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.
Good thing silent gossip is something that actually keeps my business alive. The more people gossiping about my site, no matter what they gossip about, is a plus for me.
Gemma Diroski Lou says
Hey Amy, I didn’t even think about that and I’ve done that myself.
There was this one lady who was speaking out against the pharmaceutical industry on the radio one evening, and she herself was from it or used to be working with some pharma company before. And she was saying how the industry’s doing x, y and z and ruining our health and are only in it to make money. I’m seriously paraphrasing, but that was the gist.
The long and short of it all, was me, sitting in the car, thinking, well, she could have spoken out against the industry while she was in it. Why did it take decades to say something. Maybe she never left out of her own will. Maybe she was fired. Maybe she’s being scornful against her ex-companies.
Yep. I didn’t trust what she was saying that much. It’s kind’a like trusting Darth Vader to turn back from his evil ways. 🙂 And she didn’t answer those questions such as, how did she leave. When did she start thinking about the wrong-doings of certain pharmaceutical companies.
I’m sure she had everybody’s best interests at heart without a bitter bone in her body. I just can’t trust what she said though. I would need more. Maybe that’s it. Trust. I needed to be able to trust her more, with more proof, or just her explaining more about how she got to where she got.
Great post. That taught me to shape up.
Hey Gemma, thanks for your input – that’s a great example. In a situation like that, you naturally have doubts about her credibility because she’s not giving you details about her story. Trust is a huge factor in business. You’re going to come under a lot of scrutiny by your customers, and if you don’t pass the trust test, they’ll walk away… but you won’t necessarily know about it.
Always a pleasure to have you joining in the conversation here!
I’ve been hyper-aware of this recently – and realized I’m the queen of doing this. I hear something from someone, and then make up in my head a whole story that turns out to be much more interesting than the reality.
Worse than the truth, I don’t know. But, I can easily talk myself out of something when they aren’t super-clear about what I’m getting. (Usually with some variation of either “it’s too advance” or “it’s too basic” for me.)
Great point about talking yourself out of it! We are wired for the path of least resistance and that’s usually to not take action, not buy.
Filling in as many blanks, covering questions and objections hopefully makes the path of least resistance the one leading to the sale or enquiry.
Thank you for bringing this to our attention My struggle is always trying to fill in the blanks, but not talk too much about myself. How do you find a balance?
Love FCF, by the way!
Hey Linda, so good to see you on here over from Fast Copy Friday!
It can feel uncomfortable talking about yourself but everything you include wants to be customer focused, giving them the information they need to feel confidence beyond all doubt that working with you will make them happy.
Your story is an important way of building credibility for example giving your prospect the background on what qualifies you to deliver your service. Even writing about your enthusiasm for solving their problem gives people an idea of what you’re like to work with.
If your focus is on helping prospects make the decision to hire you (by showing them benefits, handling objections etc) your balance should be in the right place!
This is a perspective I had not thought of. Every web designer should be aware of this when writing copy. Thank you Amy.
Elizabeth Ellis says
Great insight and advice Amy. I think you are right on target with the story on the about page as well as sharing about the benefits of what we are selling in a way that backs it up. This is very helpful and I can see something I was not looking at in a completely new way now.
Hey thanks for the comment Elizabeth! We love stories and particularly in service-based businesses we like to feel we can connect with someone we’re going to hire. If their stories not there, or we feel it’s got holes in, we might not get that gut instinct feeling about trusting or hiring them.
Campbell McArthur says
Nice post Amy : )
Yes this is unfortunately true these days with the behavioral traits that the majority seem to posses. It is almost as if people only find self worth by intentionally trying to destroy others with speculative criticism and rhetoric .
Cam …..Bruce Springsteen’s friend : )
I have to admit, there is more inclination to jump to the negative assumptions than the positive! 🙂 (p.s – tell Brue I say hi…)