Is Your Web Content Compelling?

Feature-Oriented Content

Back in the day (when exactly was that)? advertisers would go to great lengths to tout the features of their product or service. Their goal was to convince you that the quality of their product or service was superior. Think of how excited you got when you read the product’s promotional literature. It probably sounded like a technical owner’s manual. An owner’s manual tells you about the details of a product.

Feature-oriented language reminds me of the old television show, Dragnet, where the police would say, “All we want are the facts, ma’am”. Features = facts. Feature-oriented content is telling someone about something. Not very convincing, in fact, it’s downright boring. Feature-oriented content is what’s known as ‘tell’ content. “Let me tell you about X, Y and X features of my product of my service. Where’s the compelling sales message?

Benefit-Oriented Content

Towards the end of the early years, some creative advertising writer thought that advertising messages should focus, not only on the features of a product, but, also on the benefits of the product they are selling. And so, benefit-oriented content came flying in to the mainstream. Benefit-oriented content answers the question, “What’s in it for me, the customer?” Benefit-oriented content sells, not tells. This type of content convinces customers that your product or service will help them. Customers want to know what your product or service can do for them.

Use benefit-oriented content on your website, brochure, or any other printed material. Start with a short headline. Try to use less than seven words in the headline. Next, write a few sentences of introductory content followed by a bulleted list of benefits. Use as few bullets as possible in order to keep your message clear and concise. Always put a call-for-action on the bottom such as Call Me, Email Me, Go To My Website, etc. Don’t use gratuitous graphics or stale free clip art.

Here’s an example of how features can be turned into benefits. This example is taken from Varidesk’s (the manufacturer of stand-up work desks) promotional content I found on their website.

Example of Promotional Content Used by Manufacturer of Stand-Up Desks

Feature Benefit to Customer
Patented two-handle design coupled with a spring-assisted boost-enabled lifting mechanism Makes moving from sitting to standing quick and easy
Desk works either standing or sitting Perfect way to increase energy, your health, and productivity
No hardware needed to secure desk to workstation Easy to install

The Benefits column definitely answers the question, “What’s in it for me”.

Now it’s your turn. Think about your business. In the left column, list three features of your product or service. On the corresponding right column, turn each feature into a benefit.

What Product or Service Do I Sell?

Feature                                                                     Benefit to Customer
1. 1.
2. 2.
3. 3.

 Now that you’re comfortable features into benefits, get to work on re-writing all your promotional content.

Big Numbers – Little Impact

Let’s say you’re asked to write a public service announcement promoting diabetes education. You might start out by writing something like – “Do you know that more than 29 million people in the United States suffer from diabetes?”

After reading this, your reader might ask, “what does this have to do with me? I can’t relate to 29 million of anything”

What is it about these large numbers? I believe that using large numbers to make a point can easily overwhelm people’s senses. Here’s an example of how large numbers can be overwhelming.

The Pew Internet Research Project (www.pewinternet.org) collected data about social networking and online usage. They found that 71 percent of online adults use Facebook, 17 percent use Instagram, 21 percent use Pinterest, and 22 percent use LinkedIn. Facebook alone has about 191 million users in the United States.

If you’re writing a business, be careful not to get carried away by using big numbers to build your case to start a business. Applying large numbers (demographic or economic) to help you understand your local market might not portray an accurate picture. For example, do 71 percent of adults in your geographic area use Facebook? Probably not.

Back to the public service announcement. How would you relate to the question, “Do you have a friend or family member who has diabetes?” Most likely, you would say “yes, I can relate to that”. This is an effective way to connect with your audience.

What can you do to avoid using large numbers when creating content (online or print) to promote your business? Here two of the most important things to keep in mind:

  • Think small – If you are starting a business that serves local or regional customers, get data from local business organizations (Chambers of Commerce, economic development associations, etc.). Use data to get an understanding of the unique demographic characteristics of your market.
  • Make it personal by telling a story – talk directly to your audience using common words and phrases to draw them in. Most people can relate to a short story. The diabetes example above can be expanded into a story about how someone prevented himself or herself from becoming diabetic.

