The Second Question to Ask When Writing for the Web

Any good writer knows the first question to ask when creating marketing materials: Who’s your audience? Everything you do flows from the answer.

When writing for the Web in particular, what’s the second question to ask? I’d advocate for this:

What action do you ultimately want site visitors to take?

Let’s look at two examples to illustrate my point.

Example #1: For these businesses, a site visit can be a closed-loop process. People come, check out what you have to offer, perhaps do a little comparison shopping and then make a purchase. That is, the endpoint may be a sale. Retailers like Amazon, Staples and Etsy are a few obvious examples.

Example #2: Other businesses have much more complex sales cycles and are highly unlikely to sell anything without further legwork. If you manufacture expensive hardware, a company representative will need to meet with the prospect on the phone or in person to close the sale. If you provide management consulting services to the tune of $300 an hour, a prospect won’t sign up before meeting with someone from your firm to gauge expertise, fit and more.

For businesses like these, the endpoint of a site visit isn’t a sale. It’s a lead in the form of a prospect contacting you to schedule a call or meeting.

How does having a more complex sales cycle impact your writing strategy?

You can’t possibly provide all the info a prospect will need to make a buying decision, so don’t even try. Avoid the temptation to overwhelm with every last detail about your offerings, people, etc. Instead, strive to keep the copy concise and focused on what matters most to your target audience.

Your overall goal should be to make the user experience as productive and enjoyable as possible. Then, when that prospect makes contact, you or your salesperson will be in a better position to start a fruitful conversation and eventually seal the deal.

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