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The way we communicate to our audiences online is typically referred to as messaging. The copy you write, the images you use, and the overall direction of your brand material is sending various messages to the people who see it.
Today’s online audiences have statistically short attention spans. It takes less than 5 seconds for a visitor to determine if they are going to stay on a website or find something else to do. If they aren’t convinced they need to stay, they won’t.
There are a lot of reasons people may not be staying longer on your website, or why they’re not reading your promotional material. The fault doesn’t lie with their attention spans, it lies with your messaging.
Everything about your content needs to draw in your target audience. It has to be attractive, it has to be specific, and it needs to meet them where they are at.
In today’s episode we’re going to be talking about how to audit your brand’s copy to determine if it’s chasing users away, and some of the problems to watch out for so you can convert more prospects into buying customers.
Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
- Audit your copy and ask yourself, “Is this inviting people in?”
- If your messaging isn’t communicating right, there are going to be people who pass you up because there’s nothing in it for them.
- You need to be focused on your customers’ success because if your customers succeed, you succeed.
- Your unique advantage is not what you can do, it’s what your customer is getting.
- If you’re talking too much about yourself, rewrite everything on your homepage without talking about yourself once.
- Your About page is where people choose to dive deeper into who you are.
- Don’t dumb-down your message—understand how your audience communicates.
- It’s more important for your audience to understand what you’re saying than it is for you to sound smart.
- If your customers don’t understand you, you can’t sell to them.
- You know you have the right amount of text when you’ve clearly communicated your message.
- You’re actually being selfish by not telling people you offer something that can make their lives better.
- 03:53 Cory: Today we’re talking about why your messaging is chasing away leads and how to fix it. The whole purpose of this show is to help new and growing brands connect with their audience through storytelling and authenticity. We really want to emphasize the connection point. We really want to help people who are either building up their brands, repurposing an existing brand, or who are just starting out.
- 04:22 We want to help you communicate to your audience. We want to help you connect and create relationship between your brand and your audience or customers. Today we’re talking about messaging and the reason we’re talking about messaging is because there’s a lot of things that happen with building your own brand where people only focus on certain parts of the brand.
- 04:52 They focus on getting a website up, getting a product together, getting certain pictures taken, and getting their logo designed. One of the things I think goes by the wayside is looking at the way you structure your messaging, either in your copy, your website, or promotional materials.
- 05:19 Maybe you’re a company that still sends out mailers. There’s a lot of research on certain kinds of companies that can point to mailers as their greatest source of revenue. People who engage with their brand were brought in by the promotional material they received in the mail. That’s fascinating to me. I think that’s going to be going away more and more.
- 06:06 Kyle: There are some brands that can do well with mailing. The other day I received a package from Sticker Mule, where I get my stickers made, and they recently released the ability to make custom magnets. They sent me a whole bag of custom magnets so I could see the product and understand how it could be used. That way I could see the quality of the product and experience it. I thought that was a good gesture. Things like that you can’t experience unless you see it in person.
- 06:52 Cory: I got that exact same mailer and the magnets are all on my fridge. I don’t need magnets, but now that I have them, I want them. I went on the website that day and thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we had Invisible Details magnets?” It brought me in. In that particular case, it wasn’t about the words they used. I didn’t care about the words, I cared about the magnets. They were pulling me into themselves like a magnetic brand (Related: e034 Building a Magnetic Brand). A magnetic brand pulls people you want to attract in to your brand.
Audit your copy and ask yourself, “Is this inviting people in?”
- 08:05 Am I reaching out to others and telling them they can have a better life because of what I have to offer, or is it chasing them away because they’re bored the minute they get to my site?
- 08:21 Kyle: Messaging is so important and it’s key to everything. We’ve had a lot of experience in the design industry and it’s very typical for someone to design a nice looking website, but to keep the messaging for the end. They put in a lot of filler text. When you’re designing a website, I’ve found it so much more beneficial to sit down and write exactly what you want to communicate on that page. What is it you want to say to people? Then, go from there and structure the content around your message.
- 10:02 Cory: A lot of people focus on the way the words look and how the website looks and not how it reads. Both of those things are very important. It takes less than five seconds for someone to determine if they’re going to stay on a website or not. There’s not much time there for someone to look at your site and determine what you’re all about, what’s in it for them, and what they need to do to get started.
