As freelancers and consultants, we get into a familiar groove when talking to potential clients. They tell us what they want; we explain how we can deliver it for them. We answer their questions, charm them with pleasantries, and they hire us.
Hooray! All fine and good.
But then it’s time to write our website copy.
Suddenly, we have no idea how to express the power of our work. We default to listing our services and showing off work we’ve done for past clients. But other than that, we feel tongue-tied.
We can sense that our copy is missing the confidence, meaning, and value that we’re so capable of pulling off over coffee or during a phone call.
Why is that?
Because writing is like having a one-sided conversation.
When you’re having a verbal conversation, there’s a back-and-forth. You react to that person’s specific needs, wants, and feelings in real time. You do this automatically, subconsciously, without much planning or forethought.
But with written copy, you don’t have this luxury. Without the back-and-forth, it can feel like you’re talking to a wall. Which is super awkward!
Instead, you need to predict how your readers are feeling, what situation they’re in, etc. You have to lay the breadcrumbs to walk your reader through the conversation you would more naturally have in person.
And to do THAT, you have to write from their perspective, using their language.
And by “language,” I don’t mean the silly business jargon of whatever industry they’re in.
I mean, the words they actually use when they’re describing the problem that you can solve for them.
Here are 3 ways to gather that language:
1. Take notes during your calls/meetings.
When you’re in a call with a potential client, you’re probably listening very intently – but you’re listening with the goal of saying the “right thing.”
On your next call, try to save some of your brain space for listening with the goal of understanding how they describe their current problems, goals, and feelings. Jot these down, or record your call with a service like Uber Conference so you can go back and take notes later. After doing this a few times, you’ll probably see some patterns emerge.
2. Cull through old emails.
When you’re first emailing with someone who’s considering hiring you, they’ll usually start by explaining what they need help with. This “raw” version of what they are looking for or experiencing can be so helpful!
Maybe they’re “fed up” or “frustrated” or “overwhelmed” or “excited” and are finally making a move. Or maybe they’ll mention why you rose to the top of the pack when they were researching their options. Go back and see what it was that motivated them to first reach out.
3. Ask them!
“Market research” sounds fancy and complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be as easy as emailing a few past or existing clients, or even reaching out to someone you’d love to work with in the future.
Tell them you’re doing some market research, and then ask a few questions about the things you feel a bit in the dark about when it comes to your clients. (Pro tip: asking how a certain problem makes them “feel” can be especially illuminating!)
* * *
Once you’ve gathered some of this “data” (ooh, fancy!), re-visit your website copy and see where you can weave it in.
Here’s a real-life example from my business.
A while back, I did some market research calls with people who fit my target market. And I noticed that several of them used the words “embarrassed” or “ashamed” when it came to their own website content.
Before I spoke with them, I had no idea they felt this way! I expected them to feel slightly annoyed that they had outdated or half-assed website copy, but I had no idea just how strongly it was affecting them emotionally – that it was a constant source of worry and shame. (Yikes!)
So I turned that into the #1 bullet on my Website Content Overhaul package:
“You want a website that you’re actually proud of instead of one that makes you want to hide under your desk in embarrassment.”
It’s a concept that resonates strongly with my target market. And I’m not just guessing! I know it does because they told me so.
I’m not blabbing on about ROI or SEO or sales funnels or client personas or any other marketing mumbo-jumbo. I’m getting right to the heart of what my clients are struggling with, and saying it in simple language. In a nutshell, “Your website makes you feel like shit. Let’s change that!”
How can you do this in your content?