Beware of getting sucked into the world of big numbers.

There’s lots more tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

Top Ten Words to Avoid

Here are my Top Ten Words and Phrases to Avoid when writing anything. In my opinion, these words and phrases hold little or no meaning to the reader. I notice when some people write (especially their resumes or bios), they tend to use these words. It seems like the writer can’t concretely articulate their message, so they use these words and phrases as a default.

I have to admit I use some of these words or phrases, some of the time. Nobody’s perfect.

The Top Ten Words and Phrases to Avoid are not jargon words. Jargon is defined as “special words or expressions used by a particular profession or group that are difficult for others to understand.” Jargon is “technical talk.”

Here they are in no particular order:

  1. Behavior
  2. Opportunity
  3. Concern
  4. Utilize
  5. In-depth knowledge
  6. Extensive experience
  7. Process
  8. Heavily involved
  9. Move forward
  10. Wide variety

 How are you going to eliminate using all or some of these words or phrases?

Now you’re aware of these words and phrases, take the opportunity, to use your extensive experience and in-depth knowledge to move forward while utilizing a wide variety of alternative words and phrases. Yikes!

 

There’s lots of tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

Why I Hate Jargon in 69 Words

I couldn’t have said it better. So, I won’t.

“This matter of language is important. Professional jargon–on Wall Street, in humanities departments, in government offices-can be a fence raised to keep out the uninitiated and permit those within it to persist in the belief that what they do is too hard, too complex, to be questioned. Jargon acts not only to euphemize but to license, setting insiders against outsides and giving the flimsiest notions a scientific aura.”

Taken from Can You Keep a Secret by George Packer, The New Yorker, March 17, 2016

Here Comes the Jargon Police

PLEASE NOTE

In order to make the most out of reading this post, you’ll want to download  and print it. Why? I’ve included a fun exercise for you, so you’ll want to write down your answers.

Sometimes, I take on the role of a Jargon Police Officer. In this formidable position, I monitor my client’s and workshop participant’s use of jargon. Jargon includes all of the special words or expressions that are unique to a business, profession, or group and are difficult for others to understand. Jargon is “technical talk”.

I’m especially on guard when my marketing workshop participants use jargon:

  • On their website
  • On printed promotional or educational literature
  • When they give an elevator speech to a potential customer or referrer

When you use jargon, there is a chance that the person listening to you will not understand what you are saying. And chances are, that person is too polite to ask you, “What are you talking about?” This is not a good way to make a first, second or third impression.

However, there might be times when you want to use jargon. Whether you’re talking ‘shop’ with a colleague or giving a presentation to your peers, using jargon and technical terms makes sense. But, it’s still best to keep the use of jargon to a minimum, no matter what type of situation you’re in.

At a local networking event, I overheard (eavesdropped) a conversation between a psychotherapist and a lawyer. It seemed that the lawyer might have clients with emotional or relationship problems. Perfect match? Not quite. The therapist said to the lawyer, “I provide a solution-focused approach in counseling and therapy, drawing from a variety of tools such as hypnosis, NLP, EFT and EMDR”. The lawyer looked perplexed. He probably said to himself, “What the hell is this person talking about?” The jargon police would have had a field day with this therapist. I restrained myself and walked away.

Here’s the problem with jargon. We’ll use the psychotherapist talking to the lawyer as an example. As soon as the psychotherapist blurted out “…hypnosis, NLP, EFT, and EMDR”, the conversation shifted from talking about the needs of the lawyer…which turned the conversation into didactic teaching mode (the therapist would explain each of these therapeutic techniques), resulting in making the ‘conversation’ all about the therapist. This is not good.

When building a business relationship, it’s not all about you; it’s about making a connection with your customer by focusing on their needs. This therapist was too busy explaining what therapeutic methods she used and never made a personal connection with the lawyer.