- 10:39 This is something Donald Miller does in his StoryBrand workshops. It’s called the StoryBrand Grunt Test—in five seconds, can someone go to your website and be able to answer the following three questions?
- What do they offer?
- How will it make my life better?
- What do I need to do or buy to get started?
- 11:15 Let’s say you walk into a coffee shop and load up your website in front of a stranger and you show it to them for five seconds. If they can’t answer those three questions well after that, you’re losing leads. People are getting to your site and thinking, “I guess I could stick around and try to make sense of this,” but more often than not, you’re going to be losing people from your website. You don’t want people going to your website and thinking, “What does this even offer?”
You’re Talking Too Much About Yourself
- 13:21 Kyle: I see this in many industries, but I see it a lot in the design industry. There’s this sense of, “I own this portfolio so it’s about me, not the person viewing it.” This happens with big companies and individuals as well. With individuals, it typically says, “Hi, I’m [name]. Here’s what I do,” and that’s not why people are there.
- 13:59 They’re not really there to get to know you upfront. They’re there because they need something done for them. They’re there because they want to purchase something or hire someone for a service. They’re not there because they want to find out about some person they’ve never heard of and ran across on the internet. That comes later.
- 14:23 Cory: There could be some people coming to your site who are interested in who you are, but those people aren’t necessarily going to be the ones buying your product—at least not all of them. Some people are just casual browsers who go to your site, read something, get value from your blog, and then realize they do need this product, but we’re not talking about the best case scenario here. We’re talking about the percentage of people that you’re chasing away because the first thing on your site is, “Hey everyone, look at me! I’m so great!”
- 15:33 In San Fransisco there’s a place called Embarcadero that has several piers with shopping and restaurants and people like to play guitars and different musical instruments on the sidewalks. When you go down there, there are hundreds and thousands of people walking around, so think about the percentage of people who are just walking by. A lot of people may stand and watch because they’re interested in what this person has to offer, but there’s also a huge percentage of people who are just walking by. In a similar fashion:
If your messaging isn’t communicating right, there are going to be people who pass you up because there’s nothing in it for them.
- 16:42 It’s all about what you’re doing. When we’re talking about story and brand, you have to understand that your brand is not the hero of anyone else’s story (Related: e009 Storytelling, Part 1 – Your Brand Story, e010 Storytelling, Part 2 – Crafting a Narrative, & e021 Stories That Bring People to You). You’re not the main character and you’re not the protagonist.
- 17:21 A lot of people believe, “Go to my website because you can learn all about me and it’s great. I can do all of this stuff and I can offer you all of these services.” It’s all me, me, me. The person you’re talking to is the hero. In the movie, the camera is focused on them and you’re on the sidelines. You’re imposing yourself into someone else’s journey.
- 17:55 Kyle: I don’t think people really do this to focus on themselves, I think most of the time this happens not because you’re selfish, it’s because there are so many places talking about leveraging your unique advantage. We’ve even talked about leveraging what you’re best at for your audience and your company on this show. I think when a lot of people hear that, they think it has to be about them or the fact that they’re doing this that makes it different.
- 18:39 “I’m doing this and here are all my qualifications. Here’s all the things I’ve done and here’s where I’ve been,” is the most basic, simplistic idea of that concept. Most people think that’s their unique advantage, but your unique advantage is not you as a person or what you can do, it’s what your customer is getting. It’s a different perspective of that same thing.
- 19:25 Cory: It’s saying, “This is how your life is going to be better,” and it’s positioning the spotlight in a different place. In your customer or audience member’s mind, the spotlight is already on them, so you need to convince them that your spotlight is on them and not on yourself. You want them to understand and believe that you’re focused on their success.
You need to be focused on your customers’ success because if your customers succeed, you succeed.
- 19:55 If people buy your product and they succeed in that, you’re a success and you will succeed because you’ll get word of mouth recommendations, return customers, and no one will want a refund. When your customers are successful, your brand will become successful. It’s not wrong to talk about yourself. If you go to Kyle’s website, the first thing I’m going to see if I want to hire someone who does icon design is, “Quality icons that speak volumes.
