After years of roaming around the internet, I like to think of myself as an experienced dater when it comes to interacting with brands online. I’m not going to settle for just anything. In fact, there are few products I love enough to keep me in the buyflow if the user experience is bad. Not optimized for mobile? Abandon cart. Deleted all my existing information after I made a mistake in one field? I’m ghosting you for sure.
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I’ve experienced enough positive customer journeys to know the difference, and I respect myself enough to accept nothing less. The result is a brewing impatience I carry with me wherever I travel online—and I’m not alone in this.
What does this mean for eligible online marketers looking to make sparks fly with customers? It means they have to step up their game—or prepare for a lonely life. And after attending Content Jam 2018 in Chicago last fall, I’m more convinced of this than ever.
Customer Love Is a Battlefield
After years of spammy headlines, false product claims, and sneaky customer acquisition tactics, online consumers are over it. They simply don’t have to put up with that kind of crap anymore—there are companies one click away that will treat them better. They’re more cautious than ever about who they give their heart away to online, but they’re also more eager to be swept off their feet.
Like in any healthy relationship, listening to your customers is the easiest way to make sparks fly.
Incredible brand voices like online mattress retailer Purple and the Moon Pie Twitter account attract consumers who are practically planning the wedding after the first date. Megabrand Amazon brings customers back again and again with its siren call of two-day shipping, while Expedia makes it sexy to plan your whole vacation on one site.
But how can the rest of us get in on that action? Before you rush off to primp and preen your brand with glitzy marketing ploys, read this post. We’ve got four online content tips from Content Jam speakers that make it easier to get your customers to put a ring on it.
1. Speak to the Problem That Brought Customers to You
Don’t be the significant other who buys a generic box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day. Sure, everyone likes chocolate, but your partner deserves something more personal than that. It’s the same with your customers. Listening to what they experience is the easiest way to figure out what they want. Mary Garrick of Upward Brand Interactions suggests you pay attention not only to what they want but also to why they don’t have it.
Once you understand the problem that brought them to you, potential customers need to know you can solve it. Make it clear that you understand their problem and can make it all go away. The easiest way to do this? Joanna Wiebe, creator of Copy Hackers and Airstory, says to “take what they say and say it back to them.”
But obviously you’ve got to be smart about this. People don’t like it when you come across as so needy that you’ll say anything just to keep them around. Knowing who you are and sticking to it is attractive—especially in a brand.
Want to create a love that will last with your customers? Know who you are and stick to it. Take it from us: your customers won’t like it if you come across as needy by saying anything to keep them around.
Finding a way to use who you are to speak to the problems your consumers are facing is the sweet spot. Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media says the best thing you can do to set this up is create a mission statement. If that sounds daunting, start with his simple formula:
“Our content is where [audience x] gets [information y] that offers [benefits z].”
Put your mission statement in a place on your site where customers can easily see it. That will remind them why they’re on your site, and it will remind you why you do what you do. You should use your mission statement to inform the way you frame all the content on your site, creating a consistent vibe from landing page to product description to “Thank you for your order!”
2. Stay Human and Be Funny
You’re human, so “staying human” in your copy shouldn’t be an issue, right? Given how much fakeness and jargon we all encounter on a daily basis, though, it’s clearly not. Genuine humor and approachability in marketing is hard to pull off successfully. Of course, everyone wants to be funny. It’s scientifically proven to make you look better.
“People who use [humor], particularly in stressful or seemingly one-down positions, are viewed as being on top of things, being in charge and in control, whether they are in fact or not.” —Martha Craumer, Harvard Management Communication Letter
According to Lianna Patch of Punchline Conversion Copywriting, humor takes our mind from a goal state to a play state. That means you’ll feel less stressed and generally happier when you encounter humorous copy, making you more willing to stick around and listen—basically every marketer’s dreamstate. Patch advises, “Don’t make your reader feel like you’re a taskmaster.”
That sums it up pretty well. We all have enough people telling us what to do without marketers turning products into moral imperatives. If this is what you’ve been doing, try making it fun instead! Patch says the right amount of humor can act like an Easter egg that keeps your readers engaged in search of the next one.
According to @punchlinecopy, humor is the best way to appeal to your customers: “Don’t make your reader feel like you’re a taskmaster.”
