A friend and I were texting about studying writing. As a product manager who used to be a copywriter, I've always believed copywriting might be one of the most underrated skills for product managers. I finally took the time to write why.
Why is copywriting so important and so underrated for product managers?
Reason # 1 Copywriting is the OG of conducting user research and product discovery before building a product.
People think copywriting is writing, when in fact it is salesmanship in print.
Here is Claude Hopkins in Scientific Advertising, the classic book on copywriting originally published in 1923.
Some advertising men go out in person and sell to people before they plan or write an ad. One of the ablest of them has spent weeks on one article, selling from house to house. In this way they learn the reactions from different forms of argument and approach. They learn what possible buyers want and the factors which don't appeal. It is quite customary to interview hundreds of possible customers. Others send out questionnaires to learn the attitude of the buyers. In some way all must learn how to strike responsive chords. Guesswork is very expensive.
The maker of an advertised article knows the manufacturing side and probably the dealer’s side. But this very knowledge often leads him astray in respect to customers. His interests are not their interests. The advertising man studies the consumer. He tries to place himself in the position of the buyer. His success largely depends on doing that to the exclusion of everything else.
This book will contain no more important chapter than this one on salesmanship. The reason for most of the non-successes in advertising is trying to sell people what they do not want. But next to that comes lack of true salesmanship.
Ads are planned and written with some utterly wrong conception. They are written to please the seller. The interests of the buyer are forgotten. One can never sell goods profitably, in person or in print, when that attitude exists.
Replace "advertising man" with "product manager", "selling to people" with "talking to users", and "writing an ad" with "building a product".
Reason # 2 One of the most important skills of a product manager is communication, and communication is thinking clearly and being able to communicate those thoughts.
I don’t think any product manager would admit to not being good at thinking. But ask yourself, did you ever learn how to think? If not, then what makes you think you are good at it? What about the people you work with who thinks the same, and yet to you and everyone else they work with, they are obviously not?
Writing is thinking, and one of the best ways to improve how you think is to learn how to write.
If writing down your ideas always makes them more precise and more complete, then no one who hasn't written about a topic has fully formed ideas about it. And someone who never writes has no fully formed ideas about anything nontrivial. (Paul Graham, Putting Ideas Into Words)
Reason # 3 People don't realize it’s a skill and that they can improve on it.
That’s why most people are so bad at it.
Since we all ‘write’ in daily life, people think writing (and copywriting) is just typing words. There’s no obvious technical barrier - like with software engineering - to doing it, so people don’t realize there’s skill involved. (Wes Kao)
Learn copywriting. It will make you a vastly better thinker, writer, and product manager. And it will be invisible to most people around you.