Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

How to Make Your Website Copy Memorable

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

The hardest part of writing website copy is figuring out how to make it memorable and stand out from the competition.  Sure, each business has their own flavor of who they work with and how they do what they do but let’s face it, most of us are in industries with fairly standard problems and solutions. As a result, it’s easy to fall into using the same language and making the same points as your competition.

When you don’t take the time to dig deep and write copy that really connects with your reader, your website winds up bland. It doesn’t make a lasting impression and you waste all that work you did to get visitors to your website. So, how do you cover the same ground as your competition and make it unique?

Understand the Heart and Soul of Your Audience

There are no easy rules to writing fresh copy. One thing I can say definitely is that if you’re going to have a chance of writing fresh copy, you have to REALLY get into the heart and soul of your target markets and understand the problem from their perspective.

You can go a long way to getting inside your target market’s head by understanding three things about them:

Who are they geographically?

If your business is location-specific, get clear on where your target markets live, work and play and where they might need your services. If you have an internet based business like I do, you still need to ask yourself “Where does my target market hang
out?” Find out what websites they visit, what search phrases they use and what newsletters and blogs they read.

Who are they demographically?

What industries do they work in? How old are they? Are they male or female? Do they have children? How much money do they make? What kind of car do they drive? The questions can go on and on. The more questions you can answer about them, the better able you will be to speak to their specific needs.

Who are they psychographically?

This is where the rubber really hits the road! When you understand the psychographics of your target markets, you are inside their head. You understand how they perceive what they need, how they do business, what they are looking for and their hopes and dreams. You understand what words they use to describe the problems you can solve which is key to speaking their language and making a lasting impression.

Keep in mind that you probably have more than one target market. If that’s the case, break them down into separate groups. Get as specific as possible!

If You Try to Appeal to Everyone, You’ll Appeal to No One

Often when I challenge clients to more specifically describe the problems of their clients, they worry they will exclude someone and turn away business. I promise, you won’t be turning away business because your website is too specific. You are much more
likely to be turning away business because your website is too general.

The problem with trying to be all-inclusive is that your website copy becomes generic and doesn’t leave an impression at all. You become one of the pack and run the risk of being seen as a commodity. When people buy a commodity, they make their decision primarily on price. To earn more than the minimum, you have to stand out from the pack.

When you thoroughly understand your target markets and speak to their unique situation, your website copy leaves a lasting impression. The people you want to work with come away from your website thinking “Wow! They really understand what I need and have a solution for me.” Some website visitors won’t have that reaction. And you know what? That’s okay. They’re probably not your target market anyway.

You Are the Only One Who Cares About Your Process

When asked “What do you do?” most of us make the mistake of answering with details about the systems, theories and processes we use to help our clients. I know it sounds harsh but it’s true: only you care about how you do what you do. Very few of your prospects care about the systems and processes you use to get your clients from point A to point B. They want to know that you understand their problem, that you have a solution to their problem and that they will get good results. Don’t make this mistake when writing your website.

When writing your service pages and your home page, the structure should be:

Problem —› Solution —› Results & Benefits

Define the Problem

When you’ve done the work of getting inside the head of your target markets, you become very clear on what their problems are. If you are still struggling to define specific problems, reflect back on clients you enjoyed working with and clients you were able to
get results.

Be sure to define the problem as your prospects see it not as you see it. There are times when you know that the presenting problem is different than the real-underlying problem. It’s okay to talk about the underlying problem but first you must discuss the problem as your prospects see it so they know you understand.

Describe the Solution

This is the only place you should go into any detail about how you do what you do. In the first draft, go for it. Write about how you do what you do to your heart’s content. Get it out of your system. Then go back and cut out anything that is not absolutely necessary to linking the problem to the results and benefits.

Stay away from technical jargon and write in plain English. This does not mean you are talking down to your reader; you are meeting them at their level. Include answers to questions you are typically asked such as how long the process takes, who needs to participate and what will be asked of them.

Go into Detail about Results & Benefits

I saw Alan Weiss of Million Dollar Consulting fame speak a few months ago and he made the point that when you talk about what you do in terms of results and benefits, you can set your price. Ultimately, your clients are buying results so be able to talk in detail about the results they will realize from working with you.