Just . . . don’t overdo it. Money is generally not a joke to people, and if you get too flippant, they might ditch you. As a general rule, Patch says to never use humor in your value proposition, sometimes use it on your landing pages, and always use it in your content, emails, and microcopy. You should also avoid poking fun at potentially sensitive topics. Two safe default options that she suggests are observational humor and self-deprecation.
Once you’ve crafted your jokes, don’t underestimate the value of a second opinion. Unless your second opinion is a very mean—or overly indulgent—person, this is never a bad idea. Worried you’re not funny? Run it by another set of eyes. Pretty sure you’re incredibly hilarious? Run it by another set of eyes. Your jokes are much more likely to land if you give them a trial run.
3. Make It Easy for Customers to Find What They’re Looking For
You don’t want a customer with a wandering eye—especially if you’re the jealous type. To keep them happy, don’t give them a reason to leave. This can apply in multiple contexts. In regard to content generation, Crestodina and copywriter Joel Klettke both testify of the power of original research.
Crestodina says to ask yourself, “What do people in our industry often say but rarely support?” Find a way to support it, and you’ve got yourself a piece of content people will get behind. Once you find a gem like that, it’s a gift that keeps on giving—for both you and your customers. Use it as a hub to link to supporting pieces of content that will keep your readers on your site for longer.
Worried your copy isn’t funny? Here’s a pro tip: Run it by another set of eyes. Pretty sure you’re incredibly hilarious? Run it by another set of eyes.
Keeping your readers comfortable in your ecosystem is an overarching paradigm you should apply to not only your content but your UX as well. One way to do this is to make sure your designers and writers both follow a style guide to keep the experience consistent throughout your site. If you’re not sure what works better for your readers, do an A/B test. The more kinks you can smooth out with your site ecosystem, the less likely your readers are to experience any bounce-inducing turbulence.
Always be on the lookout for pain points in the process that might be driving customers away. Tell them where to go next on your site before they have to wonder. You can do this by consistently pruning your link structure and site navigation and making sure your CTAs are clear and relevant. The easier you make it to be around you, the more they’ll want to do it.
4. Don’t Assume You Deserve Customer Attention
No one likes to be taken for granted, and few people are generous with their attention—especially when it comes to marketing efforts. A clear editorial mission statement can help readers quiet the “Why am I here?” question that is often the precedent to the stay-or-bounce decision. Never miss a chance to remind your reader why you + them is a match that’s destined for happiness. To create that destiny, Wiebe’s advice is to “let them see themselves in your content.”
One way to do this is to keep a varied focal distance with your content. If you’re selling corn, for example, you might write one post on “Why You Need to Grow Corn,” which focuses on the high-level purpose of your product, and another on “The 6 Best Summer Corn Recipes,” which gets down to the applications of your product. Sure, one megapost on corn might shuck two cobs with one hand, but giving each thing you create one specific job is a lot more interesting and valuable to individual customers.
The more you understand where your customers are and where they want to be, the more you can speak to them in a way that encourages them to listen–and the closer you are to reaching happily ever after (a.k.a. conversion).
That said, the sad reality is that even if you make the best content in the world, few people will seek it out on their own if you don’t put yourself out there (unless you’ve already built a loyal community). Translation? Don’t publish anything without a promotion plan and an intended audience. If you do, don’t come crying to us when no one shows up to your party.
Treat your customers like their attention and feelings are valuable. The more you understand where your customers are and where they want to be, the more you can speak to them in a way that encourages them to listen—and the closer you are to reaching happily ever after (a.k.a. conversion). There’s a reason they call it the customer relationship, and the more we treat it that way, the better things will be for everyone.
Interested in learning more from the experts I’ve listed? Check out their full Content Jam presentations here:
- Andy Crestodina, “The Top 1% . . . a Content Strategy for Lead Generation”
- Mary Garrick, “How to Build Data-Driven Personas You’ll Actually Use”
- Joel Klettke, “The Case Study Blueprint: How to Turn Customer Success Stories into Sales”
- Lianna Patch, “How to Be Funny (Even If You’re Not): Improv-Inspired Copywriting Tips for Better Retention”
- Joanna Wiebe, “A Zombie Grew Our Business”
Build Smarter Relationships
If all this talk about building relationships has you sweating in your seat, get someone else to do it for you. Clearlink is the expert in creating intelligent customer experiences. We offer full-funnel marketing for some of the world’s leading brands, and we pride ourselves on matching customers to products in a way that’s efficient and personal. Learn more about what Clearlink can do for your business.