Your web copy is an online version of your pitch. It’s the perfect–and sometimes the only–opportunity to wow potential customers and investors. The catch is that you only have seconds to captivate and inspire them to take action. How do you do that?
You need killer web copy. You must understand your target audience, speak to their pain points and position your product or service as the ideal solution. Here are the key elements of great copy, and the 3 part process to help you get started right now.
The Elements of Great Web Copy
- It’s short and simple.
Less it more. But less is hard. Write with precision and cut the fluff if you want people to listen.
- It speaks to a niche audience.
You don’t speak to your grandmother the same way you speak to your colleagues. If you try to write for everyone, you end up watering down your message. Make a choice. Who is your ideal target customer? Decide. Write for them.
- It states a clear value proposition.
WHAT do you do, and WHO do you do it for? Finding the right words here is critical. Don’t say bad when you can say horrible. It’s okay to drive yourself crazy finding the right words. Your value proposition matters. Grab your business partner and brainstorm until your brain runs dry. The words are all there. You must do the work and start digging to find them.
- It uses pictures and images to strengthen the message.
Listen, being a smooth talker and having charisma is great, but your web copy alone is not going to carry the team. Images are the perfect wingman for great copy. Every image is an opportunity to highlight something great about you, like your brand personality, intelligence or product functionality.
- It compels people to act.
What do you want people to do? Read an article, sign up, subscribe to your email list, donate money, try your app? Decide. How can you do to convince them to follow you up that foggy path, and onto the next page?
The 3 Part Process to Writing Effective Web Copy
First things first, if you want to write effective web copy, don’t start by writing about your company. Or your platform. Or all of the lovely details you have been putting all of your blood, sweat, and tears into. Great copy is not about you. It’s about them.
Part 1: Start with the Customer
If there is anything we can learn from Hamburger Helper’s mixtape, it’s the importance of understanding your customer and learning to communicate in a way that resonates with them.
To better understand your customer, here’s what you need to do.
- Interview an ideal customer.
Or have coffee. Or lunch. Get to know them on a personal level. What kind of human are they? What is their family life like? What are their goals and challenges? It is only through empathy that you will be able to truly understand their problems and how to speak to them in language that resonates.
- Design a customer persona.
Once you know one ideal customer really, really well, create a customer persona. This is a fictional character based on a real human that represents a segment of your target audience. A customer persona is an incredible tool when it comes to writing. Copywriters, fiction writers, and really anyone that’s writing for someone else can use it.“Call that one person you write for Ideal Reader. If you know the tastes of your Ideal reader at least half as much as I know the tastes of mine, it will be not difficult for you to imagine what he will like, and what – not,” —Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.
- Fill out an empathy map for your ideal customer.
An empathy map is a tool to gather deeper insights from your customers. Have you observed your customers in action, either with your product/service or at the point of purchase in the industry? What did they do and say? Can you infer what they thought or felt? Focus on your ideal customer and the positive things they said and did, alongside the pain points, frustrations, and confusions they felt. Connect the dots here–these deep insights will reveal the opportunities for your company to help them.
Part 2: Tighten Up Your Value Proposition
Once you know your customer, it’s time to write out your value proposition. Great value propositions say WHAT you do, and WHO you do it for. They also show your brand personality and what you’re all about. The secret is that there is a formula you can use for writing excellent value propositions. I didn’t make this up, but I think it’s great so I will gladly be a messenger.
It goes like this:
- Define your Customer + Product/Service Offering (what you sell) + the End Goal (what happens or what they get if they buy what you’re selling)
- Pick two of the above
- Combine them together in one phrase
Here’s what it looks like in action, web copy style.
Example #1, Cards Against Humanity:
Product Offering + Customer
A party game for horrible people.
Example #2, Tuft & Needle:
The End Goal + Offering
An exceptional mattress at a fair price
And example #3, Unbounce:
Product Offering + End Goal
Build landing pages fast and get more conversions.
Let’s Break It Down Now
Here’s what each of those value propositions looks like broken down in this handy dandy table:
Of course, each company’s current value proposition is only the tip of the iceberg. To get to this point, each of these companies probably brainstormed hundreds of different words. For example, a snippet from a Cards Against Humanity brainstorm session could have looked like this:
When writing a value proposition, your goal is to first brain dump all the possible words that describe your customer, company and the end goal. Only then can you trim the fat and pick two like you’re at Panera Bread.
How to Brainstorm Your Value Proposition
- Call your business partner or friend over (bouncing ideas is critical and two brains = better than 1 when it comes to brainstorming)
- Write out the above chart (Customer + What Do You Offer + End Goal)
- Set yourself a timer for 10 minutes
- Challenge your partner, who can write more words in that time? Keep your pens moving until the timer stops.
- When the timer goes off, discuss all of your different ideas. Which words resonate or have the spunk and zest you’re looking for?
- Decide on two from different columns that you believe represent your product/service/offering
- Combine the two words in a headline. High five, you did it.
Once your value proposition is in a good place, you are ready to start writing your homepage web copy!
Keep in mind that your value proposition can and should evolve over time. The more you know about your audience and spend time playing in that space, the more targeted you can make your messaging.
Part 3: Build Your Homepage
What if I told you there was also an ideal layout for effective homepage web copy? It would make all your worries (or some of them) go away, right? GUESS WHAT, YOU GUYS! THERE IS!
Check this out:
Your two-word value proposition wrapped up in a snazzy phrase.
Address your customer’s pain points and talk about your offer.
What action do you want them to take? Keep your verb game strong here.
- Background Picture
Find an image that brings out the best in you aka your wingman
This format certainly isn’t the only way. But it’s a great one. Take a look at how Trello does it:
Or Gym It…
Luckily for us, beautiful examples of this layout for copy run wild all over the world wide web. Try it. Think of a brand you love and check out their page. Notice any similarities?
Ready, Get Set…Go!
Okay, now your job is to take out your notebook and complete parts 1-3 of this process. These steps are merely the beginning; the real magic happens when you sit with your customers and the words rattling around in your head long enough to draw connections. The patterns will emerge, patience young grasshopper. (≖_≖ )
Remember that the writing process is inherently human. Start with your customer, listen, and find your flow. You can do it.
Of course, if you feel totally overwhelmed by all of this, send us an SOS. Copywriters here, we’re happy to help too!