I recommend that you practice answering the question “What do you do?” with your version of “I get results for my clients.” When you describe a result or benefit they want, it will intrigue them to move the conversation forward. This is true in face-to-face networking and on your website.

Start with Case Studies

Most people start with their home page which is a top-down approach. Instead, I suggest a bottom-up approach by starting with case studies. First, it’s a much easier and less daunting way to get started. Second, people are much more likely to remember stories than they are claims of greatness. Keep in mind the old writing advice, “Show. Don’t tell.”  What this means is, instead of saying “I’m a creative problem solver.” Tell a story about a time when you did some creative problem solving.

I recommend start by writing about specific clients you liked working with, clients you got great results for and clients who represent more of the types of clients you want to attract. If your business is new or you’re changing directions, create a composite case study or write about a situation you’d like to have.  Just make sure it’s true in spirit if not entirely in fact.  I would never advocate lying about what you can do but a bit of creative license is okay.

Writing case studies will help you identify specific details about your target markets. It will make writing about problem/solution/results and benefits much easier. Ultimately, it will help you make website text stand out from the competition.

When you REALLY get inside the head of your target markets; write about problems, solutions, results and benefits; and start by telling stories; you will create memorable copy that stands our from the competition.

Posted in How To's, Writing | No Comments »

Vegetables vs. Dessert: How to Write an Info Product that Sells

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Steve Slaunwhite’s latest article answers the question “What is the best topic for an info product?” In the article, he challenges the reader to answer questions such as “Does the information help solve a problem or fulfill an aspiration?” and “Is your target audience hungry for the information?”

 

They are good questions and you really should spend some time writing down your answers. They will you figure out what should go in your info product and what to leave out. The answers will also come in handy when it’s time to write the sales copy which is easily the hardest part of the whole process.

 

What Can You Do to Give Your Info Product the Best Chance of Selling?

 

Writing a quality info product is incredibly difficult and takes more time than anyone thinks it will. In order to create a quality product plan on writing it, setting it aside for a few weeks and writing it again. If you’re not willing to take the time to do it right, don’t bother.

Over the years, I’ve worked with many clients to write and promote info products and in that time I’ve learned a few things about what sells, what doesn’t and why.

 

Go Light on Theory

When you’re an expert, you have a unique understanding the problem. You’re steeped in your theory about how the problem came about, the dynamics at hand and the intricacies of the various ways to solve it. You’re looking at the problem from the outside-in and not the inside-out. Unless people want to do what you do, they don’t really care all that much about your theory. They just want to know how to solve the problem. In the writing process that means go light on theory and heavy on stories and examples.

 

Vegetables versus Dessert

People want to eat dessert first. But as the expert who can solve their problem, you know they need to eat their vegetables. I hate to break it to you but until you can demonstrate why they need their vegetables, they’ll buy dessert first every time. Let me illustrate with an example.

One of the services I provide is search engine optimization (SEO) which is the art and science of getting website to rank well in the search engines. Ultimately, the purpose of SEO is to get people to buy your service or product. The first and most important step in the SEO process is to figure out what words and phrases your website should rank for. This is called “key phrase research.”

Considering that key phrase research is literally the “key” to making sales online, you’d think people would rush to buy an info product that showed them how to do key phrase research. You know what? They don’t. A product called “How to Do Key Phrase Research” is vegetables and only people who want to do SEO for a living see the value of vegetables.

Other search marketers are not my target market.  Entrepreneurs trying to sell services or products online are my target market. The only people who visit their website are people who already know them. Their most pressing problem is getting in front of new people and building an online audience.

That means I need to make the focus of my info product “how to build an online audience.” My job is to get people thinking “Yeah! I need that!”  And then when they ask “How do I do that?” is the time to tell them the first step is key phrase research. Once I’ve given them dessert, I make the case for why they need to eat their vegetables. They get what they want and I get to give them what I know they need.

 

Get Feedback

So how do you figure out what’s vegetables and what’s dessert? Get feedback. Sending your ebook to a handful of friends and asking them what they think is not enough. They’re going to say it’s great. Even if they give you some constructive feedback it’s not going to be as helpful as if you got face-to-face feedback.

I strongly recommend that you teach the material at least once, preferably twice. Invite some friends over for snacks and drinks. When you invite them, tell them what you’re doing and what you want from them. Be specific about what you want. Make a list of questions such as “Does this part make sense?” and “Should I leave this in or take it out?”

