Lights, Camera, Action

Written: 26-Jan-2009 | Last modified: 19-May-2009 | Filed under: Content & Copy

In my business, I analyze a lot of websites. And I’ve found some issues that seem to be fairly widespread, affecting most sites I review.

For instance, I’ve noticed when reviewing web copy that too many webmasters are apparently taking sales lessons from my 8-year old son. See, when he wants something (but he’s afraid his dad and I might say no), he tends to get all chatty. He’ll go on and on about all the wonderful qualities of whatever new toy it is that struck his fancy, how much fun it looks to be to play with, how some of his friends already have the toy in question and really enjoy it. He’ll talk all around the real point of what he wants, but somehow never arrive at asking right out.

I see the same problem with all too many websites.

Maybe the problem is the webmaster has taken too much to heart the advice to focus on benefits and forgotten that there also needs to be a call to action. Or perhaps the site owner is afraid if she asks for the sale the customer will say no and leave, never to return. In any case, the copy on the site goes on and on about how brilliant their products or services are, and all the wonderful things they bring about… but somehow the copy never gets around to asking for the sale.

Customers aren’t dummies. At some level, they probably know that’s what you want. So, with this in mind, possibly the web writer thinks it’s too “pushy” or forward to be so bold as to directly tell the customer to purchase the product.

Trust me, it isn’t.

I’m sure most people know deep down that’s what you want them to do. I mean, seriously, otherwise what’s the point? But psychologically, even when we know what we’re “supposed” to do next, we all sometimes need a bit of a nudge to move us in the right direction. And sometimes, frankly, the most-desired next step simply isn’t clear. That’s where a well-crafted call to action comes in. Or better yet, several well-crafted calls to action.

Absolutely, make the case for why your product or service is the one the customer should choose. Differentiate yourself from the competition. Explain the benefits you bring to the table. These things are all important — crucial, even.

Just don’t forget in the midst of all your benefit-focused copy to tell people what you really want them to do: whether that’s make a purchase, or sign up for your newsletter, or click through to the next page to learn more, or donate to a charity, or whatever. Don’t make your website visitors guess what their next step should be. Tell them early and tell them often.

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