How to write great copy that converts

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

ftentimes when optimizing a flow or redesigning a page, our primary focus is on getting the design and layout right. So, the entire exercise becomes about wireframing and prototyping with placeholder copy for approval and then simply adding rehashed existing copy.

Momoko Price, in her CXL course on product messaging, turns this thinking on its head and provides an excellent framework for evaluating and coming up with performant pages. No magic copywriting but insights-driven conversion-oriented copy straight from your users! The best thing about the approach is that it culls the opinions, thereby reducing the subjectivity.

In this post, I will summarize her approach to delivering a page that actually converts.

Step 1: Copy Teardown

Start by gaining a good understanding of the audience visiting and engaging with the target page. You’ll want to analyse data in your web analytics and heat mapping tools to understand where the users are coming from, what device are they primarily on, how are they engaging with the page (scroll depth, click activity etc) and where are they going etc. In case this is a new page you are working on, use a similar page (or pages) as a baseline.

Momoko then suggests evaluating the proposed copy (or existing copy) using a teardown framework drawing heavily from MECLABS Conversion Sequence Heuristic. The MECLABS Conversion Sequence Heuristic outlines five factors to focus your optimization efforts on. It is not an equation to solve but is more of a checklist to use as you work on webpages and marketing collateral.

C = 4m + 3v + 2(i-f) — 2a

where the probability of Conversion © is dependent upon visitor Motivation (m), force of the Value Proposition (v), presence of Friction (f) & Anxiety (a) in the process, and Incentive (i) offsetting Friction that cannot be eliminated.

The teardown framework is roughly based on this checklist and requires you to objectively score the copy on the following.

  • Does the copy orient the user upon entrance by matching the pre-click copy, explaining what the product does, who it is for and nudging the user down the funnel?
  • Does the copy focus on desired outcomes or elimination of pain points?
  • Does the copy bridge the gap between the product and the desired outcomes or elimination of pain points?
  • Does the copy explain the advantages of the product over other existing solutions?
  • Does the copy support claims through previews and social proof?
  • Does the copy identify and allay visitor’s anxieties and questions?
  • Does the page present the offer and next steps clearly?

While the teardown should help identify messaging that’s not meeting the mark, it doesn’t tell you what it should be. For that, message mining is important as it helps you gather customer inputs and potential testimonials. On to step 2!

Step 2: Message Mining

This step is all about getting it straight from the horse’s mouth. Literally sticking your ear to the ground to hear what your visitors want and your customers think about your product. Based on the heuristic introduced above, use the following buckets to categorize the messages as you go about mining responses:

There are a few different ways to gather responses:

Online reviews

Search for your brand name + keywords such as “reviews”, “feedback”, “complaints”, “forums”, “discussion” to gather what users are saying about you online. In addition to a Google search, you could also search on Amazon, Trustpilot, Consumer Reports, G2crowd etc. depending on your product.

Voice of customer

Survey your prospects/ visitors to understand their needs and your customers to know what actually mattered to them. Visitor Surveys are great for identifying pain points, purchase prompts and anxieties. Visitors to your website can range from those not aware that they have a need to those who are ready to purchase. So be sure to pop in a question to gauge their awareness level. Here is an example:

Which of these best describes you?

  • I’m considering a {{ type of solution }} for the first time, not sure if I need it
  • I know I need a {{ type of solution }}, I’m just looking for the best option
  • I know the exact {{ product/service name }} product I need, I’m just here to order it
  • Other (click here to type)

Based on the survey responses, you will need to devise different copy strategy for the following buckets (we’ll get there in a few so keep reading!):

  • Problem aware: These users are at very initial stages of understanding their needs and have likely not thought of a solution.
  • Solution aware: These users are aware of their need and the solutions. However, these users are likely to be comparison shoppers.

The survey should also have questions such as:

  • What do you currently use to {{ accomplish product task/goal }}?
  • Is there anything you dislike or want to change about how you currently {{ accomplish product task/goal }}?
  • What matters MOST to you when choosing a {{ type of solution }} like {{ product/service name }}?
  • Is there anything holding you back from trying {{ product/service name }} right now?

Customer surveys help understand unique value/ benefits, a-ha moments and actual positive outcomes. You could also use customer interviews for this purpose. Make sure you are targeting the right audience, for instance, survey customers who have used your product or have at least had enough time to use your product.

  • What ONE benefit would you say {{ product/service name }} you’ve gotten and valued most from using {{ product/service name }}?
  • What’s the #1 thing you’d mention to a friend if you wanted to convince them to give us a try?
  • Why did you choose {{ product/service name }} over other {{ types of solutions }}?
  • What 3 adjectives would you use to describe {{ product/service name }}?

Step 3: Crafting an effective Unique Value Proposition

While the first step helped you identify potential areas for copy improvement, step 2 involved mining VoC and online reviews for inputs on how to improve those critical areas. You should be seeing some common recurring themes emerge from the messages mined. Get a sense of volume, severity and frequency of the pain points.

Now list your product’s features and match them with the pain points and/ or desired outcomes from step 2. In addition, identify the product features that are unique to you and differentiate your product from other existing solutions.

The most effective UVP is one that is in the sweet spot between what customers want, what the product does and what’s unique about the product.

This process should help you identify a few different UVP contenders.

Step 4: Telling a story

Once we arrive at our UVP options, we need to build the rest of the page out. As per Todd Lebo from Marketing Experiments Lab “Human thoughts tend to arrange themselves in story. Therefore synchronizing your copy to the visitor’s thought sequence requires a story based framework.”

A classic story framework starts with the context, increases in intensity ultimately reaching a resolution.:

Applying this framework to a conversion oriented page, we have something like this.

Or using the conversion heuristic, it is literally overlaying previous steps to get the narrative arc as follows:

However, it is extremely important to know the awareness level of your visitors coming to this page. This is where the data from the visitor/ prospect survey comes in handy. A user who is problem aware (not solution aware) will need more copy focused on motivation while a user who is solution aware may need copy emphasizing unique benefits and handling any objections.

The messages mined in step 2 should help build out the rest of the equation — motivation, value and anxiety — on the rest of the page.

Step 5: Writing the copy

Start adding the dominant messaging and related verbatims from the message mining exercise to build out the rest of the equation. A neat trick is to tweak the verbatims into a “you-focused” second person narrative. Identify any areas that can and should be strengthened with social proof. View the copy you are writing from the lens of a skeptic and keep putting it through the “so what?” and “prove it!” drill.

It is extremely important to be clear. Being clever may not pay off and in fact, clarity even trumps persuasion. Evaluate the new copy based on the shortcomings of the original copy as per the teardown in step one. Show a ton of value- again the benefits should be prioritized based on findings in step 2. Provide quantifiable genuine proof. Humans are sensory creatures and compelling language goes a long way in creating the right images and associations in the users minds.

Step 6: Iterative Testing

Test your new page against the existing one. Test the different value propositions. Test to see what social proof is more convincing. Use heat mapping and engagement data to identify and cut anything that’s not doing real work. It’s ok to start with a ton of copy (as opposed to not) and then testing your way to a leaner page.

The above was a brief summary of the Product Messaging course. The course is rich with information and a lot of Google spreadsheets based templates and formats reducing the subjectivity from this process. I highly recommend it to anyone into copywriting or tangentially involved with a growth or conversion optimization function.

Until next time!

On the path to learning all things insights and optimization ( | Foodie | Environmentalist| Loves to travel | Player of a few riffs

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