The holiday shopping season is once again upon us. Is your web copy ready to convert online shoppers into customers?
I come from a sales and advertising background, where we lived by slogans like, “Always be closing” and “Close early, close often.” Magazine ads were created to build a fear of loss, with an incredible urgency to to take action immediately, before the ‘opportunity of a lifetime' vanished forever. [That's right… miss this offer, and the whole rest of your life will turn to shit, as you sadly wring your hands and murmur, “If only…” 😉 ] Use that approach in social media and visitors will frantically hunt for the unfollow button. I am not reversing my position on actively “selling” in blog posts, email updates and social media.
If you are invited to a Chamber of Commerce luncheon and meet a new business owner, it would be very bad form to launch into your sales pitch there. The right approach would be to ask some sincere questions about their business and perhaps make a few helpful suggestions. In some cases, even handing them a business card can be too forward for the first meeting. Social media, email updates and your blog are an introduction, like the business luncheon. On Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, etc., you should focus on being “helpful” and increasing your credibility as a top expert in your field. Social media is a conversation, not a sales soapbox. Subscribers to your blog and email should receive the up-to-the-minute, useful information they expected, not a series of offers that drive them to unsubscribe.
Having said that, you're probably asking, “So when and where do I actually get to sell?”
Your site's home page should help visitors confirm that they are at the right place and then get them to the information they're looking for in the lowest number of clicks. Your home page is working well when the content perfectly aligns with the information promised in the search results, whether on a search engine or social media site, the visitor is satisfied that they have found the information they were looking for, and your bounce rate goes down.
It's usually not a good place to “sell” or include a call to action, unless the company sells one primary product or service. An example would be a hotel, where it would be very appropriate to provide accommodation highlights and include a “Make a Reservation” form right on the home page. If the visitor must choose between multiple products and services, it's generally best to put calls to action on the product and service pages the home page routes visitors to.
This article is not written for squeeze page sites, but primarily for small business websites that are interested in building long term credibility and relationships, providing stellar support to their customers and cultivating repeat and referral business. Snake oil salesmen used to ride into town, make outrageous claims about their product, accompanied by questionable testimonials and ‘squeeze' people at their point of pain to make a quick decision before they rode off into the sunset. The modern ‘quick road to riches' ebook or course offer follows the same format, embellished with plenty of testimonials (usually from their other ‘information marketing' cronies), often including a countdown to the day the website will be taken offline forever or the offer will be withdrawn. I believe reputable businesses do not operate that way. Google feels the same way and they do their best not to deliver squeeze pages in their search results. Does this mean that all of the tactics employed in squeeze pages are wrong? Absolutely not; only the short term “it's today or never” squeeze strategy. So there is no misunderstanding, many information products are excellent, the authors are there for the long term, and they hope that your purchase will be the first of many.
Let's assume you've covered all the bases in effective online marketing for your business, with SEO, content marketing, social media and an email list. Your prospective customer or client may have entered the sales funnel, perhaps by way of LinkedIn or Google+, they followed you and your posts, checked out your blog and become a subscriber, either to your email list or blog's RSS feed, and you gained influence and their trust. Today they are on your product or service page. Or they may have Googled you with an immediate need. Either way, here they are, on the page you hoped they'd land on.
You dug the well, you installed the pump, you've primed it… but will it now fill your bucket?
Does your sales copy fall short?
1) Know your customers
You may only have one product or service and sell to a very small niche market. Perhaps all of your buyers are men or women. In that case, write a one-page bio that describes exactly who your ideal customer is.
Think along these lines. Who are they? Where do they currently buy? What do they like or dislike about the product or services they've purchased before? What's keeping them up at night? What can you offer to relieve their point of pain? What would they love to have? How can you make their life better? What are they afraid of losing?
If you have multiple products and/or services, you will probably have several customer types. Creating a persona for each can be a very useful exercise, even associating a stock photo that represents the sex, age, attire and setting that represents every persona.. Memorize the unique traits for each persona. It may sound silly, but it can be very helpful to put a photo of your persona in front of you as you write for that ‘person'.
What keywords do you believe each persona would use in looking for your product or service? I always recommend using the Columbo close with your existing customers. You may remember the show's homicide detective walking away from a meeting, then suddenly turning to ask, “Oh, by the way, was the…” When you end a conversation with a customer ask them what they would enter into Google if they were looking for a company that offered your product or service. The answers may surprise you. Good copy always begins with research.
2) Most people won't get past the title
If your headline fails to grab their attention, you've lost them at hello. Does your headline address the problem that's keeping them up at night? Can you provide relief at their point of pain? Can you remove their fears? Can you enhance their lifesyle, give them more purpose and enable them to feel better about themselves?
Does your title include a keyword search term your prospective customers are likely to enter into Google?
3) Stand out from the competition
Today's consumer or B2B buyer is well informed. You can safely assume that yours is not the first website they have visited. They have almost certainly been numbed by all the ‘me too' content out there. Have you looked at the ads and pages of your competition, the ones your visitors have most likely already seen? Your readers will be indifferent to copy that looks pretty much the same from site to site. DO NOT burden them with more of the same.
The majority of content is not unique, informative or actionable. It's the same tired crap, recycled over and over again. What can you do to shake them up, so they take notice? How about opening with a video? Is anyone doing that? Can you include an infographic that visually illustrates the boring old data in tables on your competitors' sites, and the benefits your visitor can expect? Can a point be illustrated with a little tongue in cheek humor? Can you have better photos taken? For example, with one client in the concrete industry, we substituted a stock photo of a close-up of a sidewalk with an image in which their branded truck was pouring concrete into the sidewalk forms. A mother with her son stood a few feet back, watching. The mother beamed with pride as she watched her new sidewalk becoming a reality. Her son clutched a toy concrete truck, excited to be a part of the concrete ‘adventure'.
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)