I was recently thinking about people telling their business story through their web copy when I came across an article tweeted by the lovely Mr. Ian Aspin about how many people had speculated about the Apple Logo and its origins. People started a story that it was about a brilliant mathematician Alan Turing who committed suicide with a cyanide laced apple. When pressed, apparently Steve Jobs would simply smile enigmatically, leaving people to assume that the legend they had created was true.
And didn’t it add an air of mystery?
The things we never see or know are always the ones which really capture people’s attention the most (monsters in horror movies, the contents of Marcel Wallace’s briefcase, or the fate of the bus in the Italian Job for example).
But when it comes to writing web copy for your business, is it really wise to welcome such level of mystery?
Especially when you have no control over the message that might be inferred from your content?
Humans are wired to make sense. It drives us crazy not knowing things, which is why curiosity is such a powerful, though often misused sales copy tool.
We like to make connections, to make sense of the world. Our big lovely evolved brains just want to get busy connecting those dots.
However, this also means we can come up with utter gumpf to fill in the blanks that we do not know.
It’s been said that we can even recreate our own memories into fiction if there is a blank or inconsistency that doesn’t feel right. (Ever been adamant that an object from memory was one colour only to find out you were wrong?)
And therein lies the danger with your web copy.
I’m sure you must know of an instance where people have made negative assumptions about someone else based in the absence of “whole” information.
“She’s just upgraded to a BMW so her husband’s either got a promotion or she’s come into family money”
“She hasn’t explained on her resume why she left her last position… I bet it was on bad terms”
“He was a bit vague about where he was last night, he probably saw his ex!”
It’s basically gossip which is:
“Unconstrained conversation about other people typically involving details that are not confirmed as true.”
Similarly, people will jump to unfounded conclusions based on the details they can’t find in your web copy or sales copy. And your potential customer doesn’t have to be gossiping with anyone else to damage your business.
Sales might be slipping away through the “silent gossip” they’re having in their head.
“I really like his copywriting, but there are no prices on his site. He’s probably too expensive”
“She says in her sales copy that she left the corporate world to be an executive coach but it doesn’t say why. Maybe she was fired. I don’t want coaching from someone who couldn’t keep their own job”
“His web content says he has a 1:1 service to build my business, but it doesn’t say how he’s going to do it. He’s probably full of hype.”
When it comes to writing copy for your business, 2 main areas in particular where you really don’t want people filling in the blanks and coming up with the wrong story is on your about page and on when writing about the benefits of your products.
It may have worked well for customers to speculate about the origins of the Apple logo, but there was no ambiguity about what their products were and why people loved (or hated) them.
You have control over your unique business story. And remember, you can turn a shaky spot into a selling point in your story (For example if you’re nervous about how much you charge or how big / small your company is).
What you don’t want to do is have your customer fill in the blank.
They might just come up with something a lot worse than the truth.