Strategic Writing for Business Websites

tomtortoriciEvery company wants a great looking website, right? Good web design conveys credibility, professionalism and brand personality.

Those qualities can help a business make the short list of a buyer who has begun searching around to solve some need.

But when that buyer starts carefully comparing providers, and getting ready to make a decision, a site’s visual ‘look’ is less likely to be a top factor.

Then what is it that drives web visitors to stick around, click around, engage in some way, and eventually buy?

The answer seems to be, the written word.

Website writing deserves as much attention as website design.

Realizing the importance of writing, however, brings up some other issues.

How do we actively sell these days without sounding sales-y? How do we engage an online audience with a notoriously short attention span? And how do we stand out among competitors who pretty much sell the same thing?

It’s just as much about the customer as it is about the company.

With website copy, even more important than the actual wording is the strategy behind those words. The first big-picture strategy issue to consider is, do we want a website for our company, or a website for our customers?

Put another way, do we want a corporate-style site, mostly to talk about our firm and our vision? Or do we want an active marketing website to drive engagement, responses and sales?

When companies write their own web copy, there can be a tendency to take the ‘inward’ approach. After all it’s their website, so it should be all about them, right?

Well, maybe. But here’s the thing: From the searcher’s perspective, their own issue, family, business or goal is more important than your company, by an enormous margin.

A smart website isn’t about selling. It’s about buying.

A true marketing website approaches things through the eyes and sensibilities of the buyer. It digs deeper into what that visitor is really trying to accomplish. It looks closer at that person’s own universe of perceived needs, unspoken needs, influences, constraints, beliefs & feelings.

For example, parents searching for daycare for their kids first and foremost want to know that their children will be safe. A daycare website that emphasizes safety in its Home page banner headline will naturally resonate with them.

But what if the daycare website they land on is instead focused on the company’s own ‘commitment to excellence’ and their ‘mission to exceed expectations’ ? Unfortunately, that’s the kind of disconnect that sends real-world visitors lurching for the Back button.

Let’s look beyond our own point-of-view.

For instance, don’t talk about what your company is ‘proud of’. Tap into what that reader is proud of, regarding the issue at hand; then show them how you can help further their agenda. That’s how smart companies make a genuine connection, and build ongoing loyalty.

Marketing writing is about helping people feel confident, by using our products as their own means to their own ends. It’s not so much about ‘what we offer’; it’s really more about ‘what you get.’ Understanding that difference is key.

One way to recalibrate our messages for buyers is to begin some sentences with the word you. Eliminate some of those instances of we, our and us.

Get your main messages right out front.

Often website copy says the exact right thing — in the third sentence of the fourth paragraph. Unfortunately, a hefty percentage of visitors won’t get that far. These days, people landing on a web page tend to visually scan it. They will read prominent headlines, to get a feel for whether they should dig deeper.

So it makes sense to put your most meaningful messages in those headlines, for a ‘scanner-first’ approach to websites. Grab people quickly with what makes your offerings unique or better, to help you stand out from the pack. Specific and tempting benefits in headlines give people a reason to keep reading.

We’re more likely to make a sale if we first make a connection.

To answer the questions we asked earlier…

How do we actively sell these days without sounding sales-y? By honestly focusing on what the customer wants to achieve, rather than just what the company thinks of themselves.

How do we engage an online audience with a notoriously short attention span? By putting smart benefits in prominent headlines, and taking a scanner-first approach to writing website copy.

How do we stand out among competitors who pretty much sell the same thing? By zeroing in on that one unique benefit, insight or approach that shows we understand buyers, and their needs, better than anyone else.

Start paying close attention to your attention when you’re the web buyer, and you’ll learn some surprising and useful things about being a better seller.

Tom Tortorici started out as a print designer, and has evolved into a web writer. He has taught classes and seminars in the strategic aspects of both design and writing, with a focus on optimizing websites for humans.

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Written by Tom Tortorici. Last Updated 8 years ago.
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