Why Most Product Websites Make Me Sad: The Good, the Bad, and the Unsightly

I recently got a comment on my Facebook page asking for examples of what I consider good home pages for websites selling physical products.

Off the top of my head, I couldn’t think of a single one.  Yep, that’s right, I couldn’t bring to mind even one example from recent memory of a website selling physical products that made a lasting impression on me. 

Then I remembered I’d stumbled on some I loved in the last year or so, but dang it, I didn’t make a note of them at the time, so they disappeared from my memory like a fine vapor, just like that.

And that is unfortunate. 

But it highlights the big problem with many e-commerce and product sites: most are entirely forgettable.

What bugs me about the default kind of product website (examples coming up) is there’s no wooing of, and engaging with, the prospective buyer. Many of these sites feature tons of images with short and boring product descriptions (well, if they have to be boring, at least they’re short, right?), how to order info, and not much else. It’s all, “Well, here’s what we got; we couldn’t be bothered to make it look/feel/seem compelling or desirable in any way – so how many bracelets/hoodies/cheese logs do ya want?”

Plus, there’s not much to differentiate one site selling jewelry/clothing/food items/what-have-you from the next.  Most are soulless, corporate things that don’t move or excite the likely buyer, or call up any emotion at all, except for “Next!” as the potential customer hits the back button or navigates back to Google from whence they came.

Here’s what I’m talking about. One of these sites is trying to sell us some lovely men’s jeans, and the other, sterling silver jewelry:

Jeans {<– Click here}

Sterling Silver Jewelry  {<– Click here}

Notice the cold, impersonal feel.  Notice how everything is jammed together on the page, with nary a finely turned phrase anywhere to increase desire for or connection to the products, or paint a picture of how wonderful it would feel to own them.  This makes me sad.

What you want is personality.  Memorability.  Warmth and approachability. Copy that engages with the likely buyer on an emotional level, copy that forges a human connection. You want to give your web visitors an experience. We’ve talked about using personality to connect with ideal customers and stand out online before here and here.

Ok, you say, now I know what ineffective product site home pages look like, but what about product website homepages that get it (mostly) right, ones that exude warmth, personality and a sense of connection, sites that are memorable, engaging, and use copy well? Well, I toiled over my computer to find you a couple of examples, so let’s take a look at those, shall we?

Daniella Draper Jewellery 

Take a look at this site. {Click on company name above} It’s beautifully designed. It’s memorable. It’s evocative.  There’s a person looking directly at you as soon as you land on the page. There’s warmth and a sense of human connection. The likely buyer of this jewelry (or “jewellery,” as it’s spelled here) is going to be intrigued enough to want to scroll down and find out more.  It employs easy and intuitive web navigation.

Admittedly, there’s not much copy on the home page, but there are several markers of personality, warmth, and humanness, from the image of the young woman at the top of the page, to the picture of Daniella herself, to the Instagram feed featuring shots of Real! Live! People! wearing the jewelry and otherwise keeping it real, as the youngsters say.

Two of the brief bits of copy on the home page – “Beautifully British: Handcrafted Silver Jewellery,” and “Incredibly unique, designed and handmade by Daniella Draper” – begin to give you a glimmer of what you can expect from your experience here, and naturally compel you to explore more of the site if you’re the likely customer for this handmade jewelry.

Compare this site to the two I linked up above, where as many products as possible are crammed onto one page, making the products look janky and cheap, even if they’re not.

Hiut Denim Co. 

Again, notice the beautiful design and easy and intuitive web navigation. {Click on company name above}

The “Do One Thing Well” tagline instantly conveys passionate attention to detail, a love for going above and beyond to craft something amazing. And the images and home page copy all support the “do one thing well” ethos.  Very nice.

But here’s what I simply adore about the Hiut Denim site: its fantastic use of a Founder Story to set itself apart from all the other companies online selling premium denim.

Check out the “our story” copy on the home page to see what I mean. It’s actually more than just a founder story – it’s the story of how Hiut Denim helped Cardigan, a small town in Wales once home to the biggest jeans factory in Britain, get back on its feet again after the jeans manufacturing operation moved to Morocco.

How can you not love this? –> “So we decided 4 decades worth of know-how shouldn’t go to waste. That’s why the Hiut Denim Company was born: To get the town making jeans again.” Call me crazy, but that actually gives me chills.  

And talk about differentiation!  What a powerful and effective way to set themselves apart from other premium denim purveyors and forge an emotional connection with the likely buyer – because after all, you’re not just buying finely crafted and beautiful denim, you’re helping a town hold on to its livelihood.

The J. Peterman Company  

I always have to share the genius of J. Peterman when I’m talking about pitch-perfect product copy, because it’s the pinnacle of gorgeous and evocative product copywriting. {Click on company name above}

The beautifully written copy here reads like a story (just click on any of the individual product images), one you aspire to become a part of, or one you identify with, if you happen to be the likely buyer. (And that is who we’re talking to after all – we’re not trying to convince the unlikely buyer to buy our stuff, we’re trying to appeal to those with a predisposition or pre-existing hankering for the product.)

As humans, we’re hardwired to respond to stories, and the copy on the J. Peterman site taps into that longing brilliantly.

If your business sells products of any kind, your time would be well-spent studying the compelling product copy on the J. Peterman site.

Conclusion

What do these product company web pages have in common?  They are evocative. They convey warmth, soul, and personality.  They are approachable. They make an emotional connection.  There are actual human beings involved. They make you want to stick around and explore, even if you’re not planning to buy the goods right now.  They are memorable.

And importantly, the combination of web copy, photography, graphics, and the stories they choose to tell all work together to create an experience that will resonate with the likely buyer. This is what you want.  

In the comments below, I’d love for you to share your favorite product websites and tell me why they resonate with you.  (Even if it’s your own!) Go ahead, share your thoughts; I’d love to see what other product sites out there are making an impact!

