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    Sunday, January 18, 2009

    Copy that informs is copy that sells.

    Author Erin Kissane at A List Apart writes a great article on ambiguous marketing copy. For instance, she needs a tool to help her keep her academic citations in order and performs a google search to that end.

    Confusion ensues:
    If you come to the page, as I did, by Googling “academic research software,” you may well be befuddled by the complete lack of information that might explain who this “solution” is intended for. The third paragraph of copy does finally suggest that the activity it supports is “mobile academic research,” which presumably tells the target audience that they’re in the right place, but there’s no information about what academic disciplines, specifically, the software (hardware?) is intended to serve—or whether they’re targeting individual academics, research labs, or departmental IT leads.

    Moreover, the copy doesn’t say what the product is. Two different brand names, “GeoAge” and “FAST,” appear, as does “mobility solutions,” which tells us the whatever-it-is is small and probably wireless. Is it software? Is it hardware? Is it a hosted service? Is GeoAge the name of the company? What’s FAST? If you don’t already know, you’re not going to find out here.

    But that’s okay, right, as long as you provide useful information to people who come to the site already knowing the brand name and nature of the product? I suppose it is, if you’re willing to alienate everyone else (and pay someone to field customer service inquiries from the people who can’t tell what’s going on). But is this text serving even the already-informed reader?

    After parsing the copy a bit, she concludes that it tells the visitor little, if anything, they want to know about the product.

    So how SHOULD a business write its home page? Just make sure you answer four question. And you're set.

    1. Who is the product for?
      Ask yourself: Can the target audience tell from this copy that we’re speaking to them? Can other people outside our audience tell that we’re NOT speaking to them?
    2. What is the product?
      Ask yourself: Have we spelled out, clearly and in simple language, what the product is? Are the nouns as concrete as we can make them?
    3. What does the product do for its target user?
      Ask yourself: Have we laid out the product’s primary features and benefits in a clear, concrete way?
    4. Why is the product better than the available alternatives?
      Ask yourself: What evidence do we have for those claims? Are we presenting that evidence clearly and without fluffy, empty language that makes us look like we’re boasting?

    Kissane ends with a solid example of what good copy--copy that sells--look like.

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