Excellent product descriptions and sales copy can really enhance or hurt a product line. Guest blogger, Megan Brame, an award-winning entrepreneur and founder of the Stop Sucking at Business podcast is here to offer tips for improving your copy!
I think when I say “copywriting” most people’s eyes gloss over with the assumption I’m about to be the most boring person in the world or they think I’m trying to trademark something.
- I know nada about legal stuff (you’re thinking of copyrights, not copywriting)
- I’m downright delightful, okay? Not boring
Let me start with: I am not a copywriter. My background was Social Sciences before I became an entrepreneur, my grammar is B+ at best, and I will defend to the death my right to use the Oxford comma. I’m not a persuasive copy superstar, I’m simply a woman that ran a business with a $0 budget for advertising. I bootstrapped my business with nothing more than cash from craft shows, wholesale, and the occasional infusion from my American Express. There was barely a budget for packaging, nevermind advertising.
So to get the word out, I had to be clever with what I had: a passion for my brand and a desire to get my products into the hands of as many people as possible. So I tried everything I could to figure out how to write crazy-good product descriptions to help me get ahead. I figured if I made it easy for my intended audience (sometimes customers, sometimes beauty editors, and once in awhile an award jury) to “get” my message, they would GET my products.
I learned how to do this so well, in fact, that I beat ginormous companies at trade shows; companies that were so much better than I was in profitability and schmoozing. I beat all of those B’s repeatedly because I knew how to talk the talk that made people pay attention.
But here’s the secret: I am lazy. Like, REALLY lazy. I get bouts of drive and motivation when it comes to product creation and big ideas, but when it came to nitty gritty details like product descriptions, I’d procrastinate and put it off as long as I could. It just felt like a whole thing, you know? So instead of researching proper copy techniques or hiring a pro, I did things my own way… and found out, weirdly enough, it worked.
Okay, so what is “my way?” I can certainly drone on, can’t I? Sorry, let’s get down to it:
The basic concept behind good product descriptions is knowing the language of your audience, and having a conversation with them. You do this by telling them what’s in it for them if they buy your product. You may have heard the phrase “features and benefits” if you’ve done any sort of business class before. “Features tell, benefits sell.” Sounds simple, but it can be hard to distinguish it in the beginning of trying to buff up your copy muscle. So here’s how it works:
My industry was skincare and home fragrance. So for my soaps, a feature would’ve been that they’re organic. And organic is great, but so what? Okay, well, they were also vegan. Okay…so what? Um, well, they…uh…clean…you?
2 of those were features, 1 was a crappy sounding benefit. Do you see the difference? Features tell bullets (organic, vegan), benefits sell what’s in it for the customer (the soaps will clean you).
When writing product descriptions that will sell, you need to craft a story in your copy that turns “okay, so what?” into “I needed this, like, yesterday.” Well crafted copy illuminates senses in your customer and invokes their imagination. It creates a story that involves your customer in the journey and conveys the passion that you have for your brand. It doesn’t yell things at them “Organic! Vegan! BUY!” instead it artfully turns the description into an irresistible urge in their brain that makes them need to buy right now.
So back to the lazy way I did things: I would do what I called “passion brain dumps” which essentially was throwing up everything I could think of about my products onto a google doc and then hacking it down into something that didn’t sound insane. It was mostly features, though. Crap. That’s not going to help anyone! So I began to figure out how to twist the features, just a little, and turn them into benefits.
So back to organic and vegan (and if you’re a soapmaker reading this, enjoy the free copy). What’s in it for the customer? Well…maybe something like:
The artisan soaps are made with oils that are sourced from small, certified organic farms around the world and are carefully crafted to ensure that all ingredients are not only organic, but vegan as well, so that you’re able to feel good about the choices you’ve made in your skincare, from farm to shower!
“Organic” and “vegan” went from bullet points to components of an experience. It may feel a little hokey in the beginning, but this is what gets the attention of customers (and juries). Instead of just listing the features of my soap, I created a little imagination game that involved: being in the shower, knowing that you’re using a soap with ingredients that are high quality and sustainable, and that made you feel good…and clean!
Let’s try it with a knitted sweater, but let me preface this with: this is not my wheelhouse, so if I get the nitty gritty wrong, I am so sorry.
The sweater is made from 100% wool and hand dyed by the sheep herder (Shepherd, I guess. Right? Again, sorry…).
Okay, nice to know. But where’s the story? What’s in it for the customer?
Howzabout instead something like:
This 100% wool sweater is perfect for snuggling up on the sofa after a day out in the harsh winter wind. Snuggling up in its warm, soft threads is an experience in itself, but look closer. Upon further inspection you’ll begin to admire the small color variations in the wool. These variations are a signature of the process that stems from the dye used by the shepherd we’ve sourced from, the nature of which give the spectrum of color palette in the wool a sense of depth and complexity that can’t be found in synthetic fibers. It’s in these small details that make this sweater impossible to replicate, as each one is one of a kind.
In that paragraph I’ve let the customer know it’s 100% wool, it’s hand dyed, and we’ve sourced it from 1 shepherd, but I’ve also invoked the idea of cuddling up with it to get away from crappy weather, and taught them that there’s a way to appreciate the special aspect of having something hand dyed and not synthetically made. I’ve created a story that put them in that awesome sweater and made it feel like a special experience.
Sometimes copy can be so good that you don’t even need amazing imagery. Case in point: Ever heard of J. Peterman (Seinfeld fans: holla if you hear me)? They’re a chichi clothing company that for years never used photographs of the clothes. Instead they used sketches (If you hit up their website, you’ll see they still use sketches as the featured image for each product) and they blew everyone away. They were known for their copy as much as they were for their clothes, and they drove their customers buh. nan. nas. (in a good way.) You have the ability to do the same.
You don’t need crazy budgets for ad spend, you don’t need to schmooze, and you don’t need to be huge to stand out. Learning the simple method of turning features into benefits can set you ahead and is the exact method I used to get the attention of over 100 editors and 5 award juries.
That’s just a quick run over of how to hack your way to better copy. If you’re not telling a story and just using bullet points, you’re missing a huge opportunity for creating desire from your visitors.
Last thing! To thank you for making it down this far, I made a workbook just for you guys that helps knock out this process (and it’s totally free). You can download the Lazy Guide to Better Product Descriptions here.
Megan Brame is an award-winning entrepreneur who now spends her time teaching others how to hack their way to business success via her blog and podcast, Stop Sucking at Business. You can reach her on Twitter @meganpluscoffee