You’d think the latest question Liz asked me would be simple to answer. And on the surface it is. Yet, I’ve needed an extra day to think about where to take this one2one conversation next.
When you go around the Internet, what mistake do you see most often?
That’s her question. Think about it for a second. Do you see what I mean? I could answer this from so many different levels and perspectives that I’ve actually been stuck on how I wanted to answer it.
Since Liz is asking me for one mistake, I’m going to need your help. So let’s have a discussion in the comment box. I’ll start it off…
Having been a web designer for so many years, you’d think the mistake I’d see most often would have something to with visual design, site architecture, or layout. Sure, there’s plenty of poorly designed sites out there. And we all know plenty of blogs that are poorly organized and cluttered.
But the mistake I see most often isn’t in the way a site looks. The mistake I see most often is how a site owner uses their site to communicate with their audience.
I’m bias, that’s certain. And my bias leans heavily in the direction of conversation and relationship. Yet, I know from experience, that it’s conversations that lead to relationships that lead to business. People want to do business with people – not with businesses. In other words, they want conversation and relationships.
Most website owners, most business owners and a lot of marketing coaches simply don’t get this. They focus on slick or carefully crafted marketing copy that’s meant to evoke an emotional response to create action. I’m not saying that’s bad – not at all. I just think that there’s more.
So what I often see are business owners trying to fit themselves into a method of copy writing that’s not so much about building relationship and which I feel is unnatural. Pick a handful of business websites and read the copy. Tell me if you feel like the business owners want a relationship with you or do they just want your business?
I advise all my clients – even those working with copy writing and marketing gurus – to consider their websites as the beginning of a dialogue with a person in their target audience. Don’t just meet them where they are, engage them in conversation. Write as though you’re sitting with them over coffee, listening closely to the problems they face. And respond with an open, conversational tone.
This is easier to do on a blog because of the chance for conversation in the comment box. The blog has the advantage as well in that you continue to engage in that conversation with your audience each time your write a post. But you can do this on a static website as well. As you write, just picture yourself having a conversation about where they are.
Remember, people want to do business with people. So don’t be afraid to show who you are as a person. You can be a marketing professional and still be person. Anyway, you know from your own business interactions that connection, personality and temperament play an enormous role in successful business relationships. So why not build your personality into your marketing materials. Let people know who you are right out front. Let them see you as a person. Then invite them to sit at your table with their cup of coffee. Who knows what can happen next.
So I think not actively engaging people in a conversation that can build a relationship is the most common mistake I see in websites.
There are many others – certainly – even around content. So I turn my site over to you to share what mistakes you often see was you’re perusing the web.
And I have to be sure to continue our one2one conversation by asking Liz…
What’s helped you go from just being a writer on a blog to becoming a conversational dynamo?
I can’t wait to see Liz’s answers. She is truly a master at writing conversational copy, if you ask me. But until she answers, let’s talk…
Joanna Young says
Hi Dawud, I agree with your points on conversational style – but wonder if one of the reasons people shy away from this is a fear of appearing not to be an expert? I think perhaps this another of those deep-rooted challenges (or changes) to business and marketing psychology – do we need to persuade business leaders and marketing experts that it’s okay not to know everything?
As a new blogger, this article is a great reminder that I need to focus on writing content to my readers, not to market to my readers.
Sure, blogging can be a business, but as you said, people want to do business with people. My goal is to be a resource and encouragement to people, and have it be profitable for everyone.
Thanks for the insight.
I must be reading different blogs than you are. 😉 Sometimes I think people are a little *too* conversational, especially on the confessional end, and I wish they would recognize that strangers who want to be entertained are reading the blog, and that high angst for the writer doesn’t always translate into high interest for the reader.
The biggest mistake I see, or maybe it’s just a peeve of mine, is people who apologize for “not blogging in a while.” Bleh.
I see her point though it is a bit dogmatic. Conversations are great but when you visit a site you still want to get useful information quickly. Have a conversation on your blog.
The more important issue is to make sure your web copy is well written. Here is a tough question. Should your web developer write your copy? Do they have the high level writing skills that are required to do the job? Your local HTML dude might not be up to the task. Crappy writing drives me nuts.
Joanna Young says
Dawud, thanks for the follow up points plus link to what it means to be an expert. I agree with you – but as you say there’s a lot of learning to be undone out there about branding, marketing and ‘secrets of success…’
By the way thanks for the priceless quote abuot conversational writing – being human, professional rather than “poor or loosey-goosey”, I’m going to store that away and save it for another day 🙂
Karin H. says
As ‘manager’ of both static websites and a few blogs the best rule (and also most simple rule) I’ve been told (and implemented) is to focus your attention to the reader.
Always talk about them, not you.
Meaning (example given): you will benefit from our great services.
Versus: we give great service
Karin H. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)
Dawud Miracle says
Great point. Absolutely. That’s the most interesting thing…people somehow believe that they need to know everything to be an expert. But I can tell you they don’t.
I’ve written about what it means to be an expert. I feel that being an expert is only valid in the eyes of your clients and prospects. As Seth Godin says in The Dip – be the best in the world. Not ‘the’ world, but in your client’s world.
Sure, you’re definitely welcome. For me, focusing on good content, conversation and building relationships has brought me plenty of business – and wonderful readers.
I figure, do what you love, openly and honestly, communicate it well, and let the marketing take care of itself.
I’m sorry I didn’t blog… 🙂
I wasn’t just referring to blogs – but to static, business sites as well. Many bloggers – especially the good ones – get conversational blogging. But lots don’t – nor do most new bloggers, it seems. But even fewer static site owners understand that it’s about the conversation.
Yeah. Exactly. And I think tone is important. You do it well on your static site, imho. I just don’t see a lot of sites that I feel use a relaxed, conversational tone.
Dawud Miracle says
In almost all cases…no! Most web developers aren’t writers – they’re designers and coders. It takes a special breed to understand marketing and copy writing. Your best bet is to have a copy writer help you with your copy – at least editing.
And I do agree with you about static copy being well-written. And, if you’re selling a product or service it’s necessary to go just beyond describing what you do and how well you do it. The best and most successful sales copy I’ve seen meets the reader where they are – from their perspective. Above, Karin said it best – focus your attention on the reader.
And with the conversation, I’m suggesting that you look at your sales copy – your static web copy – as though you’re having a discussion with a prospect in person. Write in the same tone you’d speak in. Make the reader feel like you’re listening to them – even though you’re not physically with them. Anticipate how the conversation would go. That’s what I mean by conversational writing. Not poor, or loosey-goosey writing – just human.
I have a lot of pet peeves that I could list as mistakes (blogs without comments, blogs that require you to register to comment, blogs that exclude the dates of posts, frames, etc.). This is a really hard question to answer. I like your answer. I don’t think I would have come up with that on my own. I would have said something along of the lines of:
1. Sites using Frames.
2. Sites using Flash intros.
3. Non SEO-Friendly pages.
But probably the biggest mistake I see, is sites that don’t have a clear focus. Sites that don’t communicate what they want me to do.
This is a great question. Look forward to seeing where this conversation leads.
Dawud Miracle says
I definitely think that lack of a clear focus is a major issue – and one that I was hoping someone would mention it.
And I don’t like frames either.
Sure. Use it at will.
What amazes me is how many marketing ‘gurus’ I know who are sort of stuck in what they’ve been doing as being ‘the way.’ Personally, I’ve always tried to hold the line that change, growth and evolution are good – and expected – things. I can’t imagine not changing as I learn more.
LaurenMarie - CreativeCurio says
I think along the lines discussed here (which I totally agree with!) is the small business owners trying to make their businesses bigger than they really are. They must think it will help them get business.
I like what you’ve said previously, Dawud: when writing an About page if you’re a single person company, use “I” not “we.” There’s nothing wrong with being only one person! It’s kind of deceiving to make it seem otherwise. This will also help with making it seem like a conversation and perhaps it will get the owner in the frame of mind to write “What I can offer you” or “How I can help you.”
Mason Hipp says
Your answer was damn near perfect (in my opinion).
In my business work on both marketing and web design; and the number one thing we try to tell our clients is that their website should be specifically targeted to their niche. The number two thing is that it should be engaging their customer.
Again, great answer.
Dawud Miracle says
As someone who often builds those ‘we’ pages for solo businesses, I’ve struggled with that as well. What’s funny is that most of the time, those clients have not been targeting large corporations where appearing to have a team of people working with you might be advantageous.
Do you think there’s a time to stretch the “I/we” issue a bit on a site?
Thanks. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve always instructed my clients that they need to know who they are, what they do and who they do it for.
Chino Yray says
Hey! I am a web designer as well until only recently that I changed my site and turn it into a blog.
Nobody visits a static website anymore. Another thing is, blogs give a more personal approach to people who reads them especially on the same topic you blog about. I like it when people of the same topic meet and win friends.
Dawud Miracle says
Yeah, my experience too.
I’m 100% in agreement with you, Dawud–there’s a shock, huh? 😉
Most of the time, people are thinking about what they want to say, rather than the people they’re going to say it to. You can’t possibly have a conversation with your customers (or anyone else, for that matter) over the sound of the projector running, if you catch my drift.
RE: writing style, I think most people put on their Sunday-go-to-meetin’ hat when they sit down to write “serious” copy. I’ve been guilty of it myself in the past.
The two best secrets I’ve ever learned about becoming a great writer are these:
1. Give yourself permission for a vomit-on-the-page first draft (what Liz mentions in her list–first, I think)
2. Read everything you can get your hands on and write more than you ever thought possible.
Of course, #2 is more of a long-term strategy, I’ll grant you. But it is *so* the truth.
Dawud Miracle says
You’re so on. I was told in school years ago that I couldn’t write well – that I should stick to math and science (as though you don’t have to write when you’re a scientist). Yet I discovered I could write when I made it made my writing about relationships rather than essays. Now I just write as I speak – mostly. And it’s amazing to me that more people don’t get that what consumers want is the interaction with a person. As I keep saying – people don’t do business with businesses, they do business with people. And when we meet, greet and treat our prospects as the people they are, selling often takes care of itself.
Matt Keegan says
Conversation which involves two or more people is certainly the way to go, although I do find that some blogs discourage dialogue, primarily through shutting off comments or not asking questions of their readership in a bid to elicit responses.
Technology Transfer Opportunities says
Everyone is insisting on conversation, but when a client enters my site, my first concern is to have an organized site from where he/she can chose exactly the product they are searching for.
Robert W says
Nowadays, people spend a lot of time online and typically alone at the computer.
I think the conversational style appeals to them more for this reason as well.
I think it makes the reader feel as though they are interacting with someone rather than just reading alone at the computer.
This may not be the case for a webstore however but I must say some bloggers do make you feel as though you know them.