- 20:49 Custom icon design helps brands communicate to their audience. My name is Kyle Adams, I design icons for organizations who care deeply about the experience their users have. It’s my goals to make your goals a reality.” Even in that sentence with your name, you’re still focused on those organizations. The last sentence is saying, “I’m coming along side you. I’m entering your story because I want you to succeed.” That’s the purpose of your brand. You want to make your customers and your audience successful.
- 21:44 Kyle: If you’re a single person running a company, you do have a unique advantage because people come to you and they get your focused attention. They don’t have to mess with a whole team of people who could potentially pass them off as they go. They’re getting one person specifically working on whatever it is they need. The problem here is that it’s not a focus on you as a person, it’s saying, “I’m here to help you. I’m going to come along side you, work with you, and we’re going to tackle this thing together.”
- 22:36 It’s very focused on them, but it’s also saying, “You’re getting one person working with you. You’re getting this single person who’s focused on your project that can take that forward and help you.” I think a lot of people, when they’re talking about themselves, say, “It’s just me and I’m focused on this thing. I can provide quality,” but it’s not focused on why the potential lead would want to hire you or choose you out of all the thousands of people they could choose. Why would they choose you?
If you’re talking too much about yourself, rewrite everything on your homepage without talking about yourself once.
- 23:24 Cory: I’m not saying to publish this, but go on some of your pages—your product or landing page—and see how much of it you can rewrite without talking about yourself at all as an exercise. Do a word search and find out how many times you use “I,” “We,” “You,” and “Your”. Use this as an example to see how many times you’re focused on someone else vs. how many times you’re focused on yourself.
- 24:17 Kyle: To add to that challenge, I would say to copy all of the text on your homepage and put that into a text editor, close your website completely, and then start this challenge. That way, there’s no supporting imagery or layout to focus on, it’s just you and the wording. How are you communicating?
- 24:53 Cory: Just as an example, on Microsoft’s website,
they have a tag line for one of their products that says, “Surface Pro 4 does more, just like you.” In that, they mention the product, but you do more. You’re in charge of your schedule and your workflow. You’re productive. There’s another one that says, “See how this new PC helped a daddy blogger get more done.” They don’t say, “Microsoft is the greatest PC manufacturer in the whole world and we have a new lineup of Windows 10 PCs.”
- 25:45 For Microsoft Band, it says, “Live healthier and achieve more.” That’s speaking directly to someone who wants to live healthier and achieve more. Who doesn’t want that? Just in those examples, notice that the emphasis is on the person viewing the website and buying that product. Go look at some websites of successful companies to see what their messaging is like. Ask how much of it is them talking about themselves, and how much of it is them talking about their audience or customers?
- 26:27 Kyle: If you’re small, definitely take the time to write about yourself in some context. The way I tackled this is I made my About page completely about my story, how I’ve been helping people, and it’s focused on me. That’s what an About page should be—a company or an individual. The Home page is different, it’s completely about how I can help someone, how I can move them forward in what I do. The About page is more about me, my journey, and my story.
Your About page is where people choose to dive deeper into who you are.
- 27:24 People coming to your website for your product or service will see the Home page, shopping page, a hire page, or a contact form and they don’t ever have to see your full story if they don’t choose to, but those who want to can.
- 27:53 Cory: It takes action to get to an About page. If people are interested and they go there, they’re already locked in. We’re talking specifically about promotional messaging that people see initially and where you want to pull them in further. An About page isn’t going to pull people in further. They already have to be engaged to get to the point where they care.
You’re Using Words Your Audience Doesn’t Use or Understand
- 28:50 There are a lot of words in the English language. I see so many people using cool new words they learned in that last epic marketing course they took, but marketers are the only people using it. If your target audience is a 40 year old woman who lives in Nebraska, she’s probably not going to know what that word means.
- 29:41 The point is not to dumb-down your message, the point is to understand how your audience communicates. How do they speak? What are the words they use? Enter into that conversation instead of imposing your vocabulary on them. Communication is all about what is received.
- 30:06 It doesn’t matter what you say if what someone understood it to mean is different. I could say, “I love you,” to my wife, but if in her mind that means, “I hate you, you’re a scumbag,” then I shouldn’t keep saying that and we should have some clarity on what our words mean.
It’s more important for your audience to understand what you’re saying than it is for you to sound really smart.
