This insight came to me while conducting live optimization during our most recent Web clinic – Copywriting: How ordinary marketers are achieving 200% gains with a step-by-step framework.
I was optimizing an e-commerce surfboard website, yet I think this lesson applies equally well for many other consumer marketers as well as many in the B2B space. Let’s look at the challenge this surfboard website is facing to understand why…
Degree33 Surfboards sells hand-shaped surfboards which are more expensive than a Chinese-made “pop out” mass-produced clone board that you could buy from a big-box store like, say, Walmart. Or a used board you could buy off of Craigslist. (And please note, I’m not a surfer. Our office just happens to be in Jacksonville Beach, so I have a wee bit of knowledge about this industry and I thought it would be helpful to share some background.)
Unless you’re the low-price leader in your industry, you likely face the same challenge.
A manufacturer in China can make it cheaper. Your customers can buy it cheaper used, on Amazon, or from a big-box store like Walmart.
So if you can’t win on price, all that stands between you and the barbarians at the gate is a good story.
Customers need an internal justification to buy a more expensive product (and sometimes an external justification to a spouse, parent, or boss). You need to give your customers that reason to buy from you in the form of a story that engages the visitor and explains your competitive differentiators. Here are a few common examples of differentiators that you can build your story around to help get you started:
- Quality – track record (e.g. Honda), craftsmanship (e.g. Louis Vuitton), customer service (e.g. The Ritz-Carlton), health (e.g. Whole Foods), expertise (e.g. Crutchfield
- Authenticity – history (Moleskine), location (American Apparel), timelessness (Kitchen Aid mixer)
- Technology – faster (Alienware), smaller (iPod Nano), safer (brand-name drugs), more open (Android)
- Values – sustainability (Patagonia), organic (Organic Valley), faith (Hebrew National), family (Disney), patriotism (Made in the USA), local (Community Supported Agriculture), aura (hip, fashion, or luxury goods), politics (Credo Mobile)
So let’s take a look at that optimization example, Degree33 Surfboards, to give you a few ideas for how you can improve your own copy…
First let me say thank you to Degree33 Surfboards for submitting their homepage for review. I get to just sit here and tear apart what the man in the arena did wrong, yet they invested their blood and sweat in creating the page to begin with. But for the sake of brevity, I’m going to leave tenderness aside for a moment and just dive right into how this copy can be optimized…
Where’s the story click?
To begin with, there is no story click. The headline is just old-school marketing puffery – “Hand Shaped Surfboards That WILL Take You To The Next Level, Regardless of How Well You Surf.”
Assuming “Hand Shaped Surfboards” is an important keyword (Degree 33 currently ranks #2 in Google for that keyword), an alternative headline would be something like…
Optimization Suggestion: “Hand-Shaped Surfboards that are 17% lighter than the boards you’ll buy anywhere else.”
This headline will hopefully draw readers in to the body copy, and show experienced surfers and gremmies alike the benefit of Degree33 surfboards over any other surfboard in those crucial first few moments when they first land on the page and decide whether they should read on or click on to the competition.
Create some rising action
In a story, the rising action serves to intensify the problem. On this page, we’re left with “11 REASONS WHY YOUR NEXT SURFBOARD MUST BE FROM US…” Again, they are relying on marketing puffery. And the tone is all of. It sounds more like a North Korean diktat from the supreme leader then sales copy for surfboards, um, dude. Do surfers really want 11 bulleted reasons to buy a surfboard?
But there is some buried treasure in here, which they underlined – “NOBODY else has NexGen Epoxy. 17% lighter than standard epoxy, stronger than traditional fiberglass, but the pure flex of a glass board.” This is what I pulled my suggested headline from, in fact.
I’m not a surfer, so I’m not sure exactly what that means, but it certainly seems to have value. What if they built the rising action and continued the story off of the problems both experienced and new surfers have with factory-made boards. Again, I’m not a surfer, but here’s my feeble attempt at speaking their language. Feel free to laugh, but hopefully you’ll get the copywriting lesson as well…
Optimization Suggestion: “You’re out there past the breaks and spot the perfect wave rolling in. You paddle into it, attempt to ride high amongst the waves, but totally wipe out. Dude, no worries. We made the same mistake when we were just starting out as gremmies with some heavy factory boards.
That’s why, when we started our own board company, we wanted to find a material that would help high-performance surfers and gremmies alike surf the gnarliest waves. We have a buddy that works in the science labs at Pepperdine, and he told us about NexGen Epoxy. It’s 17% lighter than standard epoxy, stronger than traditional fiberglass, but has the pure flex of a glass board.
It took us about two years to master shaping this rad material. And, so far, no one else has figured out how to do it….”
Create your climax/resolution
This is, essentially, the call-to-action. And on this page, Degree33 has a great one — GET A COMPREHENSIVE SURF GUIDE + $25 OFF YOUR FIRST ORDER!”
They are essentially offering a guide to help their customers make this complex decision. Grabbing a board off the shelf at WalMart is an easy decision, being a true surfboard connouisseur and get a real high-performance board is difficult. You can see how I’ve stumbled through this blog with my awkward use of surf language. Every industry and every niche has it’s own way of doing things.
Optimization Suggestion: Keep on keeping on. Great call-to-action and offer.
If you help your customers through this complex buying process, honestly assessing and weighing the decisions along the way, you are much more likely to be able to compete with the big box stores of the world.
That word – honestly – is vitally important. If you can’t compete on price, don’t try to. Be clear that those customers would be better served elsewhere. But by being honest, you’ll become the customer’s trusted adviser, and help them appreciate the value in your offerings. Truly serving your customers during a complex purchase decision only helps to add value when you do get the sale.
The wine industry, with the complexities around wine selection, is the perfect example. There are even people whose entire job it is to help you buy wine, called sommeliers. And that’s why they can charge so much.
After all, in the end, you’re just buying old grape juice with a great story.