[For more on writing copy that connects with your ideal clients, sign up for free weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other fun stuff for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]

What Can Chocolate Cake and Donuts Teach You About Selling More?

chocolate cake & persuasive copy

Image by Max Straeten

One of the most important pieces of advice I can ever share with you about writing compelling copy that persuades people to buy your creative products and services is to tap into the power of emotion in your copy.

Buying decisions are emotional decisions.  People buy based on emotion and justify purchases based on logic. Yes, you’ve probably heard that little bon mot dozens of times, but what does it mean in practice?

Think about chocolate cake.  Or Krispy Kreme donuts.  (Mmmm, donuts . . . as Homer Simpson would say.)

If people acted rationally they wouldn’t buy these things – sugar is bad for you, it’s not nutritious, and it makes you fat – it’s nothing but empty, unhealthy calories. 

But cake and donuts are both multi-million dollar industries because they make you feel good.

So when writing your web copy, you want to make an emotional connection with your ideal clients that makes them feel good, or excited, happy, inspired, relieved, encouraged, understood, relaxed, or any one of dozens of other emotions, depending on the product or service you offer.

Worth-repeating-until-eternity step number one is always, always, ALWAYS knowing who your ideal client is and what they need/desire – everything flows from this. 

You really want to get inside their heads and figure out the deeper emotional benefit they’re seeking as a result of buying your product or service.  What is the core desire you’re tapping into with what you sell?

If you make one-of-a-kind jewelry, it could be your customer’s desire to feel unique and special, and therefore validated as the quirky individual she is. If you sell knitwear for infants, it could be that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from your customer knowing how safe and warm her baby is in the wintry weather, all while looking too adorable for words.

So, how do you figure out the deeper emotional benefit you want to tap into with your copy?

One way to go beyond the surface benefits your product/service offers to get to the core emotional benefits your customers want is through the use of what’s called the “so what?” technique.  Ask “so what?” until you feel like you’ve gotten to the real benefit your thing provides.

Here’s an example from some work I did with a professional organizer to help her figure out the core emotional benefit of her email opt-in offer:

These tools will help you get more organized. (surface benefit)

So what?

Your home will be less cluttered and look nicer. (surface benefit)

So what?

You’ll feel less frazzled and actually be able to really relax and enjoy your family when you’re at home, because everything is tidy and in its right place. (deeper benefit)

So what?

You’ll enjoy high quality family time the way it was meant to be enjoyed, because there won’t be petty annoyances and frustrations from nagging the kids or the husband to keep things neat or put things away, etc. Time at home will be spent watching a movie, or playing a game, or cooking a meal together and other fun and satisfying family activities.  (even deeper benefit)

So what?

You’ve created this wonderful oasis that your family loves spending time in together and you’re all bonding and getting along so well – wow, you really care about your family, you’re an amazing wife and Mom.  (Bingo! Core emotional benefit.)  

The emotional benefit the professional organizer’s audience – busy Moms with young kids and an active family life – wants to achieve is a calm environment that benefits the whole family and creates stress-free family time. With this in mind, one idea I pitched for the name of her opt-in offer was a handy organizing guide called:

From Chaos to Calm: 9 Easy-to-Use, Inexpensive Tools to Get Your Home and Family Organized, Eliminate Overwhelm, and (Finally!) Create a Stress-Free Oasis Your Family Can’t Wait to Come Home To

So the bottom line is, you want to convey how your creative goods or services enhance your customers’ lives by demonstrating the emotional benefits of owning/experiencing them, like we did here with the professional organizer’s opt-in offer. 

And that’s what chocolate cake and donuts can teach you about selling more: tap into what makes your ideal audience feel good.

Your turn: what’s the name of your business and the core emotional benefit it provides?  Let me know in the comments section!

[Sign up for free weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other fun stuff for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]  

How to Tap Into Your Natural Sales Superpower: Two Quick Tips

No matter how you currently feel about sales as a topic (maybe that it’s icky, pushy, sleazy, manipulative – any of these ring a bell?) or your own sales ability in this moment, you already possess a natural ability to sell. And it doesn’t involve any of the afore-mentioned limiting beliefs about what sales is or does.

Yes, you – you have a natural ability to sell. In fact, you’re having “sales conversations” all the time, and you’ve been doing it all your life.

Think about it. When you were growing up, how often did you try to “sell” your parents on taking you to the mall, or letting you stay up late, or buying you something special, even when it wasn’t Christmas or your birthday?  

When you were in school, did you ever try to convince your friends skip school, or have a party when their parents were out of town, or to find out if that special boy or girl “liked” you?

As an adult, have you ever tried to talk your significant other into taking a trip, going out to dinner, or picking up his/her socks, fer cryin’ out loud? Or persuading your kids to clean their rooms or do their homework?

And when a friend asks you to recommend a hair salon, dog groomer, dry cleaners or a restaurant, how easy is it for you to wax poetic about your favorite service provider in any of these categories?

These are all sales conversations, of a sort. Of the authentic, unforced, perfectly natural and comfortable variety. You can think of them as “connection conversations,” if “sale conversations” rubs you the wrong way.

And really, that’s all “sales” is – connecting people – whether friends and family, or clients and customers – with something that will help them improve their lives in some way.

So remember this when you start to get tweaked about having to sell – and I know you’ve had that icky  “I-really-wish-I-didn’t-have-to-do-this” feeling about selling, because I’ve had it, and I hear it from other creatives. Often. (Of course, you could be different. You could love sales. If so, shine on, you crazy diamond.)

If you sometimes feel the “ick” factor about selling, keep in mind that sales is not about applying undue pressure; it’s not about forcing, but “tempting.” And you already have experience with that, you little minx. 

So fear not selling.

 

Here are two quick tips for when you’re writing content for your website, sales page, email newsletters, or however you communicate with your clients and customers to make an offer:

:: Imagine you’re having a conversation with a close friend. You’re hanging out together at the coffee shop or the bar, talking informally with just this one person about something that will enhance their life in some way – that’s how you want to write your sales messages. To one person, conversationally, connecting them to something that will help them solve a problem or achieve a goal.

:: Start your sales letter with, “I was thinking about you today.” This effective insider copywriting tip comes from master copywriter Drayton Bird. It’s a great way to get into the conversation without sounding like a douchey, over-the-top huckster.

