The most important part of the design process is the content. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.
You can have a website that looks really freakin’ good which doesn’t convert. You can also have a website that looks terrible and converts really freakin’ well.
What we want, however, is a website that looks really freakin’ good AND converts really freakin’ well.
To do that, we need a great product or service (which let’s assume you already have) and great content.
Unfortunately, many people freeze up when it comes to writing content. Maybe you don’t enjoy writing. Maybe it doesn’t come easy for you. Maybe you’re trying to write in a language that isn’t your first. Or maybe you just don’t know where to start.
This article is going to help give you a process that you can use to write content, without having to start with a blank page.
It does assume a few things:
1. You have some sort of offer (whether it’s a free email course, a product, or a service)
2. You know who your target audience is and how you can help them
3. You have a clear value proposition (what you offer and the benefit to your customer)
Once you have these ready, let’s move onto writing content for your landing page.
You are not your customer: curate, don’t create.
“Great copy is the result of curation not creation”. –Joanna Wiebe
This quote by Joanna Wiebe from Copyhackers is one of my favourites. What she’s saying is that you don’t need to start with an empty page and form your copy out of thin air. It doesn’t matter if words don’t magically flow from you to form a landing page.
Gathering together what your existing audience is already saying about (or to) you is the first step in creating content for your landing page.
Why? Because you are not your customer. You may think you know what they care about but unless you’re hearing it over and over again, in their own words, you’re just guessing.
Think of the curation as the research part of a project. (Yes, the part that everyone likes to skip).
Your goal with this is to find out:
1. How your audience describes your product or service
2. What problems they’re experiencing that’s related to your proposed solution
3. What they really care about in your product or service (Hint: it’s probably not your code base – as important as that is)
You don’t need to worry about how this is going to form a coherent landing page yet, you just need to gather the data.
There are a few ways to do this:
1. Survey people in your audience
Having well-placed surveys with the right questions at key points in your users journey can be a great way to get raw data on what your audience needs from you.
A great time to capture this information is when someone has just plugged in their email address to say they want to hear from you in their inbox.
You can either do this right on the thank you page or with an automated follow up email a few minutes after they sign up.
The way Design Academy has historically done this is when people sign up to my free email course, I send them this email asking them the following:
“What is your biggest frustration with design?
In other words, what one thing bugs the hell out of you? And if I had a magic wand and can make it go, poof, what would that do for you and the projects you work on?”
We’ve been getting responses to this email every day for years. And most importantly, we still read, reply to, and store each and every one.
We use Google Sheets to collate these responses and we normalise them by categorising each response under a headline so we can see roughly which topics they fall into.
This serves two purposes.
- We can easily see what we need to be writing about in our blog
- When we write content for a landing page, we can open up this spreadsheet and absorb everything our audience is saying about what they struggle with
You can see the results of this in the home page of Design Academy with the headline: “I know good design when I see it, I start every project thinking this is going to look so slick and awesome. And the results were just completely underwhelming.”
We didn’t write that. Our customers wrote that. It was a recurring statement that we heard over and over and over again. All we did was listen.
But what if you need this data NOW
If you haven’t been collecting this data for a while, you might be feeling a bit stuck as to how this can help you.
If that’s the case, there are two things you should do right now:
First, get something in place to capture this information going forward. It might not help you right now, but long-term you’ll be glad you did it. Whether it’s an automated email, or a question embedded into a thank you page, just get something up.
2. Interview people in your audience
If you need to get a lot of data quickly, you can’t beat talking to your customers (or prospective customers) one-on-one.
When possible, you should interview people as soon as they take action, whether it’s making a purchase or signing up to your list, because they’ll be in the zone and they’ll know exactly why they just bought or signed up, where they were previously, and what they’re hoping to get out of it.
“Human memory is extremely fallible. If we can’t remember something, we start making shit up.” –Els Aerts
“When I was just starting out building a list, I wasn’t getting many new subscribers. But when I did, it was really exciting. I knew I could be sending them a bunch of canned automated emails – that’s what you’re supposed to do, right?
But I was really curious to know why people wanted to get my emails. So rather than sending canned emails, I’d send the following whenever someone new joined my email list: “Hey, I’m Brennan, the guy behind this site. Any chance you’re free to jump on a quick 5-10m call with me? Not trying to sell anything or whatever. I just want to know a bit about who you are and what you’re hoping I can help you with via my free content”” –Brennan Dunn
The personal response in a world of automation took people by surprise and almost everyone said yes.
It doesn’t need to be complicated. Just ask them a few questions about who they are, what they do, what led them to buy or sign up today, and what are they hoping to achieve at the end of this.
It shouldn’t feel like an interview. It should feel like a conversation.
Justin Jackson learned the value in talking to customers when he was building Transistor.
Customers would occasionally reach out and say, “Hey, can we jump on a phone call?”
He would reluctantly agree, and not look forward to the exchange (if you’re an introvert, you might relate!)
However, when he actually did the phone calls he found them insanely valuable. He’d ask them things like:
- What was going on in your life when you signed up for Transistor?
- What made you choose us over anyone else?
- What were the impediments in your way?
- At any point, did you not trust us?
That last question ended up being the most useful for optimising their landing pages. He’d add in testimonials at any point where trust was lower and it would help people overcome their objections to signing up with Transistor.
“Getting that directly from somebody on the phone was so helpful and enabled me to see my landing pages from a whole different perspective.” –Justin Jackson
When you do these calls, it’s important to record them (ask permission first). The last thing you want is to be furiously scribbling down notes while someone is talking. Not only is it incredibly off-putting as the interviewee but it also stops you from fully listening and engaging.
So record each call and immediately after go to a transcription service like Rev, get it all typed out, print it off and then sit in your favourite armchair with a cup of tea (mandatory) and start highlighting anything that stands out to you.
3. Comb through past sales calls, emails, and reviews
The final way you can curate content is by combing through old sales calls. Similar to the interviews, make sure you record sales calls and send them to be transcribed. Then you can go ahead and read them, highlight them, and look for any common themes that keep cropping up.
You can do the same with support tickets, pre-sale emails, or even online reviews. Basically use anything you can get your hands on to find out what people are saying about, and to, you.
You can do this yourself or assign it to an assistant if you have one. Ask them to keep a spreadsheet with what people are asking. If you see something cropping up over and over again, you’ll know you need to add it to your landing page.
Ideally, when you come to start writing your content, you will be starting with a document full of things people are already saying about you. You’ll be fully immersed in what your audience cares about and how they describe their struggles.
You can then use this to hone in your value proposition and pick out key phrases that you may want to use in your actual website.
So that’s part 1 of this article. Stay tuned for part 2 where we will go over the structure of a landing page and how to turn this research into words.