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How to drastically improve the copy on your site, even if you only have 5 minutes.

First, let me tell you a little story involving butterflies and bladders. 

I've spent the past few days at MicroConf. Just a phenomenal conference, full of like-minded folks, loaded with actionable content. Not to get too carried away, but it was a life-changer. I'd go on some more, but I don't want you competing with me for tickets next year.

On the second day, Joanna Wiebe from Copyhackers selected a handful of sites from the audience to do a public "tear down" of in front of these 200 folks. 200 folks I admire and respect. I had submitted my baby, my brand-new, just launched site (DownDetect.com) ahead of time as a candidate to be selected.

As soon as she took the stage, an angry mob of butterflies started attacking my internal organs.

She opened the first site and started working it over and providing some great, if slightly brutal feedback. Really good stuff. After she moved to the next site I could see in her browser window that she had about 12 tabs open. It dawned on me that she was working her way through these open tabs, and that the open tabs were the sites she had selected for tear down. About eight tabs in, I saw the favicon for my site. The angry butterflies grew teeth. Sharp ones. And they pulled out pitch forks. And chainsaws. And congregated in my bladder.

I figured 7 tabs was a lot of ground to cover, so I would have the time to address the sudden urge, and from where I was sitting in the very front row I quickly slinked out the back of the room to the bathroom. What a baby, I know. I emptied my bladder and the butterflies relocated to my stomach and heart. I hurried back to the conference room and what to my wondering eyes did appear as I walked in the room than my site, my baby, my precious up on the big screen. She had already started. The moderator was looking for the site owner to hand the microphone to. I pulled a hamstring sprinting to the front of the room, groping for the microphone like the final runner in a relay race. 

Dd-teardown

So here's what I learned, and how I dramatically improved the copy on my site in 5 minutes (and how you can too):

After she said some nice things, Joanna pointed out the main problem with my copy – the language was all focused on me, and it should instead be focused on my prospect. I was selling myself, when I should be focusing on what's in it for them.

In Joanna's own words:

Talking about yourself — even thinking about yourself — when you write your copy will only do one thing: get in the way.

It will shut down the sale.

Which means that you are the biggest roadblock to better communication with your customers.

This is the foundation of great copywriting: People don't care about you. They only care about themselves.

You care about you. But no one else does. (Except yo' mama.)

Your visitors want what they want. They do not "want" what you're trying to sell them.

Your job then, is not to "try" to sell your visitors a product. You're trying to sell them themselves.

Ok, so here's a fun little exercise, take a look at the version of my site Joanna (and everyone!) saw and see if you can spot the problems. To make it easier, I've color-coded my stupidity.

BEFORE

Dd-before

So as soon as I got home, I spent 5 minutes (and I'll need to spend more, we're not perfect yet) and turned those sub headings around. Check out the difference below (or see it here in the wild).

AFTER

Dd-after
Notice the difference? Yeah. Serious improvement.

My humble thanks to Joanna for the help.

I hope this gives you some ideas for your site. 

I highly recommend Joanna's email list, by the way. The first lesson she sends out addresses the same topic I've addressed here in even more depth.

The most important entrepreneurial lesson I’ve learned.

I've enjoyed recreational fishing since I was a kid. Over the years I've had the chance to fish and associate with some top anglers, and I've noticed something about them – they don't waste time in an unproductive location. If the fish aren't biting, they quickly move to a new spot. 

This applies to startup ideas too. Finding out if the market will respond positively has to be as early in the process as possible, and you should move on if it's not a fit. 

I've poured emberassing amounts of time into terrible ideas that I thought were brilliant, so please learn this principle from me, it will save you unspeakable time, money and shame if you do:

The market does not care how long you worked on something or how well you did it. Effort is not rewarded. The market cares only if what you've done is a fit for their needs.

This can be a crushing truth, especially for a craftsman. We take our startups very personally, and the more time we invest in them, the more personally we take them. But if we're serious about turning our venture into something that pays the bills, and grants us freedom, we have to accept and embrace this truth. There is no reward for sticking to something for a long time, if it's the wrong thing. If it's the wrong thing, if there is not a market fit, you fail. And unfortunately, there is no correlation between time invested and market fit.

And very often we have no idea what's going to resonate, and what's not, even when we think we do. This is why building an MVP, and validated learning are so important. Before we get too carried away, we have to find out if the market wants what we're building. 

I leave you with a couple of multimedia nuggets for thought. Consider these as you determine what to spend your time and energy on. 

 

Watch the first 2:30 of this video. This is a common success story. The idea fell in his lap, he got it out there almost by accident and learned that the market wanted it. Then he built it and succeeded. (Compare that to your latest gut-it-out effort.) 

 

And finally, the great Derek Siver's explains this concept brilliantly here. (Incidentally, I highly recommend his book. Short and sweet, and full of similar insights, including the one shown in this video). 

 

Side note: A very interesting benefit to the KickStarter (and similar) phenomena is that folks are pumping out ideas, and using KickStarter not just to raise money, but to validate their idea. This is huge. Especially for hard goods that require a larger capital investment to get started. 

LaunchRock

What is it?

Launchrock-logo

LaunchRock: A service that provides a pre-launch page for your startup (you know, the “signup to be notified when we launch” type of site).

Heres the one I created for a project I’m working on for startup founders (and those aspiring to be).

Who makes it?

LaunchRock

Why is it the killerest?

In addition to a nice pre-launch page, it has good social integration, encouraging those who sign up to share it with their friends via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr or email. 

FireShot Screen Capture #013 - 'Are you a founder of an internet startup_ - We're looking for startup founders who have launched (or are launching soon) and are willing to share their story_' - signup_launchhappy_com

There are also some modest stats telling you your conversion rate, which can be helpful.

FireShot Screen Capture #012 - 'Insights I LaunchRock' - app_launchrock_com_insights

It’s fairly easy to use, and they’ve thought of a lot of details like a confirmation email, social integration where you can pre-seed what they say when they share, an ability to export all of your subscribers for easy loading into your favorite email sending system, and domain mapping (i.e. you can point your own URL to your page).

If you feel too constrained by their limited template, you can embed the form on your own site, where you have more latitude.

What could be improved?

They offer a very limited ability to customize the design and layout for the fully hosted version. They have custom CSS “coming soon” which should help immensely. I was able to work around some of these limitations by using inline HTML and inline styles – which seem to be supported. It’s fairly amenable to a little lightweight “hacking.”

How much does it cost?

Free

Rating?

Reviewed by Carson McComas

p.s. see also: Launch Effect which I liked a bit better. It’s a WordPress theme with the same purpose.