As you move deeper into a conversation, and when the other person asks more probing questions, the chances of slipping into jargon mode are much greater.

Time to Test Your Use of Jargon

Here’s a chance to eliminate jargon from your vocabulary when talking to prospective or current customers.

Example of Jargon Used by a Management Consultant

 Read the example below of how to substitute common words or phrases for jargon. This example shows how easy it is to eliminate jargon from a management consultant’s vocabulary.

 

Here are 5 jargon words or phrases unique to a management consultant’s industry or business.

Substitute a non-technical, common word or phrase for each jargon word or phrase from the left column.

Brand equity Name recognition that might result in increased sales
Out of the box Creative thinking
Above board To be honest and open
Scope creep A project that expands beyond it’s original goal
Pain point A critical consumer need

 Your Jargon Buster Exercise

List 5 jargon words or phrases unique to your business or industry

Take each word or phrase from the left column and substitute a non-technical, common word or phase

1.  
2  
3.  
4.  
5.  

 What You Learned

List three things you learned from the Jargon Buster Exercise:

  1. _______________________________________________________________
  2. _______________________________________________________________
  3. _______________________________________________________________

Three Key Points To Know About Using Jargon

  1. There is a time and place to use jargon. When you’re talking ‘shop’ with a colleague or giving a presentation to your peers, using jargon and technical terms makes sense.
  2. A potential customer can’t get to know you if you’re conversation is riddled with jargon.
  3. Check your website, promotional literature for jargon and change the jargon to common words or phrases.

 

There’s lots more tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

How to Win Friends and Influence People

You can have the best marketing plan, tons of creative ideas for your social media campaign, and a killer product or service. But, if you don’t communicate your message in a compelling and persuasive way, you might as well pack up and shutter your store (virtual or  brick and mortar).  Here’s a primer on how to write compelling and persuasive copy.

Feature-oriented copy

Way back in the early days, advertisers would go to great lengths to tout the features of their product or service. Their goal was to convince you that the quality of their product or service was superior. Think of how excited you got when you read the product’s promotional literature. It read like an owner’s technical manual telling you about the details of a product.

When advertisers use feature-oriented copy, it reminds me of the old television show, Dragnet, where the police would emphatically say, “All we want are the facts, ma’am”. Features = facts. Feature-oriented copy is telling someone about something. Not very convincing, in fact, it’s downright boring. Feature-oriented copy is what’s known as ‘tell’ copy. “Let me tell you about X, Y and X features of my product of my service. Where’s the compelling sales message?

Feature-oriented copy is all about you

Benefit­-oriented copy is all about your customers needs

Benefit-oriented copy

Towards the end of the early years, some creative advertising copywriter suggested advertising messages should focus, not only on the features of a product, but, mostly on the benefits of the product they are selling. And so, benefit-oriented copy came flying into the mainstream. Benefit-oriented copy answers the question, “What’s in it for me, the customer?” Benefit-oriented copy sells, not tells. This type of copy convinces customers that your product or service will help them.

Here’s an example of how features can be turned into benefits. This example is taken from Varidesk’s (the manufacturer of stand-up work desks) promotional copy I found on their website.

Feature: Patented two-handle design coupled with a spring-assisted, boost enabled lifting mechanism. Benefit: Makes moving from sitting to standing quick and easy

Feature: Desk works either standing or sitting. Benefit:Perfect way to increase energy, your health and productivity

Feature: No hardware needed to secure desk to workstation. Benefit: Easy to install

As you can see, the list of benefits definitely answers the question, “What’s in it for me”.

Now you have an understanding of how and why to use benefit-oriented copy. Rewrite your website and other promotional material to include as much benefit-oriented copy as possible. Don’t over-do it. You need some feature-oriented copy.

Lots of Help for You

The Internet is full of blogs, forums, articles and e-books on how to write effective copy for your website. Consult these resources and you’ll get a sense of what style of writing works and doesn’t work for you.