Website first-aid

You’ve got so much to say and of course, your website is the place to say it. You know who your audiences are and you have worked hard to ensure you speak to their needs. To top it off, you’ve got great tone of voice and you can really hear yourself in the pages.

So why aren’t more people taking action on your site?

Copywriting for the web is a special kind of beast and it can simply take time and testing to figure out how best to connect with your people.

But there are also some simple elements you can use (or tweak) right now to hook your reader and make your website instantly more sticky.

Headlines

It can be tempting to skip over headline and jump right to the body copy, especially when writing is not your strong suit. But headlines are simply too important not to include on your site.

So what are headlines actually for? In the simplest of terms, headlines exist to give your reader a hyper-brief snapshot of what they are about to read. Just as your intro is designed to get your reader to read your second paragraph, your headline should simply get your reader to read your intro.

Online, headlines are also used by search engines to assess how your page matches with a search.

So your headline should serve two basic functions, to hook your reader enough to get them to keep reading and to make your page highly findable by those who are looking for you.

Calls to action

What is the ultimate action you want your audience to take? Your entire website needs to reflect this one thing. Your website should be organized to gently guide your audience to their destination. Don’t require them to go on a treasure hunt, clicking and searching until they find what they need. Including a call to action on each page of your site will help your audience navigate your content quickly and easily.

Calls to Action are far more than simply that ‘Book Now’ button at the bottom of your page. Before you even put pen to paper, think long and hard about what you want your audience to do on each page of your site.

And above all else, make your calls to action crystal clear. This is not the place to use jargon or words that don’t specifically tell the reader what they’re about to click on.

Sub Heads

Remember, every sentence you write has just one goal. To get your reader to read the next sentence. Online readers will rarely scroll through swathes of copy unless it’s a white paper or an e-book. In other words, unless you have created a highly informative, instructional piece of content your reader has actively sought out, you’ll want to keep your copy short and to the point. And when you must use long form copy, break it up with sub heads. Sub heads are what will hold your piece together and dramatically enhance readability.

Think of subheads as milestones within your copy. They tell a story all of their own so even if your reader fails to read the text in between, they can grasp what you are trying to say.

Impossible

After a recent visit to the local aquarium, a friend of mine wrote the aquarium a letter complaining about the number of plastic souvenirs available in the gift shop.

In a lengthy response, the aquarium’s retail store manager listed all of the initiatives they are undertaking to reduce plastic use and educate visitors about plastic and its disposal. Towards the end of her email she stated that minimizing plastic usage is a ‘big undertaking’ while getting rid of plastic completely was ‘not possible’.

‘Impossible’ seems incredibly pessimistic for a conservation organization. Especially one whose primary concern is the ocean - an environment severely impacted by plastics.

Wouldn’t it be more interesting to take a radical stance? To be visionary? To say we have enough plastic. We refuse to add to the problem.

Priming

The thing you have invented - it has to be better than the alternatives, it has to be different, it has to work so well that it turns one customer into two, then four, eight and so on.

But it also has to be packaged in a way that people recognize. That helps them overcome the fear of switching, the cost of making the wrong choice.

Because believing you are better isn’t enough. You also need to communicate why you are better in a way your customers are primed to hear.

What are you waiting for?

Buy now. Click to sign up. Don’t miss out.

When writing sales copy, the call to action (CTA) can seem like the most enticing part. You’ve got a great product and you know it. So why not just tell people to buy it already?

Often, in my client’s writing, I see well written calls to action but they worry that they come off as sleazy, sales-y or cheap. Why?

Because they haven’t done the work to convince the reader that using their product will deliver a real benefit, relieve real pain or solve a real problem. For your writing to sell, you must learn to see your service from the benefits end. This takes practice and i't’s not always straightforward. Benefits can be tangible but not always - features can be things but they can also be feelings.

Yet it’s worth the work. It means that by the time you get to your CTA, your work is virtually done. The CTA becomes the cherry on top not the main event. It means you don’t need to push or sell. Your benefits speak for themselves.

So what?

A wise person once told me she often doesn’t know how she feels about a subject until she writes about it. It takes patience to sit with something long enough, to write about it in enough depth that you see it through to its logical conclusion.

You’ve spent countless hours developing a product or service that works for your clients. You are steeped in knowledge about your chosen field. You have set your price strategically and you have added features to make it easier for your clients to work with you. And so why is it so hard to encapsulate the true benefit of working with you? What’s the key thing your audience takes away from your process that they won’t get anywhere else?

When we’re asked how our audience really benefits from all of those features, often we come up short.

Translating features into benefits is so often overlooked. That’s why getting into the habit of seeing your product or service from the benefits end can really set you apart from your competitors.

Start by listing out your features, then for each one, write its benefit. Usually, this first benefit is just the starting point. When you think you have landed on a benefit, ask yourself so what? Then write your answer. Ask yourself ‘so what?’ again and again, until you run out of answers.

Only then will you know that you’ve landed on a real benefit.

Failure to launch

If you’ve run an online marketing campaign before you probably know the feeling. That fullness with anticipation at the thought of legions of new fans halfway across the world. Untapped audiences who never knew they needed your wisdom and skills until you popped up in their newsfeeds.

A few days later, you’re hit with a different kind of feeling. Overwhelm, as you realize just how many moving parts need wrangling. How every tiny element - headlines, calls to action, images, video, email subject lines, emojis, hashtags - in your sequence is a variable and every variable requires testing to get right.

Say for example you want to run a webinar to launch a new workshop you have created. Over the years, you’ve built up an email list of about 1000 contacts and have about 400 Facebook fans.

Historically, you have shared content with your audience in fits and starts. You may have even tried a Facebook ad campaign once before and seen lacklustre results. But for your webinar campaign, you are pulling out all the stops. You have a Facebook ad running, a beautiful landing page, an email sequence encouraging registrants to show up live and are sharing content about your webinar on all channels.

Yet, on the big day, only five people show up live to watch your webinar - a far cry from the 250 you were aiming for. You hope more people will catch the replay yet only a handful even open your follow-up email. You make no sales on your workshop and wonder how it all went so wrong.

At this point, you’re probably wondering why even bother with marketing campaigns at all? After all, you get most of your clients through word of mouth.

The thing is, while you’re focusing on what a failure your first campaign was, you’re missing a ton of learning, a ton of new information about who your audience is. You also just created more content via your webinar you can share with a more engaged audience.

This is not the time to quit. It’s the time to commit to working on every little piece of that campaign until you get the results you want. And getting it right doesn’t mean following all of the advice out there about how to write great headlines, how to use video in your ads, how to get more people to click your links.

It means getting it right for your particular audience, communicating with them about their particular needs where they have a tendency to be. Every headline, every caption, every image, every call to action until it’s spot on.

Where are the ravers?

How many customers do you need?

Getting the word out to 10,000 people or even 1000 people is hard. But getting the word out to 10 people? 10 people who already like and trust you? That’s easy.

In his new book, Seth Godin talks about finding your minimum viable audience - the smallest group of people you can build your business on serving because “we can’t buy our way to mass anymore”.

And if your 10 people don’t rave about your work and bring in another 10 people, ask them why. Ask for advice. Then make better work.

What do your clients really need?

What do your clients really need?

As a small business owner, I bet you spend countless hours thinking about the service you provide - what to name it, how to improve it, how to price it, how to promote it. All good and noble questions. 

Now consider how much time you spend thinking about your clients' problems. Like, really thinking about them. 

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