5 simple reasons why web content fails.

“We are a young, dynamic and rapidly expanding business focused on delivering solution-based strategies and initiatives for our blah blah blah…”

Sound familiar?

The internet is swarming with content like this. If you’re honest, it may even read a little like the opening line of your own home page?

As a copywriter, I spend a fair amount of time persuading clients to abandon this type of all about me, jargon-based content. Content, which they feel captures the “essence of their business”, but which in reality succeeds in only two things – keeping their legal team happy and driving customers away.

Why web content like this fails so miserably?

It has an over-inflated ego.

These days, people are stressed, busy and incredibly selective. They’re not interested in reading about you and how wonderful your business is. They want to know what you can do for them.

How will you solve their most urgent problem? How can they trust you? Why should they choose you over other businesses offering a similar service?

One of the most powerful things you can do when communicating with your customers is to make them feel understood. How? By using the same words they do to describe what they need and want. Dig deeper. Pull out the key phrases they’re using to search for similar products and services online. Find out what they’re saying in forums and product reviews. What gets them excited? What’s the relevance to them right now? What has prompted them to buy in the past?

Spend a little time getting to know your customers’ personalities, attitudes, values, interests, lifestyles and behaviours. Find common themes in their motivations, needs and desires and you can use your findings to create content that resonates and creates a reaction.

The hardest thing about creating great web content is understanding it’s not about you.

It’s meaningless.

Big words like initiative, dynamic and solution-based mean what, exactly? These are vague words with various meanings across different industries. They don’t address your customers’ emotions, needs or desires. People respond better when you keep the language simple, interesting and relevant. You’re not in a boardroom talking with fellow industry nerds, you’re talking to people making a decision about your products and services. So make it easy for them. Explain what you’re offering and why they should take you up on it – as quickly and clearly as you can.

It’s ordinary.

There are trillions of businesses in the world all competing with one another. If your message doesn’t stand out, customers will quickly forget you.

What’s your unique selling proposition (USP)? What makes you so different? How will people remember you?

Think of some of the greats. Most often, they make a simple promise that captures what they do and why you should choose them:

Domino’s Pizza: “Piping, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less, or it’s free.”

John West: “It’s the fish that John West rejects that makes John West the best.”

M&Ms: “The milk chocolate melts in your hand, not in your mouth.”

Fedex Corporation: “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”

Establish what your greatest selling point is – a goal, an award, achievement, expertise, guarantee, special offer, feature or level of service. Your USP will become one of the key components in your marketing strategy – the thing that defines you. So make sure it’s a good one.

It’s all talk.

It’s easy telling the world how wonderful your business is, but it’s far more convincing showing them. Photographers don’t tell people what fabulous pictures they take; they show them their portfolio. Any one can claim to be the best at what they do, but it’s far more credible when you prove it. Better yet, let others prove it for you.

  • Have customers tell their positive stories through testimonials and reviews.
  • Showcase your awards, qualifications and recommendations.
  • Demonstrate your thought leadership and expertise through insightful, unique blog posts.
  • Create case studies that show how you achieved specific goals.

It fails to reassure.

As well as having needs and desires, customers have doubts and concerns. If your content fails to address them, they’ll grow into issues in your customers’ minds that stop them taking the next step.

To address these concerns, you need to know what they are. Maybe your customers are worried about handing over credit card details for a free trial. Or they haven’t the time to fill out long, detailed registration forms. If you understand their doubts, you can create responses to overcome them.

  • You customers are nervous about buying online because they can’t see or feel the real product? Offer an easy, user-friendly returns policy.
  • They’re keen to secure the most competitive price? Offer a ‘lowest price match’.
  • Have trust issues? Include video testimonials from customers raving about your service.

Creating interest is just the first step. Most people need reassurance and mollycoddling to then get them over the line.

Let go of what you want your business to be and become what your customers need you to be.

It’s easy to get swept up in ideologies of what you think your business should be, but if you’re not tuned into your customers needs and wants, how will you be able to connect? Put yourself in their shoes – what would convince you to react?

This article was first published in the print version of Inside Small Business, January 2017.

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