A framwork for web copy in a story format

Web copy can make or break your online sale

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The text on your sales page has a huge impact on what your visitors do, it can either guide them towards your conversion goal, or drive them away very quickly. Fortunately there is a tested formula for writing good copy for the web, even on tight deadlines, which I learned about in a webclinic by marketingexperiments.com recently, and I will share with you here.

The first principle I learned, is that clarity always wins over persuasion in web copy, and to achieve this clarity, you must know in what sequence the reader thinks, and synchronize your copy to that. This requires a story-based framework, since it is natural for humans to think story-wise — it is what we have done trough-out our evolution, and it is how we remember best. (If you are interested in how the brain works and how you best can use yours, I highly recommend David Rock’s excellent book Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long).

Stories usually have distinct phases, which are exposition, rising action, climax and falling action. By aligning the conversion process to this framework, you can achieve a better conversion rate, according to marketingexperiments testing.

A framwork for web copy in a story format

How the story connects to your conversion process

Exposition is defined as the act of expounding, setting forth, or explaining. In the conversion process, this phase usually relates to PPC ads, marketing emails, and web banners, but it can also be a blog post, for example.

The goal in the exposition-phase is to engage the user and start building the conversation.

In the rising action-phase, the heat starts building, and this usually happens on the landing page. It is where you define the problem more in depth, and present the solution.

The climax is usually when the conversion happens, and often that is through the call-to-action on the landing page. This is where the user clicks the “buy”, or “subscribe” button, or whatever your conversion may be.

If these terms are unfamiliar to you, please read my post “Are you losing business because of a poor landing page?” for a better understanding of the different parts of a landing page.

The falling action-phase, is what happens after the conversion decision has been made, and this is where the customer fills in the information necessary for the purchase or subscription.

If you know the phases of this story model, you can write your copy so that it falls in line with the thought process of the user.

How the story model can help you write clear copy

In the webinar, we were given a real-world example of a landing page with mostly copy, which marketingexperiments had tested. The optimized version of the landing page, written in with the story framework in mind, sold more that double the amount of tickets, compared to the original version.

In the first part of the landing page, exposition was created with a good headline that captures the readers’ attention, and a short paragraph that tells the reader what this is all about. Marketingexperiments testing has found two effective strategies for headlines: making a promise, or identifying a problem.  In the first paragraph you must tell the visitor where she is, what she can do here, and why she should do it. “What” always comes before “why”.

The three parts of web copy in a story framework

In the rising action-part, you must intensify the problem and list proof, features, benefits, incentive and urgency. This is the main part of the copy, where the story unfolds and is lifted towards the climax.

The idea behind the exposition and the rising action is to lead the reader towards the climax, i.e. the call to action, the conversion. What happens after that is usually some sort of filling in of information, the falling action of the story model.

What we learned in the webinar was that your call-to-action must:

  • be clearly visible
  • imply value, immediacy, or urgency
  • come in the right time in the story sequence

How you can benefit from this information

What I got out of this webinar, was a good framework and checklist for writing copy for a landing page. Sometimes, when there is not much time, and the blank page is staring at you, a framework like this can save your day.

Check your current landing pages and see if they have the right structure and order, and all the necessary parts. Test the new version against the old one, and see if there are any improvements. It is easy to fall in love with one’s own text, and go on about all the features. I believe this framework can help you there also.

If you are interested in more interesting findings like this, be sure to check out marketingexperiments web page, where you’ll find more webinars and interesting tests. I am not associated with them in any way, but they do have some really valuable content.

If you want to be notified of new posts and other interesting web marketing topics, be sure to follow me on Twitter and join my Facebook page.

Increasing income over time for the entrepreneur

Three ways for the entrepreneur to increase income

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The day-to-day life for an entrepreneur can sometimes consist of running from one place to another, “putting out fires”, and there’s not always time left over for the really important things, such as thinking up new and better ways to earn more income. If this sounds familiar and you already have a web site for your business, think about these three things that could give a steady rise to income over time:

Increasing income over time for the entrepreneur

1. How could I increase the traffic to my website?

If your webpages are built with your target market and their needs in mind, more visitors means more customers in the end. There are many ways to increase traffic, but quality content that gives value to the intended target group is one of the best ways.

We all have a limited amount of time, so it is useless to expect that your potential clients will use their time to browse your webpages if you have nothing valuable to offer them. What could that be? Start by offering them something that will help them solve a problem that you know is common for your target group. If you are a landscape architect, publish tips on garden planning and maintenance, if you sell sewage pipes, make choosing the right pipe easy with an application that asks questions and narrows down the choice.

In addition to quality content, it is important that the pages are optimized with the right keywords, and that keyword research has been done properly. If you want to know more you could read the article Search engine optimization (SEO) made easy guide! over at djavupixel.com.

If you have a local business, for example a gym, please make sure your Google places page is optimized, so that your business shows up, for example when somebody searches for “gym +your city name”. Read this quite complete article over at interactivemarketing for great tips on how to optimize your Google places page.

Online pay-per-click advertising is also worth considering, but to get the most out of it, and now waste your money, it is a good idea to learn the basics, or turn to a professional for help. Learn the minimum basics before you start, so that you at least speak the same language with whomever you work with.

