Monday, February 15, 2016

How to Write Product & Service Descriptions That Sell

Over the years, I've seen a lot of clients who think they need 'sales copy' (to sell their products/services) when they really don't.

I'll admit that I'm a little bias against the persuasive sales letter strategy. While they are effective with the easily persuaded, the familiarity alone can be an immediate turn off for cynical people.

That's why I take the simple and straight forward approach, and would like to show you some of the other mistakes people often make when trying to sell too hard, including how to write better descriptions so even the most difficult customers will want to buy your products or services.

Would You Like to Buy Some (Overpriced) Popcorn?

My boys learned a valuable lesson in sales during the latest fundraiser season for cub scouts. We were working a 2 hour shift outside a home goods store, and they were taught a simple script to follow. 

It's easy to remember. When someone comes out of the store, greet them politely and then ask "would you like to buy some popcorn and support the scouts?"

At this point, MOST people would politely say "No Thanks" and keep walking. 

Once in a while, someone would stop, peek at the table, and ask "How Much?" This is where the boys would show each of the options, starting with the $10 caramel corn and working up to the $30 tin of cheese popcorn that nobody was buying.

Almost 40 minutes in, the boys were closing about 20%, almost all the cheapest option. Not too bad, but I made a simple suggestion for improvement. 

Changing the Script

Instead of asking "Would you like to buy some popcorn?", the boys started asking "What's your favorite kind of popcorn?"

This question alone generated more interest. Almost immediately, fewer people would walk away because this question engaged their interest, opening a dialogue instead of a one-sided conversation.

Based on their answer, the boys would go grab that specific flavor, then describe how purchasing your favorite kind of popcorn will also go to support a good cause. 

At this point, more people were pulling out their wallets before asking "How Much?". (This is always a good sign.)

They were also selling a bigger variety of popcorn, at a 60% conversion rate, including that $30 cheese popcorn tin. What a difference it can make when you know exactly what your customer wants, instead of just hoping they'll be interested in buying from you...

So who is your best customer?

I recommend knowing who your best customer is FIRST. You may not be able to have a two sided conversation with your readers, but you can fake it by focusing on one very specific person instead of generalized demographics. 

Try creating a detailed overview of your best customer. "Female, age 18-35" just doesn't cut it, so try "young and successful woman, fashion conscious and independent/feminist personality." It's important to step outside of your own head and look at your brand from the perspective that matters most.

Your best customer has other options, and not just competing businesses. Understanding what makes YOU a more attractive solution over every other option available... this is where you can build a strong foundation that earns trust and secures loyalty instead of one-time (often regrettable) transactions.

So What?

The first step of writing product or service descriptions is creating a bullet list of all the important features. 

And one of the biggest mistakes is stopping there, because the average person will unconsciously be wondering "So What?"

You need to answer that question, but not just for any potential customer... for your BEST customer. That's why the next step should be to turn each feature into a benefit that your best customer really cares about. 

One way to do this is a simple formula:
  • {feature} SO {benefit}
  • {benefit} BECAUSE {feature}
  • Batteries included, SO product is ready to use right out of the box.
  • Read with only one hand, BECAUSE it weighs less than the iPad Mini.

Prove it.

Don't SAY you have a quality product, SHOW it. 

Take out fluffy phrases like "results-oriented" and literally spell out the effort that goes into getting results. As always, this is going to circle back around to your best customer because you need to focus on their expectations, on the emotions that motivate the buying decision. Focus on the promises you must make-- and keep-- to earn trust and loyalty.

Some of the most creative examples can paint a powerful image of what the product means without ever actually describing the product itself. 

Look at the jewelry industry for inspiration on how this works. A commercial for a diamond necklace won't even mention the four Cs, but it will describe the feeling of being appreciated... appealing to the under-appreciated wife/girlfriend and consequentially planting the idea into husbands/boyfriends that *this necklace* will show her she is valued.

With a little creativity, you can sell the desire for any product or service before even saying what that product is. If you can get your audience reaching for their wallets before asking "how much", you nailed it!

But sometimes it takes a little outside perspective to get outside of your own head and describe your brand the way your best customers will remember. So if you need a little extra help with putting your message into the right words for your audience... head on over to and let's chat!