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I'm thinking that I need to present the surfer with one to three sentences that will immediately build TRUST. Not try to sell any STUFF but just build a TRUST in the site / company. Then allow the surfer to click through and give him/her the benefits and begin the selling process. My STUFF is not that different than other sites STUFF in my industry.
Just would like to say that knowing the brand is essential to me on the web. When I am looking to buy a product / service, or even a site like this, personal recommendation and past recollections of the site at least get me to your site to buy something!
If I have bought something from you, and I see your name being flashed about the net still, chances are I will go back. If you dont make money from me buying your product, your on the make with the ad revenue
Just my opinion as a consumer :)
The last sentence of a conventionally written paragraph is a danger spot -- a place where it is easy to lose your visitor. We all learned in high school English to begin a paragraph with a new idea and end with some kind of summary or conclusion. Most of the prose we read does exactly this. But there's just one problem.
This convention does nothing to further the "velocity" of the reader and move them forward to the next paragraph. Instead it creates a flat spot, a drop in the energy and a place to leave. Direct response copy writers have developed a way to bypass this trap.
These professionals succeed by ignoring the paragraph convention. Because wrapping things up in the last sentence invites the reader to stop right there, direct marketing copy introduces a new facet of the topic just before the paragraph break. Then the next paragraph develops this just-begun thread, and at the end it introduces the next twist. This writing style creates forward movement, but it also has another valuable benefit.
With this technique, even someone who begins reading in the middle of your copy will probably back up to the beginning. It's a simple idea, and I've sometimes written this way intuitively, but never before by conscious design.
To give proper credit - I picked up this tip from a newly published book called "Net Words: Creating High-Impact Online Copy" by Nick Usborne. It has stimulated my writing gland, and given me many new ideas to make web pages do a better job converting visitors to customers.
For better conversions, if it is appropriate, I'd go with short testimonials/references from happy customers. If you have a wide array of products, solicit testimonials lauding your customer service, shipping, prices, whatever stands out in the customers mind. If you do not have a back log of testimonials, you can ask for them. I have made it a policy to ask all clients for a testimonial, and when appropriate- referrals.
As a side benefit, asking a client for a testimonial can also help to over come "buyers remorse" after the sale. since they did commit to paper what a good job you did. <Frequently things don't appear as good to the customer further out after the sale, as they did immediately after the sale when the customer is still "glowing".>
Many people espouse using a photo of yourself or staff, making the interface with your website more "human". I have not seen any hard data about this, but in theory, I like it. Paper catalogs have done this for years. Trust in a machine is not as easy as trust in an individual <Unless of course you look like a famous terrorist or criminal. In that case, use stock photography. ;) >
Humanising is vital I think but stock photography I find unethical and similar to the current British TV obsession with cute blonde young women presenters who appear to have to be presenting on every program whether they know anything at all about the contents of the programme or not.
Why not just screen baywatch 24/7 if that is all they think we want to watch. I turn it off or go do something useful the minute a dumb blonde presentable presenter appears because I know what her appearence means for the quality of the programming.
Take the time, make the effort, shave your beard .. please dont start down the fake bimbo road! :-)
That's my advice bigjohnt even if you did'nt ask for it :-)
Web copy can afford to be more intimate than brochure copy. It's the nature of the medium. So it's well worth the time to air out that musty old print-world smell. Developing a unique and human voice for your website and your stock emails is a really good move. It takes time/energy/money but it is well spent!
I also like using testimonials very much -- and making them very easy to bump into. Those customer testimonials on Amazon have been a big part of their success. It's something you can't get in a physical world book store and Amazon makes the most of it.
Last year we changed the index page for a client website to BEGIN with a "from our customers" panel -- it's animated (oh, the horror of it) and rotates through five or six real world testimonials. The panel is the very first thing a visitor sees when they arrive. We keep the testimonials fresh and edit them very minimally so they retain the authentic voice of a real person.
That one move gave a nice boost to conversions.