You have a new product or service ready to go and a new website to market it.
Perhaps this product is going to be the very foundation of your new business.
Budgets are tight, of course. You’ve already shelled out for site design, the build, the hosting, the payment gateway, and the t-shirts. However much you believe the copy for your site is crucial, you’ve convinced yourself there’s no budget left for a copywriter.
Don’t panic. The steps you need to take to make a successful first impression with your writing are few.
Six, in fact.
Six straightforward steps. Here they are:
- Get to the point
- Convince again
- Tell them what to do next
- Don’t blow it
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
This is the headline. (You probably worked that out for yourself.)
I call it grab to distinguish it from holler. Many people think the purpose of a headline is to attract as many people as possible. They look at a headline as a way of shouting in a crowd.
The purpose of a headline is simply to tell people who are already interested that they’ll find more information below. Don’t waste time trying to attract an audience of big game hunters for mouse traps.
In other words, don’t be ambiguous, don’t be clever, and don’t be funny. (Unless you’re selling jokes, of course, but even then, it had better be a good one.) If you’re going to shout in a crowd, you need to know the name of the person whose attention you’re trying to attract.
Claude C. Hopkins – the patron saint of advertising copy – puts it as succinctly as this:
Address the people you seek, and them only.
Your headline serves the simple purpose of telling interested customers that what they’re looking for is about to be revealed.
You’ve promised something with your headline. Now you need to convince your eager audience that you can deliver.
The trick here is to exude authority. And, for most visitors to your site, this will be about the structure of your copy as much as the words. They want to be able to scan the page and be reassured that they’re going to learn what they need to.
This may sound like a design decision but it’s also to do with the way you use sub-headings and paragraph sizes.
If you can embed a testimonial or two in this section, that is a great way to back up your credentials.
Words are important, too, of course. And it’s crucial that you use the right words. Too technical, too “selly sell” (as Chris Brogan might say), too pompous, too simple – all carry their own dangers.
The tone of voice and the vocabulary and the way the words march down and across your page all combine to convince – or otherwise – that you and your product are the real deal and that you understand your target audience.
Get to the point
There’s a time and a place for telling your life story, explaining the reasons for that year spent trekking across Central Asia, and how and why you got the idea for the wonderful product you’re now presenting to a lucky audience.
This, however, is not the time nor the place.
You’ve grabbed your potential customers with a great headline and convinced them that you can deliver what they’re looking for. So, now is the time to follow through, to push your advantage, and to reinforce their sense they’re in the right place.
That means, tell them what they need to know. Now. Quickly.
Explain who the product is for and who it is not for. Tell them how quickly they can have it and what happens if they want more.
If there are caveats to share, share them now. Nobody will be grateful to you for making them stay longer than they need to.
By the end of this section your prospects should be desperate to know exactly how their lives will improve when they buy what you are offering. And that’s what you do next.
Time to convince again. This time, however, the convincing is on behalf of the product and not you or your company.
This is where you explain how your product or service will meet or exceed the expectations of your customer. (This is not where you talk about you and your company and how smart you are and how the way you do things is better than the competition.)
Avoid the word ‘we’ as much as possible. For each ‘we’, make sure there are at least ten instances of ‘you’. Seriously. Your customer wants to know how the product helps them, not how it makes you feel.
You know the prospect is interested because they have come this far. Now is the time to drill home the benefits. Will it save them money? Will it make their lives easier? Will it make them more attractive (even in their own imagination)?
Tell them what to do next
Get the previous steps right and your call to action (“CTA”, as we marketing copywriters say when we hang out at those wild, marketing copywriter get-togethers) should be almost unnecessary. Almost.
Although your prospects should already be itching to take action, they need to know exactly what that action is.
You need to tell them.
Unless you tell them explicitly what you want them to do next – call, email, click the ‘buy now’ button, juggle with small animals – they will spend one or two moments wondering how to continue and, if the answer is not obvious, move on.
However well you’ve written the preceding sections, if your CTA is missing, you’re losing business. Period.
Don’t blow it
You’ve done all this work and your product/sales page is looking good.
You’ve grabbed your prospects, you’ve given them all the reasons they need to buy from you, and you’ve told them what to do next. Surely, that’s all that’s required? Is there really a final step?
Yes. But this final step is not a section you need to write. Instead, it’s a form of review – or editing. This is where you pick up the crusty food remnant on the silver service cutlery, the dodgy stain on the crisp white sheets in your luxury hotel room, the dubious hair on the fluffy towel, the…. you get the picture.
In short, this is where you make sure your readers don’t find out that you don’t know the difference between “their” and “there” and “they’re”, “its” and “it’s”, “your” and “you’re”, or even “discreet” and “discrete”.
Spellcheckers don’t help here, as you will discover.
Evidence of poor grammar or poor spelling may not affect the quality of your product or service but it can suddenly put a doubt in the mind of your potential customer. For the first time, they may wonder whether the lack of care taken on the page may reflect a lack of care elsewhere.
This is not worth the risk. Check and double-check what you’ve written. Read it aloud and get someone else to go over it, too.
That’s it. You’ve written a page that works. Visitors are staying, they’re signing up, and your product is selling well.
Time to start on your next page.
This Post’s Title
One of my favourite films is Treasure Of The Sierra Nevada, directed by John Huston and starring – among others – Humphrey Bogart. The image at the top is from the film. At one point in the film a group of bandits claiming to be lawmen accosts the main characters. They main characters demand to see badges. The lead bandit responds with a burst of righteous indignation, laced with invective. His response has, over time, been reduced to the much shorter misquotation of “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!”
The picture itself comes from an interview extract with John Huston.
So there you go.