Here’s what to do instead.
Good storytelling makes effective marketing copy because stories are incredibly powerful. Who doesn’t like a good story?
The best stories are clear and dynamic. There’s movement and transformation. There’s an archetypal hero overcoming obstacles. A journey. A guide who shows the way, then finally, transformation. Think about how compelling your message could be if you can draw your readers into a thrilling journey. It’s possible, and with your brand, you’ll win in your marketplace.
It takes truly excellent and powerful messaging to grip people’s attention. And certain marketing copy tactics can help you achieve audience engagement. Steer clear of common copywriting pitfalls, and your marketing message will cut through the clutter. Here are five marketing copy mistakes to avoid whenever you write anything about your business—from ads to Tweets to your website.
1) DON’T: Only talk about yourself
Imagine standing politely at a party, drink in hand, listening to someone talk about their upbringing, their house, the things they own, what they want to own. . . After a while, you start wondering how your dog’s doing at home or how much you like the song playing. Your eyes start to wander. You excuse yourself as fast as you can. Sound familiar? How do you think your web visitors feel when your website outlines your services, how long you’ve been in business and how you built your software? Focusing your content entirely on yourself and your products is the first marketing “no-no”.
Many brands take this “me-first” approach to marketing. They’ll write long, personal About Me sections then dedicate precious online real estate to the awards they’ve won and how proud they are of their accomplishments. Meanwhile, your potential customers are left wondering what any of it has to do with them.
This isn’t to say you can’t offer assurance of your brand’s authority, but remember you’re not the hero in the story you’re telling. The customer is—and this needs to be reflected in your marketing copy.
DO: Focus your message around the customer
Marketing is all about relationship-building with your target audience, and what does every relationship need?
Reciprocity. Empathy. Trust.
In the story you create for your brand, position yourself as the helpful guide—not the protagonist. If you’re the hero in your brand story, and the customer is the hero in their own story, all you’re going to get is a conflict of interest and zero compatibility to do business together.
We’re all the hero in our own stories, but for the sake of getting your message to land, you must take the POV and place it on the customer. Let your customers know you empathize with their struggles and demonstrate your authority in solving them.
Helpful prompts for creating a customer-centric website/product message:
- What are your customers’ pain points in the real world? What about with your business? (ie: website navigation or usability, getting in touch with a representative)
- How can your product or service help that alleviate that pain or resolve that problem?
2) DON’T: Focus on your product or service’s features
You spent a lot of time and resources to build your business into what it is today. We get it. You’re passionate about your industry and have spent hundreds of hours building your product. In your marketing copy, you’ll be tempted to write about your product’s various functions and features, essentially talking exclusively about how UTTERLY AWESOME it is.
The average person won’t care.
Yes, it’s sad but true. You won’t communicate the value of your product or service if you only talk about its features. And most people want to know if the value they’re receiving is worth the money they’re spending. The value you offer them won’t be found in your product features but in your product’s benefits.
DO: Talk about how your offering helps or benefits your customers
When scanning your product pages, people are trying to discover how this business can help them with their problems. They’re ultimately asking, “In what ways will this benefit me?”
Detailing the specs and features of your product may be interesting to you, but from your customer’s perspective, the bulk of their focus will likely be on HOW your product is going to solve their problem. Don’t take it personally; shifting to a customer-problem mindset will help you understand your customers and write all types of marketing copy they’ll respond to.
Helpful messaging prompts for this are:
- How will your product or service improve customers’ lives?
- How will it give them a competitive edge in their line of work?
- How else can you provide (free) value? (ie: educational blog posts, relevant data, downloadable e-Books or worksheets, etc.)
3) DON’T: Overwhelm your readers
The adage “less is more” rings true for effective marketing copy like your website messaging. If you’ve ever visited a website crowded with a million boxes of text, graphics, and images, you know how disorienting the experience can be.
Here are a few reasons why you want to avoid stuffing your website with too much information:
Reason 1: People will stop paying attention. We live in a culture of convenience and instant gratification. When it comes to website copy, large blocks of texts can be intimidating for a lot of readers. Large blocks of text are also hard to scan-read, which is what most people do when they’re viewing web pages on their mobile devices.
Reason 2: You risk confusing your readers. Providing too much information off the bat can distract from your core brand message, especially if the information is unrelated to what you do (your product or service) and how people can get it.
Take StoryBrand CEO, Don Miller’s word for it: “If you confuse, you lose.”
Reason 3: People get choice paralysis and give up. This happens when they’re overwhelmed by too many options. It’s a real phenomenon backed by science: Hick’s Law shows that people take longer to make decisions—in this case, a buying decision—when the number of available options increases.
DO: Keep your message as concise and clear as possible
When you’re thirsty, you drink water from a glass and not a fire hose for obvious reasons: your stomach physically can’t hold or process that much water at once. You’d make yourself sick! This same concept applies to marketing copy and the way people’s brains process new information when they look at a website. If people do want that deluge of information, they can sign up for your mailing list or book a call to get more details.
It’s useful to keep a card or two up your sleeve! Don’t feel obliged to give away all your business has to offer on your website; give people enough information to pique their interest and nothing more. This leaves them curious and helps to filter the qualified leads from unqualified ones.
Helpful questions to ask yourself:
- Can I say this in an even more concise way?
- Is it easy to figure out what my business does?
- Is this information important to the customer journey?
- Is my content easy to scan?
4) DON’T: Use insider language
When crafting your website message, you might default to industry jargon. Perhaps you want to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise, perhaps you’re so accustomed to communicating with others in your network that the jargon naturally flows out of you when you speak or write. Unfortunately, it’s probably not a language the average person is familiar with.
Miller refers to this as “the curse of knowledge.” Being the subject matter expert in your field, you tend to inaccurately gauge how much your target audience knows about your work. You may inadvertently douse your message with a lot of insider language as opposed to peppering it. Insider language tends to make people feel confused, excluded, or not smart enough to understand you—and that’s far from the positive first impression you want to give.
DO: Communicate clearly with simple, easy-to-understand language
Using everyday language clarifies your message and makes even the toughest subjects relatable and accessible. Remember, as the guide, you want to demonstrate empathy as well as authority. Doing so helps build trust with your customer base.
5) DON’T: Forget to include a call to action
You’ve written amazing, enticing product copy that’s bound to capture interest. You’ve defined and refined the brand message on your website until it perfectly communicates what you want to get across to your readers.
Well, what’s next? At this point, your reader is thinking, “Do I buy now? Do I schedule an appointment? How do I get in touch? What do I have to do to buy what you’re selling?”
You haven’t successfully converted a lead until your customer completes your call to action. That means you’re going to need to include one (ideally several) of them on your website.
Every page on your website should include a CTA, or a call to action. In the arc of the marketing narrative, the call to action is the point where the customer takes the reins. It makes sense when the purpose of your website message is to get people to engage with your business—whether to sign up to your mailing list, make a purchase, or schedule a call with you.
A good rule of thumb is to use compelling, explicit action language to frame this message. Action language (otherwise known as imperatives) is the best way to persuade people to make that conversion. Make it crystal clear what people must do in order to advance to the next step of their journey with you.
Example of an unclear vs clear CTA:
I would appreciate it if you could sign up for my monthly newsletter.
Sign up for my monthly newsletter today.
All your meticulously crafted marketing copy—email newsletters, social media posts, advertisements, and, of course, website copy—is useless if it doesn’t reinforce a clear, concise, and consistent narrative that ties back to your core brand message. Make these five shifts in your approach to writing website and product messaging, and you’ll see the positive difference in the way customers respond pretty quickly.