So if you want to write a sales page or make an offer without feeling “salesy” or “markety,” try one of these techniques.

In the comments section, tell me about a time you used your natural sales ability to persuade someone to do something, and how it turned out. Or share your own tips for creating effective sales messages, I’d love to hear ’em! 

[For more on writing copy that connects with your ideal clients, sign up for free weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other goodies for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]

7 Ways to Improve Your Web Copy Today for Better Sales: Basics for Creative Entrepreneurs

7 Tips for Writing Web Copy

Let’s start with something that may be obvious to you.

Web content is different from other kinds of written content. And if you’re a small business owner, solopreneur, freelancer, or creative entrepreneur writing your own website copy, it’s important to know the difference. Especially if you’d like to get more clients, customers and sales.

You may read that and think “Duh,” but I’ve had half a dozen conversations in the last week with smart writers and/or marketers who were either curious about the difference between web content and other kinds of writing, or who didn’t understand there was one.

One newspaper columnist with 30 years of experience asked me how writing his weekly column was any different than writing for the web, and the PR Director of a very large organization who wants to hire a freelancer for a big web copy project bemoaned the fact that of all the experienced writers she’s interviewed recently, not one had web writing skills.

So yes, there is a difference between writing for the web and writing other kinds of content, and it’s important to understand what that difference is so you can get the most traction from your own web writing and marketing.

So for you small business owners, solopreneurs, freelancers, and creative entrepreneurs writing your own website copy, I’ve got 7 tips you can implement today to improve your web content to get better results in your business.

But first we need to understand how people look for information on the web.

HOW PEOPLE READ ON THE WEB

Web users are busy; they want to get the straight to the facts. When they land on your website, they’re scanning the page. (Research on how people read websites found that 79% of users scan web pages, just 16% read word-for-word.)

The thing to keep in mind is that people on the web are typically in a hurry; they’re searching for answers to questions and solutions to problems. They quickly skim for information that meets their specific needs.

And because web users don’t know who is behind the information on a web page, it’s also important to use indicators that prove you’re credible. Excellent writing is one of the things that confer trustworthiness online.

I know nothing kills credibility faster for me than poor writing. Let’s be honest: bad content clumsily organized reflects poorly on your brand.

 

7 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR WEBSITE CONTENT TODAY FOR BETTER SALES

 

1. Tell readers what they’re getting in the headline

For example, I could have called this blog post “The Difference Between Web and Print Content,” or some other such dull thing like that, but would you be reading it now if I did? I bet not.

7 Ways to Improve Your Web Copy Today for Better Sales instantly tells you what you’re getting and sells the benefit of reading the blog post.

If you want to see examples of killer headlines that really get the job done, just check out your favorite magazines. Magazines spend thousands of dollars and do exhaustive research to figure out which headlines grab readers, so modeling their tone and structure will get you off to a good headline-writing start. (Another great resource for learning how to write compelling headlines is Copyblogger, or Jon Morrow’s free downloadable report, “52 Headline Hacks,” available on his website at Boost Blog Traffic.)

*Bonus Tip: Go to Amazon.com or magazines.com and read through a bunch of headlines for ideas on how to structure good ones; this is a veritable goldmine of killer headlines, and you won’t even have to get off your couch to do it. Score!!

2. Make your small business website content about the reader

I know this may be a hard pill to swallow, but successful web content (meaning: it helps you get more customers and make more sales) is not about your business per se, it’s about the solutions you can provide for the potential client or customer who lands on your website. Company-centric web content will turn off readers.

Of course your web copy is going to be about your business, your mission, and your products or services, but first and foremost it needs to clearly convey that you understand your audience and the results they want to achieve, and that you can help them get there with your product or service.

So talk about your business as if it’s a lovely gift you’re presenting to your web visitors that says, “Open me now, I’m exactly what you’re looking for!”

Let’s look at two examples from the world of wedding photography:

(In the first example, I’ve changed the name of the business and a couple of identifying details so as not to be a tool and call anyone out.)

At ABC Photography, we specialize in family beach portraits, beach wedding photography, bridal, maternity, newborn and senior portraits. Our goal is to provide the highest quality photography available. With over a decade of professional photography experience, we have the skills, reliability and experience needed to capture your most precious memories. If you are interested in professional photography services, please contact us to discuss your project or receive a quote.

Ok, that’s boring copy (another no-no), but the main problem is that its central focus isn’t on the audience or potential customer, it’s on the company.

Now compare that to this:

Head Over Heels. Hi there, lovebirds. Congratulations! After the question has been popped, it’s time to eat, drink and be married. Let’s talk about The Wedding Day. Here comes the bride and here come the cliches: “This is one of the biggest days of your life.” “When the cake has been eaten, all you’ve got is the photos.” When it comes to photography, we try to avoid clichés at all costs, while honoring the truth behind them.

For us, this isn’t just another wedding; it’s your wedding. We look for the thoughtful touches and shared moments that tell your story. Our photos emphasize the emotions, details, and moments that make your wedding uniquely you–your grandfather’s cuff links nestled in your bouquet; your mom’s reaction when she sees you in her old wedding dress; your end-of-the-night-get-away in a classic vintage car.

(This copy comes from Millie Holloman Photography, a great example of a photography website that combines beautiful images with effective web copy that makes an emotional connection with potential clients, which is just want you want your web copy to do). 

The copy in example #2 connects with the reader – it speaks to what’s important to them as a potential photography client – “thoughtful touches and shared moments that tell your story” – and avoids the worn-out clichés of standard wedding photography web copy.

Contrast that to the company-centric copy from the first example, which focuses almost wholly on the company, i.e., “our goal,” “we have,” “we specialize,” etc. People don’t really care who you are, they want to know how you can help them. They’re seeking the answer to the question, “WIIFM?,” meaning, “What’s in it for me?”

3. Lead with benefits, not features

I’m sure you’ve heard the old saw, “People buy based on emotion and justify based on logic” more than once by now. That’s because it’s true.

