You’re an owner of a manufacturing-based business who understands the power of online marketing. You see your competitors investing in their websites, and you know you should, too. You decide to tackle writing your own copy and soon find yourself wondering, Am I doing this right?
Crafting copy your clients will love takes time, research, and an in-depth knowledge of your market. There are some costly (but tragically common) mistakes to avoid if you want to attract your ideal clients and convert them into happy customers.
Let’s review a case study with Jim, the owner of a small industrial manufacturing company. He is a composite of several of my past clients.
Jim inherited his family-owned business 15 years ago, and it’s thriving. Like many in his industry, his company and client base has transformed thanks to technological advancement, customer demand, and a small but dedicated team of employees. He’s growing his company to take on larger, more lucrative contracts from a diverse clientele base across North America. His website is more than a decade old. He keeps meeting prospects at trade shows who say, “I’ll take a look at your website on Monday.”
Jim is business-savvy and knows his industry inside out. He oversees multi-million dollar projects and understands how his machinery is manufactured from top to bottom. He runs a successful business in an increasingly complex and competitive market and serves customers who demand nothing less than perfection. But, when faced with revamping his website, he feels overwhelmed. Like many others, he’s made these mistakes with his copy and learned how to fix them.
1) Not speaking to your ideal client
Jim has two problems:
- He knows so much about his company, its products and services, and his industry in general. He sits down to write and soon starts to wonder how he’s going to fit all that knowledge onto the website, unaware that prospective customers will feel totally overwhelmed. They’ll click away before even reading.
- Jim thinks he wants as many clients as possible. But he soon discovers trying to appeal to everybody will leave him with bland, boring copy. The new website needs to show visitors how his company is helping its most loyal clients solve their problems. He knows he needs more data to write more focused copy, but where can he get it?
The secret to writing great website copy is that it’s not about you, it’s about your clients. You wouldn’t walk up to a potential client at a networking event, start telling them all about yourself, and dropping confusing industry jargon. Don’t do it on your website, either.
Your prospects want to know one thing: how you can help them.
To help them find the answers they’re looking for, you have to know who they are, what they value, and why they should choose you. That’s why I spend a lot of time developing personas.
As for who to talk to to get a complete picture of your ideal client, consider:
Current and past clients
What made them want to work with you? Why did they choose you over your competitors? What were their challenges and pain points?
Your sales staff
Members of your sales team are valuable stakeholders. They talk to your company’s prospects every day. What new challenges are your prospects facing, and how is your company providing a solution to their problems? What are your prospect’s common objections, and how is your staff addressing them? How are market trends influencing your sales? What demographic insights can your staff provide?
Any opportunity to talk with prospects directly is highly valuable. Engage them on social media by asking about their top problems with their current systems. Talk to them at trade shows and networking events. Be genuinely curious about how you can help them solve their problem, what you’re doing well, and what you need to improve on.
The more details you can suss out, the better. You’ll find critical nuggets of information you can use to appeal to your visitors that you haven’t even thought of. By the end of this process, you’ll start to see patterns develop. All of these tiny insights will come together like puzzle pieces. They help you build a complete and detailed persona, and you’ll start to feel like you’re talking to a few people instead of trying to appeal to thousands.
2) Starting design before writing your copy
When he saw all the various options available for themes, web designers, and price ranges, Jim got excited. He’d finally have a website that belonged in the 21st century! But once he talked to a couple of his contacts who owned web development agencies or were freelance web designers, he heard the refrain of, “It’s easier when I have the content to work with.”
Design plays a critical role in the development of your site, and it’s one of the first elements you’ll think about when you embark on a project. But ensuring good user experience means you design around your content. Taking a content-first approach will also help ensure your project stays in scope for timeline and budget, preventing you from having to pay your designer to make expensive changes to your graphics and code to accommodate your content.
3) Not linking content to your business goals and strategy
Jim knew he needed an impressive website to outshine his competitors online and beat them to valuable prospects.
Your strategy for content should be dictated by your goals for your business. Jim identified three goals:
First, he wanted to present his message to project managers who were researching his company as part of an RFP process. He needed to communicate his company’s talent, industry experience & knowledge, and their track record for completing large, complex projects on time and on budget, with an unblemished safety record.
Second, he wanted visitors to review product pages and email the sales department with any specific questions. He knew his sales staff was his secret weapon and that he could use them to earn more sales through online leads.
Finally, Jim had specific markets to target. He decided he needed to take on larger, more profitable projects. He wanted more clients in the construction and industrial sectors. These were companies and agencies with at least $10 million to invest in months-long projects. They also had stringent deadlines, safety regulations, and processes to adhere to.