See where the energy is. I recently taught an internet marketing basics class and was totally surprised to see where the questions led me. People couldn’t care less about how Google works. What they wanted to know about was building an online audience. I wound spending 30 minutes on a topic I’d only planned to spend 5 minutes on. Believe me! That feedback greatly changed the structure of my next info product and the language I will use to set up the problem.

While you’re writing and gathering feedback, think about what are the “vegetables” of your topic and what is the “dessert.” Then when you write, start with dessert first.

 

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Posted in Strategy, Writing | 2 Comments »

Take the Time to Write Well!

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Today I came across an article in Search Engine Land’s Strictly Business column that annoyed the hell out of me.  Not because I disagree with the point the author was trying to make. If I understand her correctly, I whole heartedly agree! I’m annoyed because the article was so poorly written the very important point she was trying to make got lost in bad writing! (you can read the article here. )

I believe that the overall point of the article is “When there is a mis-match between the key words you are targeting on a web page and the overall tone of the page copy, that web page won’t yield the results you expect. Here’s what you can do to fix it.”  I can only assume this was the point the author meant to make because at no point does the author tell the reader what point she is trying to make.

The Major Mistakes Made
1. The author breaks the Golden Rule of Copywriting which is “Tell the reader what you are going to tell them.  Tell them.  Then tell the reader what you told them.”

2. The other major mistake the author makes is that she doesn’t write like she would speak.  See the example below. Would you speak like this?

Bad Writing:
Considering that, it is important to first gain clarity about the issues affecting performance before prematurely changing your keywords. Otherwise, you might find yourself “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” when you toss keywords that seem to be underperforming.

Moreover, be mindful that changing keywords can greatly affect your visibility in the search results. Given that it takes a great deal of time and effort to achieve visibility on certain keywords, you need to consider whether or not any keywords changes are worthwhile

Plain English:
Changing keywords can have a big impact on your rankings and traffic.  You need to know what issues affect performance before you change the keywords you target.  Otherwise you run the risk of “throwing the baby out with the bath water.”

I could go through the article and give you more examples but I’m willing to bet at least 95% of the people reading this article bailed out before the author got around to explaining how to solve the problem.

Who’s to Blame?
I know how much guts it takes to put your work out there on the web. I don’t blame the author for this poor writing. I’m all for giving people the benefit of the doubt and I’m willing to bet that if the author set this article aside for a few days then ran it through the crucible one more time she’d be able to boil it down to the good stuff.

Who do I blame?  I blame the editors at Search Engine Land who should have read this with both eyes instead of just looking for an article to publish in this week’s column.

This could have been a really good column that generated links. Instead the author and the editors punted and missed a good opportunity. No wonder why people think social media doens’t work.

Posted in Writing | 5 Comments »

How to Say Absolutely Nothing on Your Home Page

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

The main difference between a website that works and a website that sucks are the words on the page. This is why when I’m working on a website rewrite the most important part of my job is jargon busting. Jargon busting consists of finding words and phrases that don’t say a damn thing and helping the business owner replace them with words that make sense to people.
I love it when I come across an especially jargon laden site. These sites save me a lot of time. I can show them to my clients and all of a sudden light bulb goes off. They get how bad it is to use generalities to the point of vagueness.

I came across the mother load of all jargon sites today. The following is the home page text of a company on track to reach 1 billion dollars in revenue by 2010. Obviously, this is not a small company and yet, this is their home page text. I have replaced the company name with “Our Company”.


Our Company efficiently and effectively integrates a wide range of
resources and core competencies to provide unique and timely solutions that
exceed our customers’ stated needs and expectations.

We are guided by integrity, innovation, and a desire for a safer world. Our Company’s professionals leverage state-of-the-art training facilities, professional
program management teams, and innovative manufacturing and production
capabilities to deliver world-class, customer-driven solutions.

Our corporate leadership and dedicated family of exceptional employees adhere to essential core values- chief among these are integrity, innovation, excellence,
respect, accountability, and teamwork.

 

Click here to find out whose home page text is this bad.