The goal is to connect with your audience on an emotional level, and you do that by selling benefits, not features. Features have their place, but’s it’s important to lead with benefits.

A feature is something your product or service is or contains, a benefit is what the product or service does or provides – the desirable results.

One way to make sure you’re focusing your web copy on benefits is by painting a picture of your potential customer’s ideal outcome.

As in the photography example above: “the thoughtful touches and shared moments that tell your story,” and photos that capture “the emotions, details, and moments that make your wedding uniquely you,” as opposed to something like, “our photographers are the most skilled and experienced working in the wedding photography industry today and use only the most advanced technology and equipment to capture your special moments.”

Think about your laptop. Its features are things like “Wi-Fi enabled, widescreen optimized, lighting-fast processor,” etc. But if you were selling its benefits, it might look something like this: “Don’t get tied down to an office like the rest of the 9-5 worker bees, get your work done quickly and efficiently from anywhere on Earth with the insert name of laptop here. For ultimate time and work freedom,” or something similar. (Think of how Apple sells its products – in fact, go to the Apple website and spend some time reading through the product descriptions if you want to see how leading with benefits works for product copy.)

Now think about the benefits your products and services offer your target audience – how they make the customer’s life easier, better, more fun, less stressed, healthier, or wealthier, etc. If you edit your web content today using this one tip you’ll be miles ahead of other small business owners who go on and on about features rather than benefits. (Features are important too.  While they don’t sell the product or service, they do justify the sale.)

Remember, “Facts tell, benefits sell.”

4. Make it short and to the point

As best you can, you want to get to the point quickly. Web users are on a specific mission, and if they land on your site and see they’ll have to dig through long-winded, jargon-filled web copy to find the answer to their question, they’re going to hit the back button quicker than green grass through a goose.

Long-winded copy usually happens when the business owner doesn’t have a clear understanding of what their target audience really wants or needs to know, so the tendency is to mention everything related to the business in any way, or trot out lots of credentials, etc.

You can avoid this by getting really clear on what your target audience wants.

If you spend some time thinking about your ideal customer’s ideal outcome, you’ll be able to get right to the point and convey how your business can make their desired outcome a reality.

5. Make it scannable and easy to read

Remember, 79% of web readers are scanning, not reading word for word, so create your content with this in mind. Think of it as the “bread crumb” approach – you lead readers organically through your content with markers like headings, subheadings, bolded text and hyperlinks to highlight the really important bits.

Use short, 2-3 sentence paragraphs, and keep it to one idea per paragraph.

Try using an inverted pyramid structure where you start the content piece with the conclusion, the way I did with this post:

Web content is different from other kinds of written content. And if you’re a small business owner, solopreneur, freelancer, or creative entrepreneur writing your own website copy, it’s important to know the difference. Especially if you’d like to get more clients, customers and sales.

6. Make it conversational, not boring (no jargon or formal-speak)

Write the way your target audience thinks and speaks. You can do this by paying attention to your current clients and customers and noting the way they describe their challenges.

There’s no need to write web content as if it were an instruction manual, yet I see this all the time. Inject some personality into it. If you know what your target audience wants, and how they think and speak, this won’t be difficult.

This is obviously going to depend on your audience – an accountant is going to write web content differently than a yoga instructor. But the end result should be the same – your web content speaks directly to the desires, wants and needs of your ideal client or customer and makes them eager to do business with you.

7. Include a clear call to action

A call to action is an instruction in your copy – whether that copy is on your website, in your newsletter, on your blog, or in your ads and other sales material – that directs your audience to take a specific action.

After your readers finish reading a particular piece of content on your website, there’s something you want them to do next – usually some action that gets them closer to becoming a customer. Say, clicking on a link to read more about your products or services, calling to ask for more information, visiting your store, or completing a sale.

A strong call to action is essential for making this happen. To make it more powerful, you can convey a sense of urgency with phrases like, “now,” “today,” and “for a limited time,” etc.

Call to action examples:

“Come in today for 30% off”

“Buy now”

“Sign up for our newsletter today and join the ‘Insiders Club’ for special subscriber-only deals”

“Mention this blog post for 25% off when you buy a 12-pack of yoga classes, for the next 7 days only”

“Follow us on Twitter for special promotions and behind the scenes shenanigans”

Rules are meant to be broken under the right circumstances, and you won’t always be able to follow all the advice here when creating your web copy, but apply these 7 tips where appropriate today to start getting better results in your business.

And there you have it. 7 things you can do today to improve your web copy to get more clients, customers and sales.

[For more on writing copy that connects with your ideal clients, sign up for free weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other goodies for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]

 

 

The Dreadful Client-Repelling Mistake That Will Keep You Broke (and how to fix it)

Defining Your Ideal Client Avatar

[This is part two of a three-part series. Part one is here; part three is here.]

Last week in part one of this series, I talked about the three massive client-repelling mistakes I made when I was first starting out online with my copywriting business, and what I did to fix them.

To recap, those mistakes were:

#1: I didn’t know who my ideal client/target audience was and what they struggled with, #2: I wasn’t expressing how I was different from others who offered a similar product or service, and #3: I wasn’t making an emotional connection with my ideal clients. (And you have to do the first two to be able to pull off the third).

Today we’re diving a little deeper into the idea of the ideal client or customer, and why it’s so darned important to get this figured out if you want to have a successful business that attracts the “right” kind of clients and makes you money. (Your Defining Your Audience Checklist is at the end of this blog post.  BUT, keep reading for now, would ya?)

A caveat: This is an iterative process, so you’ll want to be tweaking and perfecting it as you go.  What this means is you do not have to have every single detail of your ideal client/customer avatar and every single one of their challenges figured out before you start implementing this into your business.  Just start somewhere and tweak as you go – that’s what I did.

What happens when you have a poorly defined target audience?