- 30:50 Kyle: I definitely agree that the Home page of your website or the general mass-appeal copy you have should be worded plainly and it should be targeted at the audience you’re trying to attract. When it comes to something like a blogpost or content you share with an audience that’s a little more invested in learning from you rather than only seeing what you have to offer, I think there’s a little bit of room there for adding words you don’t typically use in promotional material.
- 32:10 Cory: You’re saying that the initial messaging is best kept simple because you want people to understand it. You want people to understand what you’re saying and be drawn in. You don’t want them to not know what a word is, have to Google it, get bored, and leave. If they’re connecting with a blogpost or reading a newsletter, they’re more engaged with what you’re writing.
- 32:37 They’re more willing to Google a word then. Kyle is saying there’s a difference between attention levels. If you can capture the attention with simplicity, then you can use something more advanced once you have them engaged a little bit deeper.
- 33:13 Kyle: I’m not necessarily helping my audience if I restrict myself from using certain words sparingly, not all at the same time or the same words over and over. If I sparingly use a word that I know maybe not everyone knows or uses, in my mind, that’s actually helping them to further their vocabulary. I don’t mean that to sound pretentious.
- 33:56 Cory: It’s not that you can’t use complex words or advanced language. There are four different levels your audience is at and the way you communicate to each of them is a little different (Related: e032 The Four Tiers of Brand Language)—Introductory, Basic, Advanced, Fluent.
- 34:30 Introductory readers are just coming in; basic readers can read through your content at a consistant pace with general comprehension; advanced readers are more experienced, may be in your industry already, and can read your content without hesitation; fluent readers have full comprehension of the words, they understand your concepts, and they’ve probably been in the industry a lot longer than the other readers.
- 34:55 There are all these different levels where you need to say: who am I writing at, and how am I inviting people in? You want people to be interested and not feel stupid. If I’m reading something, I don’t want to feel like it’s over my head and want to leave. If I’m your target audience, don’t make me feel like I’m some noob who doesn’t know anything. Invite me in.
- 35:25 There are ways you can communicate complex ideas and terms in simple ways. Kyle recently used the word “idyllic,” which is a perfect, picturesque idea or feeling. If someone doesn’t know what idyllic means, then you can add some of those other words. For example, you could say, “It was an idyllic scene, where everything was perfect and there were no problems.”
- 36:19 You give context to the word with some other simple words. There are ways you can make your messaging invite people into that vocabulary. You want people to be engaged and not get distracted, so give them space to be able to keep reading without pause or without feeling stupid. That’s what you want.
- 36:46 Kyle: This idea goes beyond vocabulary or dictionary words you use. It could also be terms you use in your industry. Let’s say I make websites. If someone comes to my website and they see this message about how letter spacing effects your audience’s ability to read your message. Overall, those terms make sense to someone who’s a potential client and that’s not in your industry.
- 37:55 If you’re trying to build an audience of people in your industry and you want to teach them this specific skill, then you’d probably say, “Kerning a typeface,” which a client wouldn’t and shouldn’t understand. That’s why they’re coming to you. There are industry-specific terms that are overlooked because the company wants to sound like they know what they’re talking about to others in their industry.
- 38:30 By doing that, they push potential clients or customers away. Cory and I talked about this a lot while I was researching how to order prints for my upcoming stores. There were a lot of sites that use these deep printing terms and I didn’t know what they meant.
- 38:55 That didn’t give me confidence that I could approach them and say, “I don’t understand this, can you help me?” They seemed to be at this point where if you don’t understand, they don’t want to help you or explain it. That’s really bad for a potential client or customer.
- 39:19 Cory: You want people to be able to continue through, even if it’s as simple as including a definition in parentheses. That may sound janky, but if that’s what you need to do, then do it, or you need to say what you’re saying in simpler terms.
- 39:38 Kyle: One of the best things you can do, especially when it’s terms specifically to what you’re offering, is to write some kind of content about this specific topic. To use the example from earlier, write a blogpost about kerning letters, what kerning is, and what it means. Then, every time you mention that word on your site, link to it.
- 40:16 That way, you’re acknowledging someone may not know that word. You’re not only defining it for them and letting them know that you’re not trying to speak over their head, but you’re also introducing them to investing their time and attention into more of your content. They’ll realize you’re there to help them a long.
