I’m trying to sell you a pair of running shoes. I could tell you about the great synthetic rubber of the soles, the arch support, or the aerodynamic design with plenty of physics behind them. But I’d be better off telling you that your 10,000th mile will be as comfortable as your first. Or I could describe the joy of finishing a run with no shin splints or explain how your feet barely seem to touch the concrete when you’re wearing this pair of shoes. The story of a pair of running shoes isn’t about the specs and technical details; it’s the runner’s experience while wearing them. Every product has a different story, and it’s up to you to discover each story.
Show, Don’t Tell
Image via Flickr by Orin Zebest
This writer’s adage is true for a reason. The most compelling stories show us something, and your product copy should follow suit. Instead of explaining the details of your product to your customers, show the customers what a product will do for them once it’s in their lives.
The purpose of a self-cleaning litter box is obvious. You do not need to go into detail because, honestly, the imagery is not great. Showing why someone wants a self-cleaning litter box is all about what a customer does not have to do. You can tell people about the mechanisms of your self-cleaning cat box, or you can show customers the experience of having fun with your cat without having to use an annoying little scoop ever again.
Have you noticed that the imagery in pharmaceutical commercials rarely has anything to do with what the product does? You may get a few shots of someone in pain or dealing with an uncomfortable condition, but you mostly see people riding bikes, taking walks, being artistic, or doing yoga.
The prescription drug may treat a disease, but the advertisement is selling improved quality of life. In product copy, you don’t have these visuals, but you do have words on your side. You may not agree with how pharmaceutical companies choose to advertise to consumers, but you can take inspiration from how they do it. Create powerful imagery with words.
Choose the Right Details
You’ve read detail-rich product copy before: “This T-shirt is 100 percent cotton, is machine washable, and comes in five colors.” When creating your copy, instead of packing too many details into your product text, choose a few items to focus on.
Consider large home appliances. Is the selling point of a washing machine its ability to hold the laundry that a family of six produces, or does it have different wash cycle options? This selling point is part of creating your product’s story and writing your copy with the right customers in mind. All details are important, but overwhelming people with all of them at once can make decisions more difficult.
Consider another way to approach this decision: Which details about your product are the most interesting?
Let’s take power tools as an example — they’re definitely not the sexiest products to describe. But a hammer drill becomes more interesting when you explain that it’s the type of drill you need to hang hurricane shutters on a concrete house. Talk about the fact that your drill outperformed other drills in consumer testing and people had an easier time using it. During the stress of an impending hurricane, you want a drill that’s easy to use when you need to quickly hang hurricane shutters.
You may be wondering where you should place details such as product dimensions and textile types. You still need to include a list of this information in an obvious and easy-to-access place on the product’s page. Painting a picture of the perfect washing machine is great, but your customers still need to know how much laundry can fit inside that washing machine.
Get a Customer’s Perspective
Sometimes, the best product copy involves stories that your current customers tell. Well-written customer reviews and testimonials can be the best way to highlight a product or service. A good example is the student testimonial: A student describes how a course or university helped the individual get a job or receive valuable skills. Instead of promising that your courses or academic institution will provide valuable job experience, someone with that story can highlight the information for you.
Focus on Individual Attention
Remember that you have a specific audience. If you’ve done your content marketing well, you should already have customer profiles that you use to create customer-specific content. Although your product copy needs to reach a more general audience, you can hone your storytelling abilities by pretending you’re talking to one person.
Your product copy is about one person’s life when this individual tries this new product. The text should be specific enough to elicit feeling, but broad enough that various customers feel like you’re writing about them. “This” degree of warmth is what you’ll feel when you drink this hazelnut dark roast on a frosty morning. “Here” is the softness of this new cashmere sweater against your skin. Tell them: Your life is a little better with this product in it.
You can work some or all of these suggestions into your product copy, but these efforts won’t matter if the copy lacks desire. When your customers read product copy, they should want that product. Your copy convinces them that this product will fill some need or want in their lives — probably a need or want they weren’t aware of until they clicked on the product’s page.
Plenty of product copy reads like a “this product is great!” advertisement or like a list of product specs. A customer can read this perfunctory copy and get information, but will that person feel any desire? The best product copy may not include every spec, but it should include great imagery, attention to customer needs, and creativity.
Your product copy does not need everything on the list above because it needs to be concise. Introducing one or two storytelling techniques can transform your product copy. Customers can look up specs and compare details easily; let their imaginations be opened instead.