Remember to utilize social media. If the term seems ambiguous, you could watch the excellent slide show Social Media For Business over at slideshare.

A book that I absolutely recommend for every entrepreneur is David Meerman Scott’s: The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly. It is an excellent introduction to marketing and PR today, and how companies can use both effectively.

2. How could I convert more website visitors to customers?

Many visitors to your website are not automatically going to produce more sales. The webpages need to be optimized to convert as many visitors as possible to paying customers. This does not mean that they need to buy from your web shop at the first visit, although that too is possible.

Visitors to your website are in different stages of the buying cycle; some of them are just checking out what’s available, some of them are researching which product might be right for them, and some may be comparing prices. It is a good idea to offer something for visitors in each of the stages in the buying cycle.

Example: a visitor that wants to compare features will benefit from a comparison table that compares your product or service to that of the competition. A visitor that wants to know if she should buy a lcd- or a plasma television would benefit from an article, explaining the difference and helping in the buying decision. A visitor, who is ready to buy, will benefit from a clear and easy online buying process. Return policy, affordable shipping, guarantee, service, payment options etc. are important at this stage.

There are factors that influence how effectively webpages convert visitors to customers, and you can read about them in my article Are you loosing business because of a poor landing page? It is important to measure and test how different factors influence conversion by measuring results for example with Google Analytics.

3. How can I sell more to my current customers?

Before you start chasing after new customers, think about how you could sell more to your current ones. It is much less costly and much easier to sell to your current customers, because they already know, like and trust you (if you have done things right). A CRM (customer relationship management)-system of some sort will help you immensely to market and sell to your current customers.

A great way to sell to your current customers is email marketing. Newsletters with great quality content, aimed at your target group and maybe a promotion just for your newsletter subscribers can work wonders. Just make sure you soft-sell. A company Facebook-page could also do the trick, but it depends on the target audience.

When you attract new visitors, convert more of them to customers, and the sell those customers more, please remember to measure the results. A five percent increase here, and another there could mean a substantial increase below the line at the end of the year.

Search engine optimization (SEO) made easy guide!

Are you losing business because of a poor landing page?

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Writing well-crafted advertisements that draw visitors to your site is only part of the process of gaining new customers from your Pay-Per-Click campaign. It is what they do when they arrive at your landing page that determines if you win the sale or not. Fortunately, there is a lot that you can change on there to help the visitor trust you and convert to a customer. See to that you have the elements discussed below in order and you will see significant increases in your conversion results.

What is a landing page and conversion?

A landing page is the page your visitors land on when arriving at your site. The type of landing page I will be discussing in this post is a ppc-landing page, i.e. where your visitors land after clicking your online advertisement. It could of course also be a landing page for offline advertisements, such as print advertisements with a dedicated link, leading to your landing page.

Conversion is the process where your website visitors convert to customers, or take an action that you have defined as a conversion. That could be anything from ordering a product, downloading a brochure, calling you on the phone, or making a reservation to signing up for a newsletter.

The goal for most landing pages is to have the visitors take a conversion action; therefore, the first step to take is to define what the conversions for your page should be. It could be a good idea to have many levels of conversion, because visitors on your landing page will be in different stages of the buying cycle, and not all of them are ready to buy the first time. They may be interested in downloading a brochure, though, and come back later to order. Suffice to say, you should place most emphasis on your main conversion goal, and minimize all other distractions.

Separate landing page or not?

Is it worth constructing a separate landing page designed to convert visitors, or should you direct them to a page that is part of your existing web pages? Depends on the case, but most experts seem to agree on that separate landing pages convert better. Directing the link to your home page does is a pure waste of money. If you do not have the time or resources to create a dedicated landing page, at least direct the link to the specific product page in question.

Since every page on your site is a possible landing page from organic search results, it would be a good idea to adapt the same principles described below for your product pages; that way you can use them as landing pages if you do not want to create a campaign specific page.

Here are some additional tips on when to use a separate landing page.

The benefits of dedicated landing pages are that you can tailor the page content specifically for the ad in question, tracking and testing different versions is easier,  and you can segment the different sources, such as email, social media, ppc and organic to isolate weak inbound sources. See the excellent article [How To] Use Traffic Segmentation and Landing Pages to Lift Your Conversion Rate

