6 Catastrophic Mistakes Small Businesses Make on Their Website
It's Not Me, It's You.
Yeah, you read that right. It's you, not me.
No, we're not breaking up, but we are talking about the website visitors that break up with you every time they leave your site.
There is no easy way to put this. There is a 74% (Hubspot) chance your website is driving your customers away.
But don't be fooled into thinking it's because you don't have enough traffic (like SEO shops want you to think) or because your product isn't desirable (like web designers want you to think). Although both could be true, there is one reason that commonly goes undetected.
And that reason is...
The copy on your website is written in the wrong voice.
Here is what I mean.
Close your eyes and think about your last date. Think about sitting across from each other gazing into each other's eyes. Dinner is extraordinary, soft music playing in the background...and your date won't shut up about themselves. Check please!
That's where DIY website copywriters fall short. To be fair, professional copywriters are guilty too.
Listen, no one does this intentionally, because who wants to be "that guy"?
I won't dive too deep into marketing psychology, but defaulting to the first person in your website sales copy...and your website text is sales copy...comes from a place of fear. Entrepreneurs infamously fall victim to the big three: the imposter syndrome (not feeling good enough), comparitus (comparing yourself to others), and the nasty demon itself, the internal critic.
Here's the point, it's human nature to feel at home talking about ourselves, BUT the same is true for your website visitors.
To put this bluntly, we're a bunch of selfish monkeys walking around this world wondering what's in it for me.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not judging. In fact, the sooner you understand and embrace this human psychology, the faster you'll attract customers and turn them into super fans.
Heck, I'd even go out on a limb and say your life gets entirely better once you embrace we're just a bunch of ego-centric knobs running around planet earth trying to find our purpose.
Ok, so let's get back to how this all relates to visitors leaving your website.
Here are the top 6 ways your website copy turns you into "that guy".
More "you" than "me"
First, let's agree that the words on your website are meant to be a jovial conversation with a friend, versus a monologue about your business to a sucker potential customer.
Take for instance the page entirely dedicated to differentiating yourself, the About Us page. It's the page that should be renamed "hey mom, look at me".
I know, I know. You want to tell your buyers about your business so their purchasing decision is easier and faster.
The operative word there is "tell". You are telling your buyers, when you want to be conversing.
So, how do you go from telling to conversing?
Follow this exercise:
- Go to your website and count how many times you write in the 1st person. Count words like "Me", "I", "We", "Us".
- Then compare that number to the number of times you use the word "You" and "Yourself".
Are you using the first person more than the second person? Are there more "You"s than "me"s?
I hear you, "But Jill, how do I write an "About Us" page without using "I", "Us", or "We"?"
The answer is you don't. Keep the copy in the first person, but add more "You"s to outweigh the "I"s.
For instance, tell your audience something about your company, then follow it up with why that feature is important to them. We'll talk more about this later.
No more industry language or acronyms
My first day on the job a Subaru of America, I sat in a managers meeting, and every third word was an acronym. It sounded like this, "SOA OKed the RFP to execute the MTM ASAP". Talk about feeling like an outsider. I had no idea what they were saying.
One of the fastest ways to isolate your website visitors is to use industry jargon and acronyms.
It's easy and familiar, I get it. There is plenty of techy-talk in my industry, but it's my job to break things down into bite-size pieces.
Here's an example of one of my blunders.
"Your website is built on a content management system (CMS) called WordPress". Some of my clients knew what that meant, but a lot didn't. Consequently, I made them feel lost, dumb, and too embarrassed to ask for clarification.
I changed it to, "JMG builds your website, so it's easy to edit yourself."
Once upon a time...
A smart business owner with a clumsily written website lost everything. Then he stumbled upon a blog post that showed him how to write copy in a way that inspired his customers to buy his products. Now, his business thrives, so he paid off his house and bought that Porsche Carrera he always wanted.
Sharing a meaningful story with your site visitors captures their attention faster and holds it longer.
Storytelling works because it engages a part of the brain called the insula, which regulates emotions such as joy, pain, and disgust. In contrast, listing how your widget is constructed only stimulates the Broca's area and Wernicke's area of the brain which regulates language.
Our brains, in fact, are designed to retain stories over facts.
The key to a meaningful story that ignites the insula is one that includes conflict, suspense, colorful visualizations, metaphors, and resolution. Give your site browsers an emotional journey where they can envision themselves using your products or services.
Be fucking interesting
Now listen carefully, especially if you come from a boring industry, make the words you share with your website browsers alluring.
