Last week my daughter showed me a very funny Peter Kay clip. In it he jokes about having to resort to the “emergency chairs” when having Sunday Dinner at his mother's house.
It reminded me of Christmases when I was growing up. I'm the youngest in a big family, so I was usually the one sent off to find anything remotely resembling a chair so we could all sit and eat Christmas dinner together. I ended up sitting on anything from a deckchair to a high stool, or even the occasional beanbag.
The first time I watched the clip, I laughed uncontrollably. That rare, primeval laugh you do when a particular memory resurfaces. Kay's delivery plays a big part obviously, but his real skill is knowing what stories people will relate to and the reaction these will trigger.
Hold on a second, what's this got to do with web stuff?
Steady on, I'm coming to that!
Running a successful website isn't just about Google rankings and traffic volumes. In fact, there's no point having a website at all if it doesn't connect with the customers you're trying to attract.
To generate more online enquiries or sales, you need to show visitors that you understand their fears and challenges, and can offer a solution to put things right. Human nature is such that we feel more at ease with people that seem to ‘understand' us, or have common interests. And, as studies have shown, businesses that connect with their customers on an emotional level, are far more likely to be successful than those that don't.
Peter Kay knows how to connect with his audience. He has an acute sense of the emotions and psyche he has to tap into. And the more the audience relates to Kay's stories, the stronger the (laughter) reaction will be. The best web copywriters use similar techniques to engage and connect with readers, in the hope it will generate more business.
You talking to me?
A few days ago, my car failed its NCT (no, this isn't the first line of a joke!). I must confess, I'm not mechanically-minded, so I don't enjoy taking my car to the garage. I'm not sure why this is, but maybe my lack of knowledge makes me feel vulnerable. I worry mechanics will sniff out my ‘ignorance' and exploit it by charging me over the odds. While my fears may be unfounded, if you run a garage and are trying to win my business, then my perception is what counts.
So, anyway, I found the website of a garage nearby, and read through their “services” page. Here's what it said:
Sounds harmless enough. But surely the ultimate goal of any website, whether it's a local garage or a multinational business, is to acquire new customers. In any industry there's competition. So it's crucially important to differentiate your business from your competitors so people have a compelling reason to buy from you.
The above copy could apply to any garage, anywhere in the world. So why should anyone reading it be compelled to go there, when there are so many other options available?
I'm typical of the new customers they're trying to attract. Yet they've made no effort to understand my needs, or try and pre-empt or address the concerns I might have about getting my car repaired in an unfamiliar place.
Poor copywriting is a disease
Clearly it's not just garages that suffer from this affliction. It's a disease that affects every type of business under the sun. Apart from a few rare examples, just about every website is guilty of spouting out bland, generic, beige-coloured crap that says nothing new and resonates with absolutely nobody.
Put your money where your mouth is punk!
So I asked myself, how could I apply the same technique used by Peter Kay to write better copy for a garage website? Admittedly I have the luxury of being able to make up a few facts, but the main principles still apply.
Here's my quick attempt at writing a better page. It's only a quick draft, but you'll get the picture:
Not your typical garage
We're NOT like other garages. You know, the kind where you park up and walk around not knowing where to go or who to ask for. Where you feel nervous and intimidated, and given no opportunity to question the advice or the quote you're given.
A new approach to car repairs
We feel your pain. So we've opened up a new kind of car repair centre that puts your convenience and satisfaction first. Our customer-first approach means you can:
- Book an inspection at a pre-arranged time, and know who you need to talk to when you arrive.
- Get an honest assessment from a courteous professional (who's happy to answer any questions).
- Get a fair & transparent quote listing all the work to be done (no hidden surprises).
- Choose a convenient date & time for us to carry out the work.
- Have full use of a courtesy car while we fix yours.
Time for a change?
So if you're tired of shoddy service from your local repair centre, book an initial assessment with us online, or give Louise, our Booking Administrator, a call on 01 2345678. We'll be delighted to welcome you.
I don't know, maybe I'm completely off the mark here. Perhaps you think such “woolly” sentiments have no place in deciding where to repair your car. Either way, I'd really appreciate it if you could leave a comment below or get in touch and let me know if this post struck a chord with you.
SEO obsessed, rugby-loving Welshman living in Ireland since 2002. Freelance SEO and Wordpress web design consultant based in Killaloe, Co Clare.
Mark Gable says
Enjoyable read…! Loved the Peter Kay reference and as a car lover the garage scenario definitely struck a chord with me.
So much copy is still targeted at Gen X. Maybe it’s time for companies big and small to take a risk and think about how millennials or even Gen Z would like to be communicated to.
Thanks again for provoking some thought, I look forward to reading some more of your posts.
William Jones says
Thanks for dropping by Mark. I agree there’s lots of poorly targeted copy out there. The critical mistake in my view is not understanding the reasons that are driving your visitors to look for the products you offer or hire your services. If you can ‘tap in’ to these emotional triggers, you’ll have a better chance of creating copy that makes that vital connection.
Nice post as usual, but you lost me half way through your re-draft, which is a lot longer than the original. The original was admittedly beige but relatively short & sweet… & therefore punchier. When I get rich & more energetic you’ll be my web guy of choice of course.
William Jones says
Hi Pam. Thanks for your comment. I agree the re-write was a little ‘wordy’ so I’ve cut it down a fair bit while trying to retain the main sentiment. Not sure I agree with the “short & sweet” is always better stance though. By that logic, the best version would be “We fix cars” 🙂 The point I’m trying to make is that businesses should try harder to relate to their web visitors’ fears and emotions. If they do this successfully in their web copy, they will stand out from most of their competitors.
Stewart Geddes says
Really like the idea. I know any time a company caters for my needs, and tries to understand what my concerns up front, they are going to get a loyal customer. The thing is, I’m asking for very little, and am quite easily pleased. It always shocks me how many companies miss the little (important things).
Great tips for copy writing. I’m currently trying to find my voice in my writing and drop the academic style i have.
Great tips, thanks.
I think you’ve nailed it. We all know sales bumpf when we see it, and maybe 1 in a 100 will read it. When someone hooks you with a little bit of a story you want to see how it ends. And I don’t know what he does but Big PK is a GENIUS!
This is an informative and nice article. You have given a great explanation about web copywriting and it was very easy to understand. I liked visiting your blog.