Creating Great Online Product Content: Confusion is Deadlier than Apathy.
(This is part five of our five-part guide, Creating Great Online Product Content: Five Secrets the Pros Know.)
If you’re doing product research online, and after reading a product detail page and determining that the particular product isn’t what you’re looking for, it was probably still a positive experience. Your perception of the brand is unchanged, and it might have even been improved.
But consider consider the scenario where there’s a particular feature that you need, but the manufacturer hasn’t seen fit to explain whether the product has it. Or, it’s not clear to you which model is the manufacturer’s top of the line. Or, they use terms (either technical terms or branded features) but haven’t bothered to explain what they mean.
You might go away angry. The company has shown disrespect for the time you’ve given them to read their content.
This is easy to prevent with the application of some basic disciplines.
Listen to your copywriter.
Earlier, we mentioned the value of empowering the copy development team to feed back if they don’t understand the value proposition. Think twice before dismissing feedback by declaring that the copywriter isn’t in your target market.
We’ve had clients tell us “our target market knows what that term means,” but we’ve explained that you’re always trying to grow your market. 90% of your market might be licensed contractors, but 10% of customers who find your product content might be homeowners who are dabbling in DIY for the first time. 80% of your customers may have already owned lots of other products like it (whether it’s a lawn mower or a sports car), but there’s always that customer out there who’s buying one for the first time. Go above and beyond what the competition is doing… use a couple of extra sentences to explain what something is and why it’s important, and you’ll gain a fan.
Think in parallel.
The goal of line logic is for customers to understand the differences between your brands or products, and know which ones are aimed at them. Creating content that conveys this starts in the early stages of product development. Well-written line logic briefs contain tables that are orderly and can be read left to right as well as top to bottom. Reading the column explains the product. Reading the row gives you a clear idea of the differences between the products — whether the row explains the USP, the target customer, the primary application, or a feature.
Use this parallelism when producing product content, as well. Write for the customer who might be flipping through multiple product detail pages. As they flip back and forth, they’ll see the same information in the same place on each page.
Here’s a sample of a line-logic bible for a dog food manufacturer which operates two brands. One of the very first steps of launching a new product is updating the line logic bible and making it available to everybody who’s involved in taking the new product to market. Now imagine a manufacturer with dozens of products across multiple lines and brands. Keeping this up to date is essential to ensure that your point of sale messaging is clear.
Think about next year.
When you’re producing advertisements (online or otherwise), press releases, social posts, or other ephemeral content, you’re thinking in the now. Your product is new. It’s just been released. It’s the fastest, best, most advanced, the lightest weight! It’s your flagship product! It’s the ultimate!
Use the heck out of those superlatives.
But, be careful with online content, because it tends to stick around. Avoid the prototypical problem of having two or more product pages, each of which states that it’s “your best,” or “the ultimate,” or “your flagship.” That might have been the case for the first six months of each product’s life, but now you’re risking confusing your customer and provoking that negative reaction.
In ideal situations, you can convey a product’s awesomeness without using copy that will get you in trouble in six months when you release a product that’s even more awesome. You can usually convey that your product is the top of your line through the feature set (this is where developing in parallel helps), the imagery, and in price. Porsche does not need to tell you directly that the 911 is their high-end model.
For situations which aren’t ideal, and you just can’t get away with writing copy that explicitly states that it’s your best product, then you’ll need to have a rigorous system for auditing and updating product content. Using a content syndication service like Webcollage or CNet ContentCast makes it easier; you can update product content and have it automatically pushed to all your retailers within a day or so. And, auditing the content for your previous products should be an explicit step in the go-to-market plan for new releases.