Here's what I mean.
Do you remember in school when your teachers gave you an "F" for writing in spoken language? Well, guess what Sister Mary (I went to a Catholic School)? Spoken language is in fact, more interesting to buyers than fancy academic writing.
Leave out the "umm"s and "ah"s, but captivate your readers with a conversation.
I had a life coaching association client, and everyone on the board was off-the-charts intelligent. Most had a brilliant academic background. However, the writing style on their website was a total snoozer. I mean YAAAAWN. One quick glance at a page, and you fell into a boredom coma. It wasn't a surprise they struggled to attract new members.
Even if you're in a boring industry, stimulate your reads by teaching them something new. We crave learning new things. What is the number one question your customers ask you? Use that on your website just don't be boring about it.
Features, benefits, outcomes, ...and wait for it, transformations
There is an old feature vs. benefits textbook proverb that's been around for ages. "Your customers are not buying a drill bit from you; they're buying the hole that the drill bit makes."
Features address what it is, for example, 'It's a drill bit'.
We already know your widget's features do not differentiate you from your competitors, yet website copy usually stops there.
Business owners who write their own copy often consume themselves with "this is what we do". One of the telltale signs of this is a cluttered website.
But are you ready for the sad truth? No one gives a shit what you do.
Are you ready for the good news? They care what you can do for them.
<Enter the benefit>
Benefits address what it does, for example, 'The drill bit makes a 3/4" hole'.
Bingo! We're getting closing to connecting the what's-in-it-for-me dots.
Outcomes, on the other hand, stir emotions. Using emotional words like "feel" "fun" "peace of mind" "safe" give people the chance to connect with your widget emotionally.
To turn a benefit into an outcome, add "so that..." to the end of the benefit, for example 'The drill bit makes a 3/4" hole so that you can finish building your new baby's crib without losing fingers'.
This is my interpretation of what a customer would say, "Awwww, a new baby and keeping all my fingers. That's the drill bit I want! But I'm not very handy. This bit probably won't work for me."
<Enter the transformation>
Writing a transformation just adds a starting point. It's important because it makes the outcome of your widget relatable. You want your buyers to say "Oh, I can do that".
For example, 'This drill bit is for the not-so-handy Dad who needs to make a 3/4" hole so that he can finish building his new baby's crib without losing fingers.'
Ok maybe an award example, but I think you get the point.
Target and speak to pain points
Coincidentally while writing this section of the post, a neighbor/colleague stopped by and exploded in frustration about an irrational client. She was on the verge of firing this nut-bag.
Pain points were fresh on my mind, so we talked about what Mr. Crazytown really wanted. This guy made quick, absurd, and costly decisions. All because he wanted to avoid dealing with the technical part of his business.
With the real issue uncovered, she easily reached into her bad-ass bag of solutions and resolved his self-sabotaging disdain for technology. Most importantly her pain was gone and she saved a $50k account.
If you take away one thing from this post, it should be this: understanding what your customer deeply wants to solve, changes everything for your business.
If you haven't already, your business needs a client profile(s). Write out their wants, needs, desires, passions, and pains.
Some of the best places to get raw unabridged feedback is social media, reviews, comments, or just ask them.
Know your customers like you know the bottom of your foot. Then constructing copy for your website and other marketing collateral becomes effortless.
Think about how skillfully you can now answer what's in it for them.
Here are your takeaways:
- Write with more "You"s than "I"s. Writing in the first person ("I", "Us", "Me" etc.) disengages site browsers, while writing in the second person ("You") is more interesting to a potential customer.
- Leave the industry lingo out. Nothing isolates a customer more than when you make them feel stupid.
- Telling stories uses a different part of the brain. Your customers will recall your business faster when remembering how your business made them feel.
- Don't be fucking boring. Boring sucks. If you stay boring your customers will break up with you.
- Rewrite the description of your product or services. Start with writing a feature of your service. Then add "so that...". Then add a starting point so the outcome is relatable. This exercise uncovers why people will buy your products.
- Know your customer. PERIOD! Read the comments on a forum, a Facebook group or an Amazon review to get the uncensored version of their pain points.
I've shared with you only 6 of many different reasons why customers leave your website. If you'd like to see an example of a lead generating layout looks like, download it here. In it you get behind the scenes glance at my ace-in-the-hole design tips. Download it here.
Leave me a comment below and tell me how you were able to implement any of these strategies.
Do you have a question? I'm here to help!
Leave me a comment. I want to hear what you think.