Landing page elements that increase conversion

Elements that increase conversion on a landing page

  1. Headline and content that matches advertisement
    It is important that visitors get what they expect when they click the advertisement. Think of it as keeping a promise; if you claim to sell affordable iPods in the ad, then that is what the visitor expects to see when they come to your landing page. If not, you will lose most of your visitors there and then. If possible, have similar headlines in the ad and your landing page.
  2. Unique Selling Proposition
    The headline and possible sub headline should define what your unique selling proposition is, for example “ABC12 – a heater that consumes 40% less fuel”.
  3. Benefits
    list the benefits of your product or service in a short paragraph of text and / or bulleted list. You could also use a chart that compares your product to the competition. Keep the text short.
  4. Picture of product in use
    Show a picture of a real person using the product or service, or the outcome of using the product. This will help people see themselves using the product or service and imagine the benefit they will enjoy. The picture can also be a diagram showing how the product or service solves a problem.
  5. Call to action
    This is where you ask the visitor to convert. Of course, this should be a very visible element on the page. The CTA button or link should state what it will do, e.g. “Download the free trial”. Read an excellent article on the subject: 7 ways to improve your call to action
  6. Testimonials and customer stories.
    A great way to increase trust is asking your current customers for testimonials and putting them on landing page. Adding a picture of the client will increase the effect even more. Ask the customers to write the testimonials so that they highlight the benefits they have received because of using the product or service.
  7. Video.
    Countless cases and studies have shown that videos increase conversion rates, sometimes by up to 80%. Have you ever wondered why the TV shopping channels are able to sell the oddest products? The power of video to demonstrate the benefits and use of your product is immense, so use it to your advantage.
  8. Second call to action.
    Visitors are in different stages of the buying process when they come to your landing page. Of those that find your product useful and have a need for it, not everyone is ready to buy or convert quite yet. For those visitors you need to have a second call to action such as downloading a brochure, requesting more information, downloading a free report, subscribing to your RSS feed, etc.
  9. Social media sharing
    Allow people to share your content via social media and rss feeds, or bookmark it for later.

Additional points to consider

The most important thing with landing pages, and all other marketing as well, is to test. Test different headlines, body copy, images, call to action etc. to maximize conversion. I learned the importance of testing from marketing guru Jay Abraham who used it successfully long before the web made it so easy to measure.

We must not forget the importance of professional looking pages with good design. This is a major factor in conversion as well, because it is an important credibility factor. According to a Stanford University study, it is one of the most important credibility factors.

Some people advocate eliminating all distracting elements, even the navigation. Yes, this keeps visitors from navigating away from the page to explore other parts of your site, but it is of course possible only if you have a dedicated landing page.

What you can do right now

Start implementing the ideas described here and tweak your landing page, but do not try all the tips at once. Make one, or a few changes and measure how that affects your conversion. If possible, use Google Website Optimizer or a similar tool to test different versions of your page. If you have a low volume of traffic, let the tests run long enough so that the data is statistically significant.

Increasing the conversion can be a very cost effective way to increase sales, so use it to your advantage.

Do you have any tips on things that have increased conversion for your web pages? Please share them in the comments!

Do you know what you are selling?

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You may not be selling what you think you are. To put it another way, your customers may be buying something else from you than you think you are selling. As business owners, we often miss this subtle difference, and that can have a great impact on our sales.

What I mean by this is that we often fail to remember that we are not selling a product or service; we are selling a solution to a problem, providing value by helping our customers with something that will make their lives easier. To use a classic example, you think you are selling drills, when your customers actually are buying holes.

Why is this important? Simply because you will sell more if you present what you are selling as a solution to the potential customer’s problem, than a series of features. I once read an interview with Kirsti Paakkanen, the former CEO of the successful Finnish company Marimekko, and she summed up the philosophy behind this idea beautifully: “When you’re starting a business, don’t think about how you’re going to make money, think about how you’re going to provide value. If you can figure that out, money will start coming in through doors and windows.”

Are you selling the same thing your customers are buying?

John Jantsch, author of the excellent “Duct Tape Marketing: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide“- book suggests that you make a “case statement” for cutting through the marketing hype and getting to the real reasons why your prospects should trade their money for what you have to offer, and that it should address the following:

  • a statement of a challenge, frustration, or problem that your target market experiences
  • an image of what life is like when the problem is solved
  • how they got here in the first place
  • a path for them to follow
  • a directed call to action

(John Jantsch, Duct Tape Marketing: the world’s most practical small business marketing guide, 2006, Thomas Nelson Inc.)

Tell your customers how you are different and what benefits there are to doing business with you. The idea is not to focus on what you do, but how you do it. It is so easy to get caught in the trap of seeing things through your own eyes as a business owner, and rant on about what you do. The fact is that your prospects are not interested in you; they are interested in themselves and their problems. So tell them clearly how you solve them and how much happier they will be after that. Use that in all your sales pitches and marketing communication.

Let me give you an example to illustrate the above. You are selling courses to students to help them get accepted into a university or school and have to pass a test to do so. You could market your great instructors and how experienced they are, or how affordable your courses are and how many years you have been in business. What you should focus on instead is that your courses will get your students accepted into the school or university with much higher probability. Prove it by showing the statistics. Interview students who took your course and were accepted into a university. Your prospects main concern is to be accepted, and that is what you should sell.

You need to be very careful with one thing, though; see to it that what you claim holds true, and you deliver on your promise. Do not write marketing material that make claims that you cannot deliver on. In the above example, if you find that your courses do not actually improve the probability of acceptance to the university in question, you should improve the quality so that they do, or start thinking about doing something else.

What you can do right now: ask some of your best customers why they buy from you and what problem you actually solve for them. Figure out how you differ from the competition and what value you provide from your customers point of view. Write down a case statement as suggested by John Jantsch above, and go through your current marketing material with that in mind. You may find that you have a lot of rewriting to do.

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