  • You spend countless hours working yourself to a frazzle creating blog posts, videos, email newsletters, social media status updates, and all other conceivable kinds of content to show off your expertise – yet your online marketing isn’t converting people into email subscribers, client inquiries or new clients.
  • The clients you do seem to get aren’t ideal – they’re price shoppers, pains-in-the-arse, or for some other reason just plain dreadful.  The kind of clients who make you want to plunge 10-inch knitting needles into your eyes.  Very painful.
  • Because of the time and effort you’re putting in, and the kind of clients you’re working with, you also may be weary, worn out, drained, despondent, and just about ready to give up on this here online marketing thing.

The bottom line is, if you haven’t defined your ideal client/perfect customer/target audience, then you’re trying to talk to “everybody” with your content – which means it’s most likely bland and boring and homogenous.  And that means that as lovingly crafted and well-written as it may be, it won’t convert enough readers into clients and potential clients.

As Sonia Simone of Copyblogger says,  

“ . . . flat, flavorless content absolutely doesn’t work in content marketing.  It won’t get read, it won’t get shared, it won’t get links. Nobody will respond to your calls to action and it will not have any SEO value because it’s not getting any signals of quality.”

You’ll be like a hamster on a wheel, forever doomed to create more and more and more content, yet never reach your business goals (said the former hamster-on-a-wheel who kept on creating more and more content, yet didn’t reach her business goals).

The good news is, you can get this figured out and turn the ship around, and when you do, it will change your business forever. You’ll no longer feel like you’re pushing a boulder uphill with a feather (to mix a whole bunch of unrelated metaphors).  Everything will become easier.

What happens when you define your target audience?

Once you’ve figured out your ideal client/perfect customer you can expect all kinds of good things:

  • Because you know exactly who you’re talking to and what they struggle with, every piece of content you create will be much easier to produce.  You won’t struggle over what topics to cover in your blog posts, email newsletters, and social media status updates.  You’ll know exactly which blogs to pitch for guest posting opportunities.
  • You’ll know what kind of free opt-in offer to create to get subscribers onto your email list, and what kind of paid offerings to create.
  • As a result of your targeted content, you’ll attract the “right” kind of clients, those who are perfect for what you have to offer and who are a dream to work with.  The stress and overwhelm will lessen, and that feeling of working yourself to a frazzle for next to zero results? Gone.
  • Your business will be F-U-N.  Which means you’ll be more motivated, feel happier, and make more money.  (Because let’s be honest, when you’re working yourself to a bloody nub and not getting results, everything is a drag, you stop doing your best work, and as a result, you don’t bring in the folding money like you want to.)
  • You’ll convert more sales because your targeted content demonstrates that you have a deep understanding of your ideal clients and what they struggle with, and that you offer an ideal solution specifically geared to them.

In short, you will have marketing clarity.  And as we said in part one of this series . . .

Marketing clarity is like gold, because once you have it, you’ll be able to captivate your ideal clients, get them interested enough to stick around and read your content/view your portfolio/sign up for your newsletter, and eventually, reach out to buy your thing or find out more about working with you.

So how do you determine who your ideal client is and figure out the challenges and problems you can help them solve?

This is a process that takes time, one you’ll be tweaking on an ongoing basis.  That said, if you’re just starting out, you probably have at least some idea of who it is you want to serve, and if you’ve been at your business for a while, you already know the kind of clients you love serving and those you don’t.

So let’s say you have some basic facts, such as:  “I’m a wedding photographer who serves brides in Wilmington, NC, most of whom are between 25-32 years old and getting married for the first time.”

That’s a start, but we need to go way deeper than this. If you want your web and other marketing to grab people by the lapels and make them so excited they’ve found you that they can’t wait to find out more about your services and what they have to do to hire you, then you need to demonstrate that you understand them intimately, that you know their struggles and challenges, and that you offer the ideal solution, for them.  This kind of core understanding of your clients builds trust, and trust results in more sales.

So you start with the basic information you have and begin digging really deep to figure out everything else you can about them – their deepest desires and fears, what keeps them up at night, their core beliefs, what frightens and excites them, what encourages and inspires them, and so on, as it relates to the product or service you provide.  It’s about human behavior and psychology – you’ve got to understand your customers on this core level to really deliver the kind of marketing juice that converts.

Once you have this information, you’ll be able to create web content, blog posts, email newsletters, free opt-in offers, and PAID OFFERINGS (sorry about the shouting) that speak directly to your ideal clients’ most pressing concerns and deepest desires, and connect with them in a real and compelling way.

The kind of marketing that’s a natural by-product of this work makes your ideal clients feel deeply understood.  This is very powerful – for you and for them.  Everybody wins.

But where do I find this information, you wonder?

The very best way to get to the core of what your ideal clients struggle with – not what you think they struggle with, but what they actually struggle with, in their own words – is to simply ask them.  Really.  It can be that simple.  But don’t just ask one or two people, ask several; heck, ask as many as you possibly can, because this will only help you create authentic, compelling marketing that nets you ideal clients instead of duds.

If you don’t yet have clients in the target audience you want to serve, then find friends, family members and acquaintances who are representative of your ideal clients, and talk to them about their frustrations and fears related to the product or service you offer.

This is what I did.  I knew I wanted to serve creative entrepreneurs – solopreneurs and small businesses who sell a creative product or service – but my copywriting clients were in the healthcare and real estate niches.  So I talked to friends with small creative businesses; I also asked business owners in my target audience who I know from a networking group I belong to if I could buy them coffee and ask them a few questions.  

(There are many books and courses out there that can help you with this process; one book I highly recommend is Book Yourself Solid, by Michael Port. You can download 3 free chapters of the book here. Especially useful is his “Red Velvet Rope Policy,” where you figure out the kind of clients who will – and more importantly, won’t— get past your red velvet rope.  Extremely helpful.)

OK, I get it, ask people.  But what else?

Here’s what I did – I pored over comments on my own blog, comments on other blogs that serve a similar audience, forums that serve my target audience, Amazon research, keyword research, and lots of social media “listening” – on Facebook pages who serve a similar audience and through Twitter searches.   What I always look for is how people describe their pain or challenges around copywriting, branding and web marketing.  