- 40:47 Cory: You are championing for their cause. There are 1,000 words that have been determined to be the most commonly used words in the English language. They’re very simple, like “the,” “and,” “hundred,” “actually,” “afternoon,” “crowd,” “give,” or “given.” The creator of the XKCD comic has created a tool that will detect if anything you write into this text box fits within the 1,000 most used words in the English language.
- 41:58 If it doesn’t, you have to try to write something else in there. Can you write out your message with only the 1,000 most commonly used words in your language? This link is just an example, but it’s interesting. I even typed in the description for our show and a few of the words weren’t on the list of most commonly used words. I’m not saying you need to not use those other words, but it might give you an idea of how people speak. That’s all this is about—how does your audience speak?
How do your customers communicate?
If they don’t understand you, you can’t sell to them.
- 42:47 The point is communication, relationship, and being on the same page. If you’re alienating them because you’re using all of these terms they don’t understand, that’s not good. It could even go the other way—if you’re communicating to really intellectual people and you’re using really small words, they might think that you’re dumb or too simple. They might be expecting other bigger words and you can use those bigger words to connect with those individuals.
- 433:30 Kyle: It totally depends on the audience you’re going for.
You’re Not Leading People Anywhere With Your Messaging
- 43:53 Cory:You might be giving away information and telling people about features or you’re telling them all about yourself, but you’re not directing them anywhere. You’re not saying, “Hey, hire me.” You’re not saying, “Let me craft you a story.”
- 44:07 You’re not leading them somewhere, you’re just saying, “Here’s a feature. Here’s a statement,” and they’re thinking, “Ok…” You’re not telling a story that’s bringing people in and then leading them down a road to where they’re going to want to buy, sign up, or do whatever it is you want your audience to do.
- 44:47 You’re just saying, “Hey, I have a newsletter list.” That doesn’t entice or interest me. You’re not leading me anywhere with your messaging. Leading them doesn’t necessarily mean you’re trying to get them to pay you money. You have to look at your goals. What are your goals? Where do you want these people to be?
It’s not enough to attract an audience, you have to know what you want them to do at certain points in their relationship with you.
- 45:24 If they’re only ever standing there watching you play your music and then they walk on by, they’re never going to give you any money or buy your EP. You have to lead them somewhere with your messaging.
- 45:48 Kyle: So many people I’ve talked to that are starting their brands are really concerned about this. It comes from thinking that by promoting yourself or by trying to lead someone to a certain place you’re in some way taking advantage of them. It’s a little hard for me to connect with that, but I understand where it’s coming from. The people I’m talking about are typically people that are just starting their business and it’s just them.
- 46:29 It’s very hard for them to say, “Here’s a free thing and go over here if you’d like more on this.” The only way for your brand to keep going is to earn money. You have to be profitable so you can continue to give people these things for free. If you’re afraid to say, “Here’s something free and if you’d like more, go here,” or just “Go here to buy this thing,” then your business or brand won’t be around long enough for it to actually affect anyone.
- 47:18 You want people to succeed, you want to give away stuff for free, and you want them to get that value from you with no strings attached. The reality is all of your promotional material, anything you write, the pages on your website, your blogposts, and everything you share on social media are all meant to attract an audience and that audience is meant to eventually hire you, purchase your product, or whatever it is your financial stability comes from.
- 47:54 You can’t be afraid to lead people somewhere or tell them, “I want you to go here,” or “I want you to buy this thing,” or “I hope you’ll do this.” Once of the best messages I’ve ever heard was from Sean McCabe who said you’re doing a disservice to people if you’re not showing them the things you have to offer (Related: seanwes podcast e213 Sales Is Not a Dirty Word – Why You Need to Learn to Sell). If you’ve made a course about writing and your audience could benefit from that course and you’re not leading them there, telling them about it, or letting them know it exists because you’re afraid to sell, then you’re doing your audience a disservice.
- 49:04 Cory: If you’re too scared of people not buying to lead people anywhere, technically you’re thinking more about yourself than you are about the people you’re selling to.
You’re actually being selfish by not telling people you offer something that can make their lives better.
- 49:28 All they need is to transact with you and their life can be better and you need to actually believe that. That comes through leading people with your messaging. Go to your own website or promotional material. What are you trying to get people to do? Are you trying to get them to dial a phone number? Are you trying to get them to sign up for your newsletter? Are you trying to get them to purchase a product?
