Plain-spoken Online Conversion Rate Newsletter - covering web design, sales, marketing, copywriting, usability, SEO, relationship marketing and consumer psychology.


The Message Must be Meat

We’ve been talking about creating copy that leaps off the computer screen and cozies up to your visitors as if it were you sitting right there with them. Personality, voice, verbs, emotions, wordsmithing techniques. They’re important ingredients to the recipe of writing well for the Web.

But it’s time for a Whoa-Nelly. Got your attention? Good, ‘cause this is really important. You can craft the supremest of supreme pieces of copy, and it’s going to be utterly worthless if you fail to speak to the dog, in the language of the dog, about what matters to the heart of the dog.

“You calling my visitor a DOG, Grok?” Hey, bear with me on this.

In his incredible Wizard Academy, Roy Williams talks about Pavlov. You remember him, right? The dude who got the dog to salivate to the sound of a bell?  Roy uses Pavlov’s experiment to illustrate branding and the value of relevance.

You see, Pavlov didn’t put an artfully arranged plate of vegetables in front of the dog. What self-respecting carnivore (aside from my neighbor’s goofy hound who’ll beg for broccoli) gets juiced about vegetables? He put down something the dog seriously cared about, something that would get those salivary glands working overtime: meat.

To the heart of the dog, meat reigns supreme. It matters. It’s the bottom-line food-truth in the canine world-view. It doesn’t matter how fresh those vegetables are or how fancy you dress ‘em up. They’ll never get the dog salivating in the first place.

That’s what you gotta do - identify the “bottom-line food-truth” stuff about your business that’s going to perform the equivalent of getting your visitor to salivate. What’s in the heart of your dogs? What really matters most to them?

Then you can decide how you’re going to serve it up. Only when you’ve figured out what really matters to your dogs can you effectively persuade them, speaking to them in their language.

You can write screens full of gorgeous copy. You can pay through the nose to have a first-class copywriter perform verbal magic. But understand this: even mediocre writing that captures the essence of what matters to the dog will out-perform stellar writing that completely misses the mark.

No, I am not giving you license to slack off on the writing! Make it compelling and appealing. Infuse it with all the goodies we’ve been discussing. Ring the best and most brilliant bell you can! Just keep in mind - if it ain’t the meat, the only thing you’re really serving up is a plate of they-could-care-less-about-it vegetables.


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GROK is taken from the landmark novel "Stranger in a Strange Land", by Robert A. Heinlein. It is a Martian word that implies the presence of intimate and exhaustive knowledges and understanding. Our "GROK" is a keen observer of the world around him and he takes a particular interest in the World Wide Web. The folks at Future Now like him a lot because he's taught them that "sometimes the price of clarity is the risk of insult."

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