It’s the writers job to ensure there is something for everyone
When we sweat over a piece of copy, we’d all like to think that readers will be every bit as committed to it as we are.
But sadly, it ain’t so. Some might give it their full attention, others will give it a cursory glance…and it’s your job as the writer to make sure every type of reader gets what they’re looking for.
Here are three ‘straw man’ readers who might happen upon your web page:
Reader #1: Mrs Methodical
NLP experts would call this person ‘auditory’. She wants the devil of the detail, and she won’t skim over a single word for fear of missing something important.
In some ways, Mrs M is your ideal reader, because she’ll go left to right and top to bottom until every point is absorbed. That said, her temperament makes her averse to quick decisions, so don’t confuse a good reader with a red hot prospect!
If you want her business, make sure you don’t lapse into the language of sales. She’ll expect you to explain the benefits calmly and efficiently, followed by a zero pressure call to action that lets her get in touch with you whenever she’s good and ready.
The best way to convert her is a hands-off charm offensive, designed to show off competence and authenticity. Free reports, trials and consultations are always effective, and guarantees are a big hairy must.
Have you met before?
Chances are, you’ve met at work. She’s great at all the dotting and crossing of Is and Ts, so most likely to work in thorough fields like HR, Facilities, Operations, Logistics, Finance or Legal.
Reader #2: Mr Impatient
Time is money and money is time for this highly visual type. He hates reading long reports, and even Executive Summaries can leave him yelling “Get on with it!”
When it comes to your web page, frankly he’s just not going to read it – at least, not until you’ve really earned his precious attention. So your headline and sub-headings have got their work cut out. If they don’t say “What’s In It For Me?”, then suddenly the back and home buttons will start to look pretty tempting.
The most important factor for Mr Imp is scannability. Can he tell at a glance what the web page has in store, by scanning images and prominent bits of text? He’ll use your sub-headings as ‘markers’, to steer him through the message…and if he finds something to his advantage, he might just condescend to go back and read the whole thing!
This reader sounds frustrating, but he’s also a good prospect. He doesn’t have the time or inclination to shop around extensively, so once he finds what he’s looking for, he’ll set the wheels in motion. So it’s worth making the extra effort to tap into his way of reading.
One easy device is bullets. He’ll naturally seek out bullet points, because that’s where the key benefit statements are usually found. And he’s especially fond of bullets that only use a few critical words – dropping the pronouns and conjunctions that slow things down in normal copy.
All you have to do is write a bullet list (just above your call to action), and bombard him with benefits: “Thanks to this product, you’ll…” dot dot dot!
Have you met before?
Mr Imp is definitely in your workplace. If he’s not the MD, he’s most likely to work in Sales, Recruitment or Business Development. Failing that, he’s the entrepreneur who’s hammering your door down every day.
Reader #3: Ms Interactive
Talk ‘at’ this person and her eyes will glaze over. But invite her to get involved and she’ll bite your virtual hand off!
She’s probably under 35, and a social media freak…so she’ll expect to engage with you through any and every platform. That doesn’t mean you can drop in a few social icons and reap the rewards – but if you trail your conversations, quizzes and general virals, she’ll jump on one or two and start a relationship with your brand.
As for your actual sales message, she might give you a few milliseconds of attention. But if you add a video, she’ll sit and watch intently – especially if the video thumbnail image is something out of the ordinary.
Have you met before?
If you’ve got children over the age of 10, you definitely know this person! At work, she’s most likely to work in sexy industries like PR, Marketing or Event Management.
So, can you be all things to everyone?
Yes – at least, if you have to! For some products, it’s safe to assume that your reader sits in one camp more than another. For example, if you’re selling retirement plans to the over 50s, it’s probably wise to assume you’re writing to Mrs Methodical. If you’re selling the latest marketing widget to entrepreneurs, you’re probably talking to Mr Impatient. And if you’re plugging an event at your local student’s union, you’ll be talking almost exclusively to our Ms Interactive.
But we don’t all have the luxury of a cut and dried prospect base. For most of us, our readers will be a mixed bag, so your web page needs a broad appeal.
Here’s one way to keep everyone happy:
- Make sure your headline confirms who your audience is, and why they should read on
- Add a video close to the top of the page, with an intriguing thumbnail and caption
- Add a Twitter feed, and trailers for other social media content
- Keep your copy fast-paced, but not aggressively hyped
- Break the text into sections, with sub-headings every 3 or 4 paragraphs
- Make sure your sub-headings work together to tell a story
- Dress up the text with images, each with an alt tag and on-screen caption
- Use bullets to stress the main benefits, just before you pitch for the sale
- Make your call to action highly visible, in the form of a contact box or banner
- Use sidebars to show incidental info, like testimonials
- Link to other content, so there’s no ‘dead end’ at the foot of the page
Yep, it’s a careful balance, in terms of layout and tone of voice. But get the balance right and your response rates will increase.
So take a fresh look at your web pages, through the eyes of each type of reader. It could be an eye-opening exercise that marks a shift in the way you write copy for the web…