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Posted in Cautionary Tales, Writing | No Comments »

How to Improve Your Copywriting: Nuts & Bolts Examples

Friday, October 17th, 2008

I hate it when books and articles on copywriting make lists of suggestions without examples. I think they do that because it’s easier to make suggestions than keep track of actual examples. So, today when I was working on editing some articles that will be used in article marketing for a client, I kept track of the suggestions and the examples.

Start with the solution instead of ending with it. Often, sentences flow better if you start with the solution.

Original: One of the best sources for you find ideas to aid you operating your ranch in the most affordable ways would be the Internet.
Updated: The internet is one of the best sources for finding ideas to help you operate your ranch affordably.

Be mindful in the use of pronouns like “it” or “this” especially at the beginning of a sentence. These words are vague and can lead to confusion. Sometimes when I come across them I find myself thinking “Huh? Or “What are you referring to?” Many times you can replace pronouns with a more specific word or phrase that makes the sentence clearer. You can also replace vague pronouns with key words or phrases which helps improves your rankings. In the example below, I replaced the word “it” with what “it” is referring to. Doing so makes for a more understandable sentence.

Original: Many ranch owners had ranching or farming experience in their past or in previous generations of their family and assume this makes them able to profitably run a ranch. It doesn’t necessarily mean they will be successful because profitable ranching practices are constantly evolving.
Updated: Many ranch owners had ranching or farming experience in their past or in previous generations of their family and assume this makes them able to profitably run a ranch. However, previous experience does not ensure future success because profitable ranching practices are constantly evolving.

Break up run on sentences. They slow the reader down and can be a bail out point which works against your goals. It can be hard to identify a run on sentence when you write it. Reading your articles out loud will help you find them.

Original: There are numerous reasons this may well be the best route for you to consider if you are hoping to get a huge return on your ranch investment and you should have this in mind when you’re looking at ranches for sale.
Updated: There are numerous reasons this may well be the best route for you to consider if you are hoping to get a good return on your ranch investment. Plus, you should have this in mind when you’re looking at ranches for sale.

Two for one example. The phrase “key to doing so” makes me think “Key to doing what?” and this sentence is a run on.

Original: The key to doing so can be as easy as taking the time to do some extensive research that will pay huge dividends for you in the future when it comes to ranch management, and this is something you should consider as early as the time you’re looking at ranches for sale.
Updated: The key to effective ranch management can be as easy as taking the time to do some detailed research. This is something you should consider as early as the time you’re looking at ranches for sale.

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Posted in Writing | No Comments »

Make Your Copy Work by Entering into the Conversation

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

You know when you’re reading website copy that’s compelling and gets the job done. Even if it’s for a product or service you don’t need, you want to bookmark the site or forward the URL to someone who needs it. You want to take action! But, do you know why it’s good?

Nine times out of ten it’s because the good copy enters into the conversation the reader is having in their mind. This is especially important on the internet because

Writing for the internet is different from other forms of advertising because of how people access the information. Other than the phone book, I can’t think of an advertising method where your potential customers are actively looking for you. They have a problem and are looking for a solution. So it makes sense that most copy writing coaches and courses subscribe to the problem/solution/benefit model.

It’s been my experience that writing compelling copy is a process of evolution. Typically we start with “This is who I am and these are my services.” When this fails to yield results, we go to the problem/solution/benefit model. Most service professionals stay stuck at this level. They wonder why they don’t get more clients from the internet and live with poor internet marketing results.

If you do the hard work of crafting copy that enters into the conversation going on in your prospect’s mind, it will improve all your results from newsletter sign ups to phone calls.

Take a look at the following websites:

http://www.sensiblecoaching.com/

http://www.millionairemind.com/

Now I’m really not trying to slam Shell’s website. For all I know, she’s perfectly happy with the copy on her home page. However, when you compare it to T. Harv’s you can see the difference. Where Shell starts with a list of problems, T. Harv’s jumps right into “Have you ever wondered why this is the case? Here’s why that’s the case.”

Although they’re both selling products designed to help you change your relationship to money, T. Harv’s is more likely to make the reader say “This guy has the solution to my problem! I want that!” He assumes you’re both discussing the same problem and puts the majority of his word toward describing his solution and benefits, benefits, benefits.

You can even see this difference in their domain names. Would you rather have ‘sensible coaching’ or a ‘millionaire mind’?

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Posted in Writing | No Comments »

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