- 49:57 What are you trying to do? How are you trying to make their lives better? Are you showing and telling or are you actually guiding? Are you actually leading them to do something? Find someone who doesn’t know anything about your brand, have them go to your website—if you don’t have a website, you need to have one—and ask them what they think you’re trying to get them to do.
- 50:27 Have them browse around and ask: what is the end goal here? What am I trying to get you to do? If they say, “I think you’re trying to get me to read your blog,” or “I think you’re trying to get me to sign up on your newsletter,” or “I think you’re trying to sell me on this sweatshirt you made,” then you know.
- 51:05 A lot of bigger brands will do huge AB tests with thousands of people, but if you’re on a small scale, this is the way to do it: go to a coffee shop and find a guy sitting in the corner and ask them to look at your website. Ask and see what he says after he’s looked at it.
- 51:38 Kyle: Right now, think about what you’re doing. What is your brand for? You’ve established a brand for a reason. Let’s say you’ve created a vacuum cleaner and you want to sell it. Why did you create the vacuum cleaner in the first place? Was it because no one has a vacuum cleaner and there’s a shortage of vacuum cleaner companies out there? No, it’s because you know your vacuum cleaner is superior to those.
- 52:19 It’s going to do something better, whether that’s a different price rage, better quality, or the fact it can do more than others can. Whatever it is, there’s a reason you’re creating this product. There’s a reason you’re investing yourself in this brand and if you’re not sharing that with people, then you’re not doing what you originally created that product for.
- 52:46 You need to be saying, “I want you to buy this vacuum cleaner because it’s the best one out there,” maybe it’s not the best one out there and there are others that people like better, but you’re creating it with the intention of making the best vacuum cleaner out there and you know 100% that you’d use it over any other vacuum cleaner, then you need to promote it that way. You need to be confident in that.
- 53:22 You have to be confident that you can provide the best service and if you’re not providing the best service, you’re constantly working to do that. Your messaging should be about providing the best service. It’s realizing what you’re really creating this brand for and being confident in that instead of holding back and saying, “I think this vacuum is better than most, but I’m not sure.” Nobody is going to buy it at that point and they miss out on you putting all your time and energy into making the best vacuum they’ve ever seen.
How Much Text Should Be in My Copy?
- 54:14 Cory: Jeremiah asked, “How do I determine the right amount of text? I want to make sure I’m giving the right amount of information, but I know people will gloss over large blocks of text. Are there any tips for directing people to the things that are most important or the things that will bring them the most value?”
You know you have the right amount of text when you’ve clearly communicated your message.
- 54:34 Kyle: Even if it’s long, it’ll be engaging to those you’re trying to reach. If someone is going to your site because their Hoover vacuum died, they’re upset it can’t be repaired, and they’re tired of messing with it, they want to buy the best of this product. A great example of this is the story told by Sean McCabe about an Ikea chair he had.
- 55:30 The chair broke down and it was frustrating, so he decided to buy a great office chair that he doesn’t have to replace and won’t kill his back. He went on a search for the best office chair out there. I guarantee you, the copy on the site for the best chair has so much information just on the lumbar support. They have videos about the production and design. You could spend a significant amount of time for what it is.
- 56:30 That audience wants a really great chair and they want all of that. Even if they don’t read all of it in-depth, they know that you’ve clearly communicated and you’ve put attention into all of these details. However, if you want a lower cost chair, there’s nothing wrong with an Ikea office chair.
- 57:06 Ikea has about a paragraph on their site about this chair, because the people just want to buy an office chair. Know your audience and the amount of text you write depends on that audience. You could write a hundred blogposts about a topic or you could write one paragraph about a certain thing because you have products for convenience, like they have on Amazon.
- 57:36 Cory: On a practical level, if you want to learn more about how to capture people with your writing and how to write to convert, check out Supercharge Your Writing. This is a course we have at seanwes where you can learn to sell with words and grow your business with purposeful writing. The whole point of the course is to help you understand how to position your product or service as the obvious solution and to dominate your field.
- 58:12 You don’t want to just be competition, you want to dominate. This course will help you rethink how you write for sales. Enrollment is currently closed and we’ll be opening it later on, but if you sign up now, you can still get access to Landpages That Convert. This was a premium training that Sean did earlier this year.