What you’re looking for is the exact language your ideal clients or customers use to describe their challenges and frustrations, which you then mirror back to them in your content. For example, when I was doing research on photographers, one phrase I heard some variation of over and over again was, “my sad, lifeless portfolio site” – meaning these photographers may have a gorgeous website, but it’s not converting web visitors into client inquiries or paying clients – that’s the pain or frustration. So I use that exact phrase in my web copy when I’m describing the kind of challenges photographers have that I can help them with. You want to go really deep here and put yourself in your customers’ shoes and see their frustrations through their eyes.

I then dumped all the data from the research, social media listening, and real life conversations into a massive document which I update every time I glean some new and useful piece of information about my ideal clients and their pain points. 

Ok, I know my ideal client or customer and what their challenges are, now what?

Once you’ve done the work to figure exactly who your ideal clients are and precisely what their pains and frustrations, fears and desires, and hopes and dreams are, you want to apply the insights you gained into your web content, offerings, sales pages, and product descriptions, etc., weaving it through all the content creation and marketing you do. 

So you’re going to use the information you’ve gathered to create free content and paid offerings that solve your ideal clients’ problems, right?  At this point, you’ll know all kinds of things about what they struggle with, so you could begin creating blog posts to address each one of those challenges one by one, using all the pain points you found, questions you saw on other blogs, in comments, through your social media listening, and in real life conversations.

I’ll tell you, once I had a clear idea of what my ideal clients struggle with, I banged out an editorial calendar for blog post and weekly newsletter content for over 6 months, and it was easy. We’re talking 52 ideas for blog posts and weekly newsletters, in one sitting.  Say it with me – sweet relief! No more struggling each week to come up with ideas for what kind of content to create.  

And of course you’ll also implement your newfound customer insights into your free opt-in offer, your key web pages, and your paid offerings.  My best suggestion would be to begin with the About page and Home page of your website, then build out from there into all your other content and marketing messages.

You can see an example of how I’ve implemented my ideal client research into my web content by taking a look at my About page, Home page, Free Resources page and Work with Me page

What’s next?

Your Defining Your Audience checklist, that’s what.

In the checklist, I’ve sketched out my ideal client avatar so you can see the level of detail you want to shoot for with these exercises. 

So here’s what I suggest you do:  Download the checklist, read through the audience research tactics and audience insight questions. Then read the sketch of my ideal client avatar.  After you’ve done that, go back and knockout your own audience research using the checklist.   

Once you get your audience research done, begin implementing a few of your new found ideal customer insights into a blog post, headline, web page, or some other piece of your online presence, pronto.  I started with the headline on my Home page.  Just start somewhere, even if it’s small, then add more of your customer insights throughout your other content as you go.   

Now go and download your checklist!

It’s here –>> Defining Your Audience Checklist.

 

For Creatives: The Secret to Transforming Your Boring, Lackluster About Page into an Ideal Client-Attracting Magnet

(Wherein we talk about the critical importance of a well-crafted About page that generates leads, and I show you a before-and-after of how it’s done.)

Write a Client-Attracting About Page

Did you know your About page is one of the most-visited pages on your website, and often the page that determines whether the potential ideal client who just landed there will choose you, or one of the 7,698 other creatives online who do what you do?

Yet I see so many creative professionals online who either don’t have an About page at all, or who simply throw up a standard, boring bio and call it done.

This is a huge wasted opportunity, because a knock-out About page is one of the most effective ways to set yourself apart online.  It’s essential for strengthening your brand identity, and the ideal place to create a connection with prospective clients.  And best of all? A well-crafted About page can generate leads.

Which means you don’t want to ignore this page or half-ass it. Yes, it can be difficult to write.  You don’t want to sound arrogant or full of yourself, I get it.

But here’s a little secret copywriters know for writing a killer About page that instantly connects with ideal clients, with the added bonus of being easier to write without sounding like a braggart:

Your About page isn’t about you so much as it is about your ideal client or customer and their challenges and desires, and the solution you offer that can help them achieve their goals.  You want your About page to answer the question “what’s in it for me?” for your ideal clients.

Lead with how you can help your ideal clients. Demonstrate you understand your audience and their fears, desires and goals first, then talk about your experience, training and other relevant background information. Because when a potential client lands on your site, they don’t care about you yet, unless and until you demonstrate you get them – and have the solution they seek.

{There’s a much more thorough discussion of how to write an effective About page, including a step-by-step template, in my free CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE here.}

To illustrate how this is done, I’ll show you how I transformed a dull, ineffective interior design About page into a compelling, client-attracting thing of beauty.

EXAMPLE OF A “BAD” INTERIOR DESIGNER ABOUT PAGE*

For this example of a “bad” About page, I found six About pages (among dozens) of interior designers who lead with writing about themselves on their About page instead of focusing on the kind of clients they want to attract.

*Every word of copy in the following example is a real, true sentence I found on an interior design website About page. (In other words, “I am not making this up,” as writer Dave Barry would say.)

 

:: EXAMPLE: THE ABOUT PAGE, BEFORE ::

Jane Smith Design is a full-service interior design firm with over 10 years’ experience in the design and construction industry.  Jane specializes in interiors, space planning, and construction management, working integrally with every member of the design and construction team. Her diverse and imaginative portfolio speaks volumes and demonstrates her diverse range of creativity.

Jane graduated from Parsons with a degree in interior design and a minor in studio art. She is an active member of ASID Carolinas Chapter and the local design community. She attends many conventions and workshops locally and internationally to stay on the cutting edge of design.

Jane began her professional career at a local architecture firm where she focused on residential and commercial interiors. In 2008, she opened Jane Smith Design, a full-service interior design firm.  Jane’s fundamental belief is that the design of interior spaces should be elevated beyond what people typically expect so that their day-to-day experiences in their everyday surroundings can be enhanced. With her varied residential and commercial experience, she is able to address the functional needs of any space while still creating the desired aesthetic.

Jane makes each project unique for each client and has a fine-tuned ability to work with a variety of interior design styles and settings.  Her signature design style combines practicality with sophistication.  Jane Smith Design can offer you everything from a few hours of design consultation to a full home or office remodel.

