Writing on a ‘need to know’ basis

Heathrow Departure LoungeSome websites try to tell everybody everything. However, there is no point in doing this, because your website is a step in a process. 

Site visitors have done something before they landed there – maybe they clicked on an ad, perhaps they typed your web address from your business card, or they found your site on a Google search. 

And you want them to do something after visiting your site, whether that is clicking a ’buy now’ button, phoning to make an appointment, or giving you their email address so you can keep in touch with them.

[As an aside, lead generation is increasingly difficult because all our inboxes are full to overflowing, and so are theirs. So you have to offer a really tempting incentive for someone to relinquish their precious contact details. And make sure it’s GDPR-compliant.]

Your website therefore needs to acknowledge where they are at, and then make their next step really obvious and simple.

You don’t need to tell them every single thing that will happen next. You only need to tell them the one thing they need to know at each point.

Think about it like this.

Let’s say you’re going on a trip from London to Toronto. (I’m using that example because I’ve just done it as a stopover on my way to Vancouver.)

When you book your ticket, you know your flight time and flight number. You also know you are departing from Heathrow Terminal 2. You know you need to get there at least three hours in advance, so you book your taxi from home to LHR Terminal 2.

At this point, you don’t need to know the checkin zone, your seat number, the boarding time or which gate the plane will depart from. You discover each piece of information only when you’ve completed the step before.

The day comes, the taxi arrives, and off you go to the airport.

Once in the departure lounge, you look at the display board to find the right checkin zone. In my case, it was the midday Air Canada flight which goes from zone A.

These days you have to print your own bag tag and download your own boarding pass from a machine. (If you haven’t already done an online checkin, this is the first time you find out what seat you’re in.)

Having finally managed the bag tag palaver and confirmed your seat number, you make your way to zone A.

At the checkin desk, your passport is checked, then your hold baggage is weighed and off it goes on the conveyor to be loaded.

The display board for your flight says ‘go to Departures’, so you trot off with your cabin baggage, following the big sign to ‘departures’.

[As an aside, I didn’t actually trot on this occasion, as I had a broken toe and wasn’t supposed to walk too far. My travel agent had kindly arranged airport assistance for me, so I went to a special desk and was pushed to security in a wheelchair.]

So to security. You take off your shoes, unpack your laptop, remove your coat, empty your pockets, put everything in a tray and stand in the machine to get X-rayed (or sit in your wheelchair and get patted down).

You retrieve all your belongings once they’ve been scanned, and then walk (or get wheeled) past all the shops.

[As an aside, I’m sure the reason airlines want you to get the airport so early is because you’re trapped in the shopping area for so long that you spend all your money.]

Eventually, the display board reveals which gate your plane is at, and how long it will take you to walk there. (If you’re not walking, you get transferred from your wheelchair to a buggy at this point).

You walk (or get driven) to the gate.

At the gate, you wait to be called, and finally you’re allowed on board.

What this means to you

If you’re a coach, your website doesn’t need to tell people why they need a coach. If they don’t want a coach, they’re not going to be on your website in the first place.

They might have gone searching for a coach and found you thanks to your SEO. Or they know your name and they Googled you or typed your URL to check you out. Or they clicked an ad you placed.

The point is that they are already interested in you or in coaching.

So you don’t need to sell them on why they need coaching. No webpage will convince anyone of that anyway. 

What you need to do is sell them on the idea of why they need coaching with YOU. Why YOUR coaching is different from anyone else’s.

That means you need a ‘Why me’ page as well as (or instead of) your ‘About me’ page. Because that answers what’s in the mind of your site visitor at the moment they land on your site.

This seems obvious to me, so I don’t know why it’s so rare.

I know it works, because I have one and clients tell me they called me because of something I’ve written on there.

Finally, you need to tell site visitors what to do next. In marketing terms, that’s called your call to action. The trick with those is to make them plain, make them clear and make them simple. One per page is enough. Nice, big and bold so people can’t miss it.

One Response to Writing on a ‘need to know’ basis

  1. Bob Lang December 15, 2018 at 1:03 am #

    The flip side of this is the website that doesn’t actually tell you what you want to know, or even what the person/company/organisation does!

    In soviet Russia, the joke was that there were never any signposts on any roads, because if you didn’t know where a road went you had no business being on it. Well, the soviet website is alive and well! If you don’t already know what we do, you have no business visiting our website!

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