Who likes to write sales page copy?

Crashing into growth marketing: a CEO journey. Part 6 — Conversion

Convinced prospects

Apparently those people who know how to write sales copy. The people who have some sort of a framework of evaluating whether the copy is good enough without looking into a mirror ball and making guesses based on user behaviour whenever you get a bit of website traffic.

But suddenly — that’s me now. Guess what, it took me three days to learn. This is how it went.

Venn diagram: What prospects want vs what your product has (especially the unique part!)

Writing is hard to judge without criteria.

Although I’m generally OK with writing in general (this IS my sixth blog post of 1500+ words about how I watch tutorial videos at home), I’ve been always extremely frustrated with creating functional copy for our website and landing pages.

  1. I don’t want to write everything myself (because I know I’m not the very best at it).
  2. I don’t want to be the person to criticise and heavy edit other people’s writing while not being the best at it — and I have no idea whether my comments are making it better or worse.

So for these few years of startup life I’ve been distancing myself from the words on our site — repeating the mantra of

But in just nine hours of video tutorials, the CXL mentors have given me a clear and specific framework on how to compose landing page copy. They’ve given me a fairly clear order for paragraphs that take the visitor on a sense-making journey before showing them the conversion button.

I listened, then went in and edited two of our landing pages.. And I can say with 100% confidence that they’re better than they were before. Will they convert better? Remains to be seen. But I’m confident that I definitely did not make them worse. And that’s a level of confidence I can happily live with.

Do not come up with your website copy

Sooooo many discussions that we’ve had with the team about which words to use in our copy. I have an opinion, you have an opinion. Eventually even the CTO gets involved and disqualifies a word he doesn’t like. What a mess.

Now I know you are not supposed to do this at all. Do not come up with your website copy. You need to steal your website copy. Thank you for absolutely changing my life, Momoko Price!!

Actually the word used in the tutorials is “swipe”, and it doesn’t mean plagiarising competitors but finding review copy written by actual customers. And if you don’t have a lot of reviews from your customers, it’s absolutely OK to swipe reviews for your competition!

So I hike out to plunder copy from G2 and Trustpilot forums. I quickly learn a few things:

  • Even the really bad apps have a ton of excellent reviews
  • Real people write really inspiring comments (for some reason I think I can distinguish a fake review from a real review)
  • I could not come up with these amazing phrases myself, never in a million years

As I’m too scared to tackle our front page as a first try, my first optimisation project will be a theme landing — we have a page devoted to youth engagement projects. So I look for reviews from customers who have used a collaboration app for their youth group.

One of the reviews is thankful that “” — yes, privacy is one of our main value propositions, too!

Another review goes into great detail about the the downsides of not using the reviewed application — I so totally agree! Chat apps are a scrolling mess with a team over 10 people! That’s why we’re building Zelos!

I end up getting several pages of youth-related testimonials from actual people. They haven’t been written about our app, but doesn’t matter! This is how actual people speak and write — and it’s one hundred times better than coming up with my own favourite copy.

The order of things

As expected, everything starts from estimating the awareness of the visitor. In case of well-known brands, the visitors come in fully aware of the brand, or even looking for the specific product, excited to click on the purchase button.

In case of an early-stage startup (like us), the visitors may come in either as

  • comparison shoppers that know this exact solution exists and are looking to compare products, or
  • only generally problem-aware, browsing for possible solutions

While there is a ton of productivity software available for community building, Zelos is not an exact clone of any existing popular brand. So most of our visitors need to be walked through the whole thing — from what it is to what it does, to who we are and why we’re awesome. The less they know, the more we need to tell them.

So it’s OK to have a long landing page. Skipping relevant information is definitely not the right strategy to get them to the conversion button faster.

  1. Motivation

The thing that a visitor brings along to a new site is their motivation. And as a marketer, this is the one thing we can not change or influence. Motivation means — what do they want? What are their desired outcomes, what are their pain points? And it’s really important to address the motivation at the very top of the page so they’ll stay.

On our landing, we’re getting the motivation terribly wrong— the top of our page describes stuff you can do with our app. Get notifications, look at statistics. Bleh. Nobody wakes up in the morning, motivated to get notifications. This definitely needs to change.

I go and look at my stolen testimonials. “”, they say. “”. Yep, this is much more what I can see our target audience actually and literally dreaming about.

2. Value

Once we match the motivation and the website visitor is confident that they’re interested in hearing more about this amazing thing that addresses their desires, the next paragraphs should be about actual value.

What are the unique benefits and advantages, what are the exact features? Do you have the dealbreaker needs that are a must have?

I am not convinced about our efforts here. Our site still talks about stuff you can do with the app. We provide a few ideas and recommendations about possible usage, and describe an ideal user with positive words. Closer, but not excellent.

I’m stealing a few testimonials about being in control of user data, and combine a paragraph about the convenience of mobile apps (many of our competitors for this segment are browser only!) And I figure out how to embed a feature walkthrough video from our youtube channel. Much better now!

3. Anxiety

The third core segment is to address any kind of visitor anxiety. What may they be worried about? What are the perceived risks and objections?

I create an experiment on usabilityhub.com that shows an image of the top of our page and asks

I post the experiment on a youth trainer community group on Facebook and get a few answers (usually I should push for more, but it’s the holidays).

Luckily, I get the obvious answers.

We already have a bit of social proof on the landing — a few client logos, a large testimonial banner, links to blog posts. But the support and pricing information comes in super vague. We have a button that says “Let’s get started” and another button that says “Get in touch”.

One of the tutorials gave me a good slap about generic button CTAs. Never again shall you write “Learn more” on a button! (Yes, this is the core CTA on our home page right now. Blasphemy!)

The good formula is:

“Start a free project” is my new button that directs them to sign up in the app. “Book a free demo” says the button that should convince them of existing support. “Watch video” says the popup trigger that plays a youtube video.

They call it expectation management, and it’s a really really seriously important thing. There’s a thing called click fear that means people absolutely dread clicking on things if they are not 100% sure about what’s going to happen. Will I get redirected to another site? Will they magically charge my credit card? Will my email get spam now? Will something start playing with loud noise?

Keeping things really clear is important also on arrival to the site. Whether it’s clicking on a paid ad or Google search result, the click through needs to make sense.

One of our landings the meta snippet that shows up in search results says “Digital solution for crisis relief volunteers” but the site header says “App for disaster management”. Am I in the wrong place? I was looking for this other thing! Better close the browser and bounce. Ouch. Lots of work to do.

Value proposition

The hardest part of the whole thing is obviously coming up with the header proposition. The H1 title of the whole landing. Even the tutor has a long rant about how difficult it usually is to come up with a fancy thing called a “value proposition” while in reality, we’re looking to give people for a simple “reