Is Your Web Content Compelling?

Feature-Oriented Content

Way back in the early days, advertisers would go to great lengths to tout the features of their product or service. Their goal was to convince you that the quality of their product or service was superior. Think of how excited you got when you read the product’s promotional literature. It probably sounded like a technical owner’s manual. An owner’s manual tells you about the details of a product.

Feature-oriented language reminds me of the old television show, Dragnet, where the police would say, “All we want are the facts, ma’am”. Features = facts. Feature-oriented content is telling someone about something. Not very convincing, in fact, it’s downright boring. Feature-oriented content is what’s known as ‘tell’ content. “Let me tell you about X, Y and X features of my product of my service. Where’s the compelling sales message?

Benefit-Oriented Content

Towards the end of the early years, some creative advertising writer thought that advertising messages should focus, not only on the features of a product, but, also on the benefits of the product they are selling. And so, benefit-oriented content came flying in to the mainstream. Benefit-oriented content answers the question, “What’s in it for me, the customer?” Benefit-oriented content sells, not tells. This type of content convinces customers that your product or service will help them. Customers want to know what your product or service can do for them.

Use benefit-oriented content on your website, brochure, or any other printed material. Start with a short headline. Try to use less than seven words in the headline. Next, write a few sentences of introductory content followed by a bulleted list of benefits. Use as few bullets as possible in order to keep your message clear and concise. Always put a call-for-action on the bottom such as Call Me, Email Me, Go To My Website, etc. Don’t use gratuitous graphics or stale free clip art.

Here’s an example of how features can be turned into benefits. This example is taken from Varidesk’s (the manufacturer of stand-up work desks) promotional content I found on their website.

Example of Promotional Content Used by Manufacturer of Stand-Up Desks

FeatureBenefit to Customer
Patented two-handle design coupled with a spring-assisted boost-enabled lifting mechanismMakes moving from sitting to standing quick and easy
Desk works either standing or sittingPerfect way to increase energy, your health, and productivity
No hardware needed to secure desk to workstationEasy to install

The Benefits column definitely answers the question, “What’s in it for me”.

Now it’s your turn. Think about your business. In the left column, list three features of your product or service. On the corresponding right column, turn each feature into a benefit.

What Product or Service Do I Sell?

Feature                                                                              Benefit to Customer
1.1.
2.2.
3.3.

 Now that you’re comfortable features into benefits, get to work on re-writing all your promotional content.

Top Ten Words & Phrases to Avoid

words

Here’s my Top Ten Words and Phrases to Avoid when writing anything. In my opinion, these words and phrases hold little or no meaning to the reader. I notice when some people write (especially their resume or bio), they tend to use these words. It seems like the writer can’t concretely articulate their message, so they use these words and phrases as a default. This reminds me of the infamous words of Curley from the Three Stooges, who profoundly stated, “I’m tryin’ to think, but nuttin’s happening!”

I have to admit I use some of these words or phrases, some of the time. Nobody’s perfect.

The Top Ten Words and Phrases to Avoid are not jargon words. Jargon is defined as “special words or expressions used by a particular profession or group that are difficult for others to understand.” Jargon is “technical talk.” The use of jargon has been adequately covered in my two treatises Why I Hate Jargon in 69 Words and Here Comes the Jargon Police.

Here’s my Top Ten Words and Phrases to Avoid in no particular order:

  1. Behavior
  2. Opportunity
  3. Concern
  4. Utilize
  5. In-depth knowledge
  6. Extensive experience
  7. Process
  8. Heavily involved
  9. Move forward
  10. Wide variety

 How are you going to eliminate using all or some of these words or phrases?

Ask yourself two questions:

  1. Is there one particular word or phrase I use when I can’t think of anything specific?
  2. Are there other words or phrases I can substitute?

Now you’re aware of these words and phrases, you can take the opportunity, using your extensive experience and in depth knowledge to move forward while utilizing a wide variety of alternative words and phrases. Oops, look what I did!

Why I Hate Jargon in 69 Words

jargon visual

Why I hate jargon:

“This matter of language is important. Professional jargon –on Wall Street, in humanities departments, in government offices-can be a fence raised to keep out the uninitiated and permit those within it to persist in the belief that what they do is too hard, too complex, to be questioned. Jargon acts not only to euphemize but to license, setting insiders against outsides and giving the flimsiest notions a scientific aura.”

From Can You Keep a Secret by George Packer, The New Yorker, March 17, 2016

What do you think?

Essential Elements of an Awesome Website

I encourage all of you who are promoting a service or product to keep current on the latest trends in building and transforming your website. Let’s hear from Gabe Seiden about making sure you’re dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s when it comes to building your website. Your website is often the first interaction between you and your audience (customers, donors, readers, grantees, general public, etc.). It’s essential that your website impresses your target audience. Building an impressive website requires either a significant investment of time and effort or a significant investment of money. Sometimes it requires all that and more. You really shouldn’t settle for anything less than a totally impressive website. In fact, your website should be awesome right from the get-go.

Here, then, are the essential elements of an awesome website: It has to look good. If you want to capture and maintain attention, your website must look good and it must look good to your target audience. Knowing your audience is critical because there are a wide variety of awesome websites, but not all are appropriate for the same audiences. So, you need to think about the following elements of visual design:

  • layout
  • color palette
  • fonts/typography
  • images
  • symmetry and balance
  • white space
  • supporting media/videos

It needs a clearly defined purpose.

Visitors should be able to determine what your site is about at a single glance.  If your site is about cars, that should be obvious.  If your site is about drones, I should be able to see that.  If your site is about Chuck Norris, you shouldn’t need to explain.  It should be perfectly clear what your site is about, without requiring any real thinking.

Yet you’ll see dozens of therapy and yoga websites with serene pictures of waterfalls or zen-like arrangements of pebbles. These may be beautiful and put people in a good mood, but it’s only a good approach if the purpose of the website is obvious. It is hard enough to get people to your website. Make sure that once they get there, they know what it is you want them to do.

It has to be easy to use.

An awesome website should be totally intuitive. That means someone visiting the website doesn’t have to think to figure out how to move around the site. The very best sites make people forget what they came to see – as long as they find what they were looking for in the first place.

User-friendly websites include:

  • clear and coherent navigation
  • links that give a good indication of what they lead to
  • something that makes users want to explore further
  • good accessibility features
  • seamless responsiveness

A well designed website is like a well-designed chair. People should want to sit in it. The feeling should be that it’s almost impossible to resist being drawn in. 

Put the most important things at the top of the page.

Always lead with whatever is most important. Don’t tuck those things away in the footer and make people have to hunt for them. When the visitor finds what they are looking for, make sure it works.

Make sure all users have an awesome experience.

The site should work on all devices. To do this your site needs to be responsive. It needs to have images that are optimized so they don’t use too much bandwidth to load.