The website had to answer the question, “Why should I believe that you can deliver a better product, with more reliability, than your competitors?” It also had to pre-qualify customers before that first meeting. He hired a photographer to take headshots of each staff member. He also wrote bios for top management to establish trust with prospects.
Bonus: Build your knowledge of content marketing and content strategy
Read enough about content creation and you’ll start to run into the terms content marketing and content strategy. Here are two of the best definitions I’ve seen:
Content strategy means getting the right content, to the right people, in the right place, at the right time. – Brain Traffic
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. – Content Marketing Institute
Curious about content marketing and strategy, and what they can do for you? Start with 8 Reasons Every Small Business Should Utilize Content Marketing by Neil Patel and Your Small Business Needs a Content Strategy, Here is a Plan You Can Start Today on Forbes Tech
4) Forgetting clear, appropriate Calls to Action
Jim is so immersed in his company on a daily basis that he sometimes forgets that first-time visitors to the website are probably total newcomers. They won’t know where to find the information they’re looking for without being pointed to it, or even that the information is available on the website.
Without clear Calls to Action, they’ll easily get lost before they make it to the Contact page, and move on to a site with a better user experience. The opportunity to connect with them will be gone.
In business and in online marketing, you only get what you ask for. That’s why it’s critical to have a Call to Action on every page, with excellent content around it to build anticipation. What do you want your visitors to do once you’ve read your content? Don’t make them wonder; spell it out!
A Call to Action is a word, phrase, or sentence that encourages the reader to take a specific action. – OptinMonster
- Use action-oriented text that creates urgency in your reader
- Are easy to find on the page
- Are brief (between two and five words in length)
- Make the benefit of clicking clear
- Deliver what you promise immediately
5) Emphasizing features over benefits in your home page copy
Jim takes pride in his machinery and how it’s manufactured, but its functionality, quality, and lifespan are similar to his competitors’. He knows he’s got less than one minute to appeal to potential customers who are checking out his website for the first time but is at a loss as to how to differentiate his company from the others his prospects will consider.
Typically, first-time visitors to your website aren’t interested in the nuts and bolts of your product or service, or how it’s crafted.
They’re scanning your home page, looking for:
- Your experience and expertise in working with clients in their industry
- Indications that your product or service will solve their problem
- Clues that your staff are accessible and easy to deal with
- What they should do next
Especially in the manufacturing and other technical industries, features have their place. When you’ve made the shortlist of competitors for a project, promoting your features onsite and in product pages will:
- Put prospects’ minds at ease and contribute to your trustworthy and transparent image
- Make it easier for them to do as much upfront research as possible
- Empower them to contact you on their terms
- Save staff time in answering frequently asked questions about your product
However, talking features too early on overwhelms prospects who aren’t convinced yet. Instead, focus on your customer. What do those features allow them to do? What problems do they solve? Answering those questions will reveal the benefits you offer.
6) Not investing in SEO
Jim has heard about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and knows he needs to invest in it if his new website is going to attract visitors and outrank his competitors. But he has no idea where to start. How will he find the right keywords? How much content does he need, and where? What about links? Can he do it himself?
The algorithms major search engines like Google use to rank results change all the time. But publishing high-quality, valuable content will continue to majorly influence how your pages are ranked.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and start to wonder, What makes good content, anyway?
Believe it or not, you have an advantage when it comes to understanding the basics of on-page SEO. According to this simple explanation of on-page ranking factors by MOZ, an SEO consulting company, good content satisfies demand (just like the products or services your company provides). People have to want to read what’s on your site enough to keep clicking. Good content tells a story your readers can relate to, and it’s linkable and shareable.
Every page of your website, from About to Services and especially your blog, needs high-quality content that informs, educates, and delights your visitors. And don’t forget about title tags, URLs, image alt text, and meta descriptions.
If I’ve piqued your curiosity, there’s much more to learn about SEO (even beyond content!), and creating highly valuable content your visitors will love.
7) … And forgetting the other factors that help drive demand
Heading into 2018, attracting visitors and converting them into customers takes more than choosing the right keywords. Your goal is to create customer demand. You have to be seen by the right audiences, educate and persuade them, and make sure the experience they have on your website is among the best – that’s no easy feat! One of the key things to remember:
You’re writing for people, not robots.
That means the experience they have on your website matters. As you’ll read in this article about marketing best practices manufacturers should use in 2018, there’s a whole trifecta to consider:
- User experience
- Content marketing
- Search engine optimization
Each of these is a discipline in itself, and getting it right takes time, patience, and expertise. Fortunately, there are many resources out there and dedicated professionals with experience in helping small manufacturers succeed online. Don’t hesitate to seek us out.
There are a lot of mistakes you can make with your copy that I haven’t covered here. Have you seen copy that made you cringe? Why? Tell me your story in a comment!