:: END OF EXAMPLE ::

So, what’s so wrong with that About page?

For starters, it’s written in the third person, which puts a barrier between you and your potential clients. If you want to make an instant connection with your audience, you’re going to need to be real, be human, and be your quirky self – and it’s difficult to make that happen if your About page is written in the third person.

What else, you ask? It’s boring, overly formal and full of jargon; it’s lacking in personality or emotional connection; and it’s terribly “me-focused” – there’s not one iota of anything in that copy that shows Jane understands her ideal clients, is there?

The page’s worst offense is the way the copy doesn’t connect with the reader by talking about what’s important to them as a potential design client – it doesn’t answer the “WIIFM” question – “What’s in it for me?”

Instead it leads with Jane’s background, experience and design credentials, which we don’t care about yet as a potential design client until we know that Jane gets us and the design challenges we want solved.

Now let’s take a look at the rewritten version.

:: A Better Interior Design About Page ::

(*IMPORTANT NOTE:  If “Jane” were a real client of mine, she’d answer an in-depth questionnaire about her ideal clients, the way she works, her design philosophy and aesthetic, and other pertinent details.  Since I don’t have that here, I used quotes and information from interviews I found online with a hip young designer whose interior design work I happen to love, “pretending” she’s Jane the client and using some of her story, quotes and background info to write the “better/after” version of this About page. 

This “after” About page is crafted solely on the basis of the information I was able to find out from reading interviews with the designer, it is NOT the current About page on her website.  This designer’s business is in the South; she works with “families with young kids or messy grown-ups looking for a sophisticated interior that is human-proof – peanut butter, dog hair and red wine, no problem!”)

:: EXAMPLE: The About Page, After ::

Accessible Luxury for the Modern Young Family on the Go

[This headline speaks to Jane’s ideal customer – a busy family with a hectic schedule who want a beautifully designed interior that’s “human-proof,” i.e., “accessible luxury.”]

Dog hair, sticky kid handprints & red wine spills.

Modern, sophisticated design.

The truth? You can have both.

You’re a busy professional with a demanding career, soccer practices, dance recitals and playdates to ferry the kids around to, dinner dates with your significant other (when you can find the time), and possibly a menagerie of pets at home to boot.

Crazy-busy? Yes.  Ready to give up and give in to the idea that a young family with kids, careers and a rambunctious pet or two isn’t meant to come home to an oasis of comfortable elegance at the end of (yet another) jam-packed day?

Definitely not.

[The section above focuses on Jane’s ideal clients and their needs and desires; it demonstrates that she has a genuine understanding of what her ideal client’s life is like. This establishes emotional connection and trust.]

Hey, I know kids, pets, and red wine are facts of life (they’re definitely the facts of my life), but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an inspiring, sophisticated home environment – one that stands up (gracefully) to your energetic young family’s wear-and-tear.

[What I did here, using the parenthetical – “they’re definitely the facts of my life” – won’t always be applicable, but here it lets Jane’s potential clients know that she’s just like them – a wife and mother with a demanding career and a busy life who still believes she deserves a beautiful home.  This also goes to establishing trust, and if they don’t trust you, they ain’t buying from you.]

That’s where I come in.

I’m Jane Smith, and I create interiors that are luxurious, yet livable, for the modern young family on the go.

[Here Jane talks about herself (after she’s focused on her ideal clients and their wants and needs), and begins to tell us about the solution she offers, one that is specifically geared to her ideal clients – busy young families on the go.]

I’m a Parsons-trained interior designer and an active member of ASID Carolinas who honed my skills at the elbow of master French designer Robert Couturier.  I’ve been called a “decorating superstar” and a “Southern visionary with an impressive sense of style,” but at the end of the day?  My most important goal is create a space that works for the family living in it, so they get to experience that “I can’t believe I get to live here!” feeling every time they walk through the door.

From French Modern to Classic Contemporary to Southern Traditional with a twist, I create interiors that balance natural elegance and glamor with practicality.  My designs combine casual, organically modern style – think sophisticated finishes, elegant nature-inspired elements, and gorgeous lighting – with durability that stands up to your life:  sticky fingerprints, dog hair, wine spills and all.

[More details about Jane’s business and her design philosophy.  If she wanted to include her backstory – as it relates to her business and the solution she provides – she could do it here, or link off to another page on her site.]

What Others Are Saying

“With 2 small children under the age of 7, two dogs, and a crazy schedule, I’d almost given up on the idea that my home could be beautiful, comfortable AND practical at the same time, but Jane made it happen.  She created a true sanctuary for our family that we’re thrilled to come home to every day.” Abby M.

“She’s a creative genius, I could not be happier with the beautiful, warm, calm space she created for me and my husband.  Bonus: she’s a dream to work with – friendly, down-to-earth, and easy to talk to and collaborate with.”  Elizabeth G.

“We still can’t believe we get to live here, in our own personal magazine spread.  Our teenagers actually want to hang out at home now.”   Tom and Cindy H.

[Social Proof section:  Be strategic about the testimonials you choose – again, they should speak to the ideal clients’ wants and frustrationsYou don’t have to call this section “What Others Are Saying” – call it whatever makes sense to your personality and writing style.]

Enter your email below to grab my free guide, “From Chaos to Calm: 7 Simple Steps for Transforming Your Home into an Oasis of Practical Luxury.” (Plus weekly design tips and inspiration I only share with my email subscribers.)

[The *incredibly important* call to action.  It could be a prompt to sign up for your email list, or call for a free 15-minute consultation, or whatever specific thing you want them to do next.  It should be the next logical step in the process that deepens the relationship with you.  In most cases, that will be to sign up for your email list. This is where lead generation comes in.]

:: END OF EXAMPLE ::

 

Notice how the rewritten version of the About page leads with the potential client’s challenges and desires, then later talks about Jane and her qualifications. This serves to create trust by proving that Jane understands her ideal clients and the specific solution they seek – in this case, “accessible luxury for the busy young family on the go.” This is what you want to do too if you want to attract your ideal clients.

At a bare minimum, you want to include the following on your About page:

  • A client-focused headline
  • A client-focused first paragraph
  • Then a paragraph about you and the solution you provide geared specifically to your ideal client’s challenges and desires
  • A call to action, such as signing up for your email list or calling for a free consultation, etc., so you can collect leads

Remember, a knock-out About page is one of the most effective ways to set yourself apart online, essential for strengthening your brand identity, and the ideal place to create a connection with prospective clients.  And if you’ve done all that effectively, adding a call to action to your well-crafted About page will generate leads. And who doesn’t want that?  Nobody, that’s who.

[For more on writing copy that connects with your ideal clients, sign up for free weekly updates here and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other goodies for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]

How to Write Your Twitter Bio To Get More Followers

Twitter Bio

When you’re on Twitter looking for new people to follow, how do you decide who makes the cut?

Your first step is to check out the person’s bio, right?  Yep, that’s what everyone else does too.

And since the short bio connected to your profile is easily visible and the #1 thing people use to determine whether to follow you or click on the links you tweet out, it makes sense to create the best bio you can.

So, what makes a good Twitter bio? 

The best Twitter bios are interesting, engaging and offer insight into your business and/or your personality, while conveying some benefit to following you.  And since Twitter is less formal than other social media platforms, it’s a good idea to lighten up a little and show some personality here. 

You get 160 characters to summarize your business and what you have to offer, so you’ve got to be strategic about what to include. 

In a nutshell, try to do following:  tell people who you are and why they should follow you, state the benefit of following you while using your best keywords, and include your website or blog URL. 

Keywords in your bio are important because that’s what gets your profile found – Twitter search engines look at these keywords when they recommend profiles for others to follow.  (You can use hashtags for the same purpose.  A hashtag is the symbol # placed before a relevant keyword or phrase in a Tweet, with no spaces, to categorize Tweets and help them show more easily in Twitter Search.)

And here’s a little tip not everyone knows – you can actually have two clickable links in your Twitter bio field.

There are a couple of ways to use this to your benefit:  you can place your website URL in both the Web and Bio fields of your profile so that it’s easily visible and accessible to your followers, or, you can use the second live link to promote something else you want to direct attention to.  For example, you could include the link to your Facebook business page or other social media profile, an email opt-in page, or an opt-in for an upcoming webinar, etc.

Let’s look at a few Twitter bio examples, both the good and the not-so-good, and talk about what makes them that way.  (These are all real examples I pulled from Twitter.) 

 

First we have what I call “The Laundry List”:

Personal Development, Body and Mind Fitness, Life Coaching, NLP, Smart Teaching and Learning, Travel, Yoga and Meditation

This is merely a string of semi-related words that don’t add up to enough strategic information about this person or their business to make folks want to follow.  How do we know which of these phrases relate to this person’s business and which to her personal life?  And what about a website link for more information?  This bio doesn’t pique my interest enough to make me want to click over to her profile for more info.

Next we have the hopelessly vague:

We love to Inspire, Motivate & help others around us to reach Success. Follow & Interact with us now & Please Like Us On Facebook.

This is another kind of Twitter bio that’s all too common.  It’s vague, and the benefit to following is not clearly defined.  More specific info on how they “help others achieve success” and/or what kind of success they mean would improve this bio.  Is it weight loss success?  Small business success?  Financial success?  If I’m going to follow this person, I want to know.

And then we have everybody’s favorite, the “Hashtag Stuffer”:

#Blogger, #entrepreneur, digital marketing #consultant and recording #artist. I make #money online and #teach others how to do the same.

The Hashtag Stuffer places as many keywords in the bio field as possible in hopes of being found through Twitter Search or similar. You want to avoid this, not only because it’s annoying to other Twitter users and considered bad form, but more importantly, Google views the overuse of hashtags much like spam, which means those tweets will be excluded from real time search results.

And then there’s The Deadly Dull, another very common approach to Twitter bios:

As a prominent author, speaker and coach, ______’s expertise is utilized to gain insight and to create change in leadership and communication.

The Deadly Dull bio gives us enough information about who someone is and what they do, but it’s not very compelling.  And the phrase “expertise is utilized to gain insight and to create change” is unwieldy and overly formal. This is Twitter, not a resume.  So please, ok?

And now for a few examples of interesting, engaging and benefit-driven Twitter bios: 

 

I use my punk-rock personality to create super fun tools that help business owners and entrepreneurs assault and trample their technical fears.

This bio works because it’s witty and shows personality, while at the same time clearly outlining the benefit of following her profile.  You get a sense of who she is – “punk-rock personality” – who she helps – “business owners and entrepreneurs” – and how she helps them – “assault and trample technical fears.”

Facebook Marketing expert Amy Porterfield’s Twitter bio is effective because it quickly tells us who she is and what she does, and provides two relevant links:

I’m a social media strategist who specializes in Facebook (http://AmyPorterfield.com/Webinar). Co-author of Facebook Marketing All-In-One for Dummies.

Here’s the bio for Sean Malarkey, an online business professional and Social Media Author and Speaker.

What’s interesting here is that Sean’s LinkedIn bio is much more formal and business-like telling us more about his business, while on Twitter he follows the protocol of less formal and more personal:

Blogger, Chocolate lover, Living a dream by living PT in Argentina, Retired Real Estate Investor. Husband, Dad, Good friend to many.

And last, we have the bio of a photographer who manages to get across in a very succinct and poetic way the benefits of using her service:

@AnnieVaiPhoto  Live the Moment. Inspire the Love. Capture the Memory.  Wilmington, NC http://www.annievaiphotography.com

And there you have it.

Use these guidelines and examples as a starting point to create your own Twitter bio – a compelling, strategic, benefit-driven masterpiece, all in 160 characters or less.

[Hey there, gorgeous. Want more actionable tips, techniques, and how-to’s for marketing your business online, delivered straight to your email inbox each Tuesday? You betcha! Go ahead and enter your name and email address at the top right hand side of the blog now to get my FREE weekly newsletter packed full of marketing goodnessand let’s get you glowing online.]