Make your web copy more relevant with personas

Every time I edit copy for a website, I run across pretty much the same issues. Too much focus on features and not enough on benefits. Copy that is more about you than what’s in it for those you’re trying to connect with. And, inevitably, there is no clear call to action. There is also industry jargon, overuse of adverbs, addiction to –ing, and my number one pet peeve: the dangling participle.

But by far the most common (and biggest) problem I run into is –in fact, it’s almost universal – people are afraid to write anything that could alienate, well, anyone. Which makes for weak, boring copy that connects equally badly with everyone generally and with no one in particular. You know what I’m talking about.

The writing of watery web copy comes from the same place as the inability to turn down work outside one’s positioning because of financial pressures. To be able to turn down work, usually you need to make some tough financial decisions. To write effective web copy, you need to be willing to be “not for everyone.” In fact, if you do it right, your web copy will quickly spur those who are not your clients, to reject you. (If you think about it that way, it doesn’t seem quite as counterintuitive.) Conversely, those whom are your idea clients will easily see — and feel — the alignment.

To do this, however, you must first understand who your “ideal client” is, what they need, how you can help. To get clear on whom exactly that ideal client is, it’s helpful to create and then write to a specific persona.

According to Steve Mulder, author of “The User is Always Right,” personas are “realistic personality profiles that represents a significant group of your users.” Simply put, personas help you to focus on the groups who matter most. And my colleague Mark O’Brien from web development company Newfangled goes into detail about personas in his new book “A Website That Works.” (Get it, then turn to page 39.)

The ability to focus on writing to one type of person radically simplifies the content creation process and makes for potent, compelling copy that has a much greater potential for connecting with those people that are delighted to have found you and can’t wait to engage you and your firm. Who is your ideal client?

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