For many entrepreneurs and business owners who want to showcase their product or company on the web, writing text for their website can be problematic. Often, the difficulty stems from the business owner’s lack of understanding about how to articulate benefit for the end-user. That is, while the owner may understand completely why the product is good and why everyone needs it, writing about the benefit for the user can be difficult. This can be especially true if the product is an intangible, such as a service.
When I first started my business, a technical writing company that designs and teaches customized writing courses, I created content that was well-written, grammatically correct, and easy to read and understand. I am an English major, after all. But when I showed my content to a colleague, she responded with, “Why should I buy? What’s the benefit to me?” As the owner of the business, of course I understood the benefit and my first thought was “Well, everyone needs to know how to write more effectively! That’s the benefit.” However, as I re-read my content, I began to realize that I had not done a good job of showing benefit for my targeted audience; I had assumed that everyone looking for my product would immediately understand the benefit. While I had described the services we offered and their cost, I had failed to consider why visitors to my site would prefer my product over someone else’s and/or how their lives or jobs would be improved by buying my product. What I had to do to was to step back, think critically about my end-user, and carefully analyze the true benefit of my product.
To determine potential benefit, I used a strategy that I teach in my classes: the concept of WIFM, or “what’s in it for me?” People, after all, are most interested in how the world and the things they buy impact them. Therefore, I focused on answering a number of questions:
- Who is my target audience? What is their education level and profession?
- How busy are they?
- What about my product would make their job easier?
- What is the biggest problem this group faces in terms of the service I offer?
- How will my product or service solve their problem?
Understanding that our target audience was probably educated allowed us to structure the content and use language to appeal to that group. Determining that they were also probably very busy meant that we had to, early in the text, capture their attention and describe how we could help; we couldn’t afford to put the most critical information about benefit late in the piece. The problem/solution rubric we developed helped us understand that most professionals have to write as part of their jobs; however, many of them dislike writing or tend to procrastinate when faced with a writing task. Thus, we focused on articulating strategies that we could provide that would make their writing tasks easier and less onerous. We were able to create text that focused on users and that told them how our courses could help them solve their problems.
While ensuring that the content of your site is well-written, clear, and grammatically correct is vital, it’s also crucial to ensure that your site shows visitors the benefit that they can derive from buying your product. Take the time to carefully analyze your visitors and how your product can solve their problems—it will be time well spent.
Guest Blogger Bio
Pam Hurley, PhD, founder and president of Hurley Write, Inc., has a varied background in developing and teaching writing. She has taught writing in academic institutions, including Duke University, The George Washington University, and The University of North Carolina, and in various industries and companies. She has, and continues to, develop and teach scientific, technical, and business writing to large and small organizations, including government; pharma, drug development, and biotech; and engineering. Clients include Sikorsky Aircraft, Novartis, GSK, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Southern California Edison, The Chemical Safety Board, and ConAgra (www.hurleywrite.com/clientlist.html).
Pam, an award-winning lecturer, has developed a series of online writing courses in technical writing, scientific writing, writing standard operating procedures (SOPs), and writing the scientific manuscript. She has published various articles related to writing in The Federal Register, The Monitor, Biotechnology Focus, and Training Magazine. Pam also edits various technical and scientific documents and provides individual writing coaching.