Your product descriptions need not only to describe the product you’re offering, but do so in such a way that appeals to your audience and the search engines. It’s a task that’s hard for many businesses to accomplish. Getting it right will no doubt take time, but it’s an investment in your business, so it’s worth it, right? Here I break down everything you need to know step by step.
Start with Your Customer Persona
Your customer persona, also known as your buyer persona, is a critical piece of the puzzle here. If you don’t know who your customers are, how will you ever write copy that will appeal to them? Your buyer persona starts with a detailed look at your target customer. It should be as full of detail as possible, using information from your current customer base. Details could include: age, gender, geographic location, career, income level, education level, core beliefs, marital status, family size, and more. Ideally, you should create one for each segment of your target audience, and use the appropriate persona to craft the matching product descriptions.
For instance, if you have a men’s and women’s section on your site, use the ideal male customer persona to help you in writing all of the men’s department descriptions, and the female persona to help you in writing all the descriptions for the women’s department. If you already have a customer persona developed, then you can move onto the next step, but if not, start here before moving on. For more detailed information about what goes into a customer persona, I’ve written a blog post you can read. It also includes a template to help you build a character of sorts that you can pretend you’re speaking to as you write. It may sound silly, but using this approach helps make sure your copy is on point.
What are the Features and Benefits?
Your prospective customers don’t really care about what your product is or what it does. (I mean, yes they do, but not in the way you’d think.) Instead of point blank describing a product for what it is and what it does, you have to write your descriptions in such a way that tells the customer what’s in it for them. How does this product make their lives better? What problems does it take away?
To make this process easier, make a list of all the features and specifications of your product. You can batch this process for all the products in your catalog, if you want. Then, take that list and translate the features into benefits. Features are facts about your product, and benefits are an explanation of what the feature does for the reader. You can phrase benefits positively, or as a problem that’s reduced or eliminated.
- Feature: Blue-light filter
- Benefit: Improves sleep, reduces eye strain – this includes both a positive benefit and a problem to be avoided
The way Amazon describes their Kindle Paperwhite is a wonderful example. They do a great job of mixing positive benefits with problems that can be avoided.
- Positive Benefit: Battery lasts for weeks
- Positive Benefit: Read anywhere day or night
- Problem to be Avoided: Read without eye-strain
- Problem to be Avoided: No screen glare
Remember, the majority of people are risk-averse, so it’s a good idea to include information about how your product avoids problems and hassles. What are some of the objections your customers could come up with, and how can you address them with features and benefits?
Tone of Voice
What’s the tone you’re using for the rest of your copy on your website and in your communications with your followers on social and email? Your tone of voice can make you sound like a huge corporation that’s boring, or it can foster engagement with your readers through humor and personality.
You can use your tone of voice to set yourself apart from your competition, and let it show more of your company culture and personality. Go beyond saying you’re fun and add a bit of humor to your content. Instead of saying you provide excellent customer service, your tone of voice should let customers see that you’re friendly and approachable.
Having trouble defining your tone of voice? Consider what you are and aren’t. Are you fun? Are you business-oriented, but purposely avoid jargon and empty phrases like “top of the line”?
If you’re still having trouble, think about how you would speak to your buyer persona if they were a real person standing in front of you. That’s the tone you want to take with your writing style.
Keep it Scannable
Studies show people only read about 16% of the words on the average web page. That means you’re probably doing the same thing right now, and that’s okay. But, it also means people aren’t going to pay attention to every single word in your product description. But to entice them to make a purchase, you need them to read it.
It’s all in the formatting. Use subheadings that focus on benefits, and body text to expand on them. Include pictures to show the product and make your reader feel like they are using it, or could see themselves using it. It will boost their desire to try it themselves. You could also use subheadings with bullet points, and try using color to draw attention to certain areas of the description.
Write a Description
At this point, writing a draft of your product description should be easier since you know who you’re writing it for, and have some idea of what you want to include. It’s time to go through your list of features, benefits, and possible objections to determine what you want to include and how. It’s a good idea to rank them in order of importance to your buyer.
If you have a short list, keep the most important benefits at the top, and work your way down to the least important benefit at the bottom.
If your product is expensive, that’s a risk, so to appease your buyers, you’re going to have to demonstrate the value your product offers. You’ll have to show them why your product is an investment.
Write quickly, without focusing on grammar or spelling. Write the draft when you feel positive and enthusiastic and it will come through in the words.
Edit the Description
Now that you’ve gotten the base of the description written, it’s time to go back to it and edit it to make sure it’s as persuasive as possible. I recommend walking away from the description for a day or so before you go back to it. If you don’t have that kind of time, enlist another set of eyes to look at it and edit it for you.
Go beyond editing for typos and grammar. Look at your list of features and benefits to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Is the copy focused on your company or your reader? Engaging copy uses the word “you” more often than the product name, your brand name, or the words, “us”, “we”, and “I”.
Are there any difficult words you could replace with simpler versions? What’s the average sentence length? Making shorter sentences will improve overall readability. Don’t stress it if you decide to start a sentence with “And” or But” because even well known brands like Apple do it.
Are there any generic phrases? You should replace those with specific details. I’ve already told you to avoid phrases like, “excellent customer service” because it’s generic and doesn’t make you sound credible. Instead, say something like, “we’ll get back to you in 24 hours or less” because it is specific and lends credibility. Plus, the use of numbers helps display fact and keeps the eyes from wandering.
Before you move on, visualize yourself talking to your buyer. Read your copy out loud. Do you find yourself stumbling over anything? Does it engage the buyer? Does it entice them to buy? Go over it again until you know it will convince your buyer to make the purchase.
Optimize for SEO
Writing your copy for your buyer persona means using the phrases he or she uses. When you use this approach, you’re automatically optimizing your product descriptions for the search engines, as these are the phrases your buyer will use to search on Google. Here are a few more tips:
- Don’t use jargon unless you know your customer persona will do the same.
- Use your keywords in the headlines, subheadings, and body text.
- Optimize your images with keywords in the image description, file name, and alt tag.
Focusing too much on what the search engines think of your description will ruin the persuasiveness of your copy. Write for your readers first, and the search engine second.
Making Your Product Descriptions Irresistible
It’s easy to write drab product descriptions that talk about what you’re selling. That’s not what you’re going for. Think about your buyer and how you could make their lives easier or more enjoyable. Avoid using vague language. Don’t just list the features. Converting those features into benefits is what will convince the buyer to make a purchase.