I can’t count the times a prospect has told me – “We’re planning to redo our website, and we want somebody who can actually write to do the content for us.” Then, a few minutes later, the person will add, rather awkwardly – “Of course, it’s never made us any money, but we think it’s important to keep it up there anyway.”
Ah, the website that simply sits there – the “brochure site” that’s listed on company business cards but rarely shows up on Google or makes a sale – it can be the biggest money-waster on a business budget!
Brochure sites are actually a relic of the days when business first noticed the Internet…the days when printed marketing collateral was still the Number One way for businesses to inform the public about their products and services. In those days, marketers didn’t realize there was any difference between printed and online media.
In fact, there are two major differences: time and competition.
A brochure is designed to be absorbed in “slow time” – it may sit on your desk for a few days, be picked up again, thrown in a drawer and emerge a month later. With plenty of time to work its spell, it can afford to be unusual, or perhaps self-consciously creative. It is interacting with you alone – unless you intentionally seek out similar companies, you are not distracted by competitors.
Visitors coming to your website, on the other hand, are usually searching for something specific, and know that a screen full of competitors is just a few keystrokes away. If your content does not capture needs to capture their interest within seconds, they will move on. And you will never know they were even there.
Clearly this online audience demands a whole new level of writing – focused, direct, with no frills or fluff. No flowery welcomes, no Home page rhapsodies about your company – there simply isn’t time!
So how do you create a site that actually brings an income? It’s a complex process, but this is the core:
First of all, before you even begin to design the site content, you need to define its purpose, exactly, and know your audience, intimately: Who do you want to come to your site, and why? What do you want them to find? Are you selling your services to new prospects? Offering details about your newest, hottest product? Providing maintenance to existing customers?
Second, once you have identified your audience and purpose, you need to layer your content, moving from fewest words to most words, least detail to greatest detail, big-picture benefits to in-depth specifications, all directly focused on your prospects’ needs.
With only a few seconds to convey this information, your headlines need to be short, simple, strong, and laser-targeted. For example, instead of “Welcome to the FairGreenMarket Website,” you’d want: “The Fair Green Market – Helping the Planet, the People, and Your Budget.”
Once you’ve captured your visitors with a strong headline, your home page body content has only one further purpose: to entice them to a detailed product or service page.
Again, it’s targeted benefits, not specs, that will get them there. For example, if you’re viewing the home page of a website offering baby products, for example, would you rather click on this option:
“The BabySafeXJ5 Monitor features a DCS-5300 Internet Camera Pan/Tilt 10/100TX with Built-In 20 – 20000 Hz/100 ohm Microphone and comes in Cotton Candy and Blueberry Crème”
Or this one?
“The ultra-sensitive BabySafeXJ5 Monitor lets you watch and listen to your baby when you’re not in the room”?
Once you’ve captured your visitors with practical benefits, you have plenty of time to give them all the details on a product or service page. They’ve already taken the initial steps toward buying based on your obvious knowledge of their needs and desires. From there, it’s a few clicks to the shopping cart and a sale!