you know, which, which is obviously going to be written in your voice compared to when you're working with a client, you still have your voice, but are then trying to manipulate that into a brand's voice and and turn that into an identity. Is that kind of a hard thing to separate is finding a brand's voice and putting your putting your head into, you know, what they want to sound like? 

Christopher Silvestri: That's a great question because one thing that I've found is that a lot of companies, they think they are using their own brand voice, but they're actually don't. And it's either because either they are afraid or they want, they don't want to push it too far. 

So basically what I'm doing, it's kind of helping them take that voice out into the world. And, and the voice typically it's made up of you have the vocabulary. So how sophisticated are you? What kind of words you use, you have the tone, which is the.

More or less emotional side and then you have the cadence which is using either like choppy sentences or long sentences that's your style of writing, i'm most of the time speaking with the client i can get the basis for it and then the next step for me it's always researching what the voice of the competition is.

And figuring out what the right intersection, what's the right way of presenting how the client wants to speak in a way that it's different, that kind of stands out from the competition as well, and that fits their brand.

So that's typically something that I'm pretty excited to work on because a lot of times, as I mentioned, the client is not really hasn't really been able to, to speak in their own words. So it's always good when see the copy on the page and that they realize that it finally speaks the way that they want to speak. 

Ensuring effective copy and design through usability testing

Alex Bond: YDo you, in terms of just to wrap up on the research, do you do any sort of user testing for your copy and designs before you implement it with a client? 

Christopher Silvestri: Yeah, yeah. Usability testing. It's a lot of what I do, obviously depending on the audience for B2B, it's a bit harder to get testers that feed the audience, but when it comes to B2C e commerce, there's especially because e commerce is a lot about usability, using filters, finding products on websites. So usability testing, it's a big part of what I do.

And it actually, I recommend it to a lot of business owners because it's something that anyone can do. Once you figure out like the basics of writing setting up a usability testing, it's great because it tells you probably 80, 70% things that are not working on your website, so you can go ahead and try to fix them without having to hire an agency or a consultant like me, for example. So anyone could run a usability testing and, and see from their website visitors perspective. 

Sharing expert insights through newsletters

Alex Bond: You also write, as we were mentioning a daily newsletter with your insights on various fields of expertise. What is your main goal for that? Why do you do it? 

Christopher Silvestri: I guess. Yeah, so it started because actually, so the way that it started, I wrote the first like 50 issues just for myself and started more of like a writing exercise. I always thought, okay, I'm a writer, writers write. And I, and I wanted, I wanted a way to force myself to write and see whether I was really passionate and I could stick with it.

And yeah, so it went pretty well. And I decided just to start it. Publishing them live and started getting some, some feedback, some people subscribing, and I'm still it's still pretty recent and new. So I'm right now I'm speaking both to e commerce founders, but also there are a lot of freelancers and copywriters on the list.

So sometimes I might, I might have a couple lessons for copywriters. Sometimes I might, I might talk about positioning or UX or copy for founders. So it's still a blend. And yeah, the goal is just sharing my thoughts, experiments daily tasks. Even it's kind of like a building public exercise as well for me.

Alex Bond: So, and one of the things that I find interesting in it, from what I've read, is that you prefer the newsletters over social media because it's a little more intimate. It feels like It's not trying to sell someone something, you know, I think that the idea of content creation has become such an industry that it's hard to discern what's real and what's not, what are people's actual opinions and where do they just trying to get clicks or engagement?

And I think that you've mentioned that that's one of the reasons that you've done your newsletter and why you kind of take it so seriously is because while you still use social media, you don't have an affinity for it for actual knowledge or insight or anything like that. Is that accurate? Did I misread that information?

Christopher Silvestri: No, I mean, yeah, I really like it because it's private, it's personal, and you start getting, it's all about creating relationships, I think, so especially with the daily newsletter, it's pretty easy to just like you start getting to know your readers, your readers start getting to know how you think, and yeah, it doesn't mean that I have to sell or anything, it's just creating good relationships, good connections, then maybe you could, I could help someone, someone could help me, so it's kind of like a win win for everybody, I think.

As far as social media, yeah, like lately the whole building public share, I feel like it's getting out of hand and overwhelming. Like you, you, you can basically learn anything online. There's people sharing all of their processes. And I think when it's kind of made in private, you can actually go a bit more You can have a bit more of a unique point of view than maybe you wouldn't share online. I kind of like the private. 

Pros and cons of AI copywriting tools

Alex Bond: And I kind of wanted to talk about that. We can jump right into that. And I'm interested in, you know, there's a lot of software. I know someone personally who. created an AI software for copywriting and helping in newsletters. And I know that those tools are out there. 

So what are your thoughts on using AI to help brands write copy for them? Are these AI softwares useful tools or are they missing context due to the lack of research that you do? 

Christopher Silvestri: I can't speak for writing tools like I think one is called copy writing or copy.ai, jasper is another one. I never used those I've heard. And I think that those are really good for writing content rather than sales copy.

So there's kind of a big difference there content that like it's based on research to educate people, inform people. I think those are really good. I've become really good as far as chat GPT that's I've been using it, but that's I consider it as a tool, right? So it doesn't replace anything for me. It's just a tool that helps me.

For example, I use it a lot when it comes to analyzing the research. It saves me a lot of time because you can basically dump. All the research that you've done, for example, a transcript of an interview, you can dump it into a GPT and ask it. Okay, what are the main themes that emerge from all this stuff that I just dumped?

And just saves me time that I would have to spend reading a transcript of an interview that I've already run so I can know intuitively but the tool puts it down in a nice clean way for me to look at later when i write the copy so it's kind of a no optimizes my processes in a ways that that's the way that I use it. 

Alex Bond: No I can imagine it's good for confirmation you know you got an idea you've done your research and your critical thinking and your comprehension and you come up with some results.

Alex Bond
Alex Bond

Meet Alex Bond—a seasoned multimedia producer with experience in television, music, podcasts, music videos, and advertising. Alex is a creative problem solver with a track record of overseeing high-quality media productions. He's a co-founder of the music production company Too Indecent, and he also hosted the podcast "Get in the Herd," which was voted "Best Local Podcast of 2020" by the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia, USA.

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