Sales for Startups Founder & CEO, James Ker-Reid, caught up with Jon Evans to learn more about how his company – Electric Copy – helps tech businesses articulate their product more clearly and engage with their audience.
- Before we begin, let our audience know a little more about you and the business.
Sure, I’m a digital copywriter, specialising in technology. I’ve been working freelance for about 8 years and I’m based in Barcelona.
Essentially, I help tech businesses grow their brands, sales and conversions through copywriting that’s aimed at completing specific marketing goals. It might be to raise awareness of their brands, it might be to grow their emailing list, or maybe just to create a great website that encourages people to buy or subscribe or whatever the goal might be.
I do a lot of work directly with the clients but I’m also starting to operate on an agency model where I’m bringing on some writers to do larger writing projects as part of my team.
- A good problem to have! So when creating a new webpage, for example, what is the high-level process or checklist when going through with clients?
The thing about copywriting is that it’s not just about writing, it’s more about the wider marketing strategy and creating the right messages for the audiences – it’s as much about researching and analysing as it is about the writing.
So what I normally do is make sure that I understand the product and company and where the actual product sits within the marketplace. For example, how is it trying to differentiate itself from its competitors, what’s unique about the product, why should people care about that product? And then I would try and get an idea about the audience and the goal of the website.
The other important thing you need to understand is where your customer is in their buying journey. Because while some prospects have a challenge that your company can help with, they may not be looking for the service you offer yet.
To use the Sales for Startups website as an example, maybe a prospect is struggling with articulating their business in their sales pitches, so they put into Google “How can I improve my sales pitch”. But another prospect might not realise that their sales pitch is the problem, so they put into Google “How can I get more customers for my startup”. Both of these people are potential customers, but they are at different stages in their information journey, so they’re seeking different answers. So to appeal to both these customers, your website needs to speak to them in different ways.
For example, I recently worked with a marketing agency on a campaign that involved different variations of paid ads and landing pages. We were helping a client who creates a very niche product, which is a test for microbial contamination in diesel fuel. This contamination is a big problem for airlines because it can stop airplanes functioning properly. So when it came to targeting that audience, we had to write for people who already knew they needed a fuel test. That meant we could focus or copy on explaining why our client’s solution was better than others in the market. From a search perspective, we knew those people would be googling things like “diesel fuel test”.
On the other end of the spectrum, you might have someone who uses diesel fuel, but has no idea this kind of contamination is a problem. Their diesel-powered lawnmower stops working one day, so they ask around and hear about this type of fuel contamination. That person might put into Google “What is diesel fuel contamination?”. When they land on a page addressing that question, it needs to tell the story right from the beginning – what is this problem, what happens if you don’t solve it, and what solutions can fix it.
So we end up with two different pages promoting the same product, but they speak to two different audiences in two very different ways. Everything is based on the prospect’s buying intent and awareness. This is the most important thing to be aware of when creating a new web page.
- So how do you tailor the page to those specific goals, say whether it’s SEO or to build audiences and following etc.?
Good question – again it depends on your positioning and who you’re trying to reach. If you’re targeting people who know they need a solution and are trying to choose from different options in the market, you want to give them reasons to choose your product. So you might create “middle of funnel” content like case studies around your product, or sales-focused copy with comparisons between your product and others.
But sometimes, as we talked about in the fuel test example, you might target people who are just seeking information on a problem they’re encountering. So rather than telling them why your solution is better than others, you first have to educate them on their problem and how to deal with it. This is where “top of funnel” content like informational blogs, lists and how-to videos really shines. But of course, the goal of the content is to move prospects to the next stage in the journey towards sales copy where you sell them on your specific solution
In a nutshell, it’s all about understanding your audience’s world and building a journey around that.
- You also mentioned ‘the question to ask’. What are your thoughts on question-based titles compared to summary titles in blogs?
Again, it depends what you’re trying to achieve. For example, if you’re writing blogs to help your existing customers, using a question headline can help them find the answer they need in the fastest possible way. But if your goal is to get found through google, you might make your decision based on what people are searching for. This is where SEO tools come in handy because you can see how many people actually search for a specific term.
Having said that, I don’t think companies should base their whole content strategy around what SEO tools tell them. If you know your audience cares about a specific topic, it makes sense to create content around that, regardless of what people are searching for. But what you can do is write a longer piece around a specific subject, then answer specific questions within it. This is partly why we see a lot of companies creating these long ‘ultimate guide’ posts.
But the main thing to remember about headlines is that they should entice people to read the rest of the article. And this is why even if you’re writing informational blog content, it’s advantageous to have some copywriting skills. Writing a question to which the answer is an obvious “no” won’t tempt many people to read on. But if you ask a question that arouses curiosity in your audience, you can get people excited to dive further down the rabbit hole.
- If you were to take the homepage, or top 5 pages of most websites, where do people mostly go wrong with the copy of their core pages?
I see a lot of companies making some pretty fundamental mistakes actually, but especially newer companies (which is totally understandable as you might not have the budget to hire an agency or copywriter). I’ve actually published a blog with writing tips for startups to help companies avoid these issues.
The main one is that they’re not particularly clear about what their product is – I see a lot of websites, especially in tech, that are very unclear about the product. Sometimes it’s because they find it hard to articulate what it is, perhaps they have got quite a complicated product and it’s hard to describe succinctly. But a lot of the time it’s because they try hard to be too clever, or to impress with a creative headline. There are times that are appropriate for this, but it’s always better to be clear than to try and be clever, especially if you’re not experienced with copywriting.
You’re not going to lose points for not having a creative headline most of the time, but you will lose out if visitors don’t understand what you do. So what businesses should do when writing a website is really aim to create a headline and introduction that can be understood within a few seconds. There’s actually a website that tests this – https://fivesecondtest.com/ – where you can show people your headline quickly and ask them to describe what your company does. Another way you can do this though is to think about how you would describe your company to a friend, rather than someone you are trying to sell to. This will get you in the right mindset for describing your product in a clear, straightforward way.
- In terms of actionable tips, what are three things in regards to copy on websites that people can put into practice?
First thing is, if you are writing your own and not using a copywriter or agency, I would try and get some sort of outside feedback from it. It can just be someone that has nothing to do with your company. If they are someone from your target audience, then even better. Find out if a stranger can read your copy and understand what you do.
The second thing I would advise is to try and simplify your copy – as I mentioned, a lot of people end up with waffling, long-winded copy or stuffy business language. They think they need it to impress people by sounding clever but that often means you end up with complicated, long-winded copy. But less is best!
The final thing is try to make sure the wording isn’t boring! Some sites are all business and nothing stands out. Try to make it more engaging and memorable – one technique could be to try to use visual language. For example, instead of saying ‘we finish projects on time’ you could say ‘we get your projects over the finish line on time’ which is just that little bit more interesting to read. I wouldn’t do it for every single line but adding some visual language here and there makes copy more interesting.
- Thanks so much for your time Jon. For those who want to connect with you, how can they find you?
You can find me at Electriccopy.tech and on Twitter at @jonecopywriter.
Thanks Jon, some valuable insight on how businesses can articulate themselves in a compelling way and connect with their audience!