Fill in the blank: know, like, trust, ______.
Buy. It’s buy.
But of course you know this, because that process is plastered all over the Internet. So because you love your business and want the best for it, you follow this “common knowledge” process. You come up with home page copy that helps people get to know you. You write a devilishly charming about page so they can like you. You show off your cred in your testimonials and content so they can trust you.
Then boom. Sales copy!
We typically think of sales copy as coming in almost out of the blue. We’ve been taught this approach of really getting people on the hook by building a relationship with them, giving them value, etc., and then coming in and slapping them with sales copy when they’ve bought into us so much that they can’t back out. The cash pinata bursts open and it’s dolla dolla bills all around, y’all.
This is bullshit.
The non-sociopathic among us know this instinctively. It doesn’t feel nice. It feels manipulative. (Because it is.) But the problem is, it also feels like you kind of have to do it. Because people have short attention spans, because you need to be making some money in this business like, pronto, and because OMG, if no one buys your thing, then what does that say about you? We get ourselves into a tizzy, pulled between wanting to not screw people over personally and being afraid of getting screwed over ourselves on a larger, business level.
So what’s the answer?
A lot of people just follow through with this “common knowledge” process, trying assuage their guilt by making their non-sales copy really, really nice so that people at least feel really good until they get hit with the sale.
Other people avoid it entirely by having really weak, tentative sales copy, or by having no sales copy at all and hoping that the dollars will just magically transfer themselves from their customers’ wallets to theirs.
But the real answer comes from realizing that all copy is sales copy. I’ll say it again:
All copy is sales copy.
Just like everything you say in real life reflects on you and builds an impression of you for the people you interact with, every word that’s associated with your business is a part of the sales process.
Because ultimately, the purpose of a business is to sell something. Otherwise, it’s just an extremely time-consuming hobby. So even though you might not have a buy now button plastered on every page (and if you do, you’ve got another issue), everything you say, from home page to contact, is telling people about your business.
So how do you bring in the “buy” element without being a total asshole?
By ensuring consistency. Your sales copy should read like a natural extension of all the other copy on your site. And yes, there are specific ways of phrasing things, and loads of neuroscience that you can use to get people on board with what you’re saying, and ways of structuring your page to amp up conversions, which I can tell you about another time.
But it has to start from this foundation — otherwise all those great tactics are going to fall flat. Why? Because a sudden shift in tones is disconcerting. To your people, it feels like they’re suddenly talking to a whole different person, even if they can’t consciously articulate it like that.
A shift in tone undermines the trust you’ve built up.
If you think about it in terms of seduction, it’s that moment when the honeymoon phase wears off and reality comes in. And while some people will tell you that this is inevitable — hey, you’ve got to bring money into it sometime, it’s time to tell those people to get down to brass tacks and make a decision! — that idea is based on an adversarial relationship between you and your target market. One in which attention and money are part of a zero sum game, so you have to ruthlessly take whatever you can get before people go off somewhere else.
That absolutely works, if all you want is churn.
Seriously, I’ve seen people work this like a dream for about three months at a time. Then it all crashes and burns and they have to start over with a whole new crowd, eventually turning their businesses into a Ponzi scheme where they’re constantly pouring money into lead generation, burning the leads, and having to start over.
Some people say, “That’s just how business is.” I say that’s a big load of bullshit.
Because I’ve also seen other businesses work on a totally different foundation: one of mutual benefit. Instead of creating an adversarial relationship with your target market, you can create a symbiotic one, one in which you benefit them and they benefit you, and together you pull each other higher, not tear each other down.
This approach is almost always slower. It requires you to actually have some skin in the game and care about your people as people, not cash piñatas. It takes devotion. And it means that you have to have some next-level planning with your business strategy so you can make sure that everything you’re selling lines up with the message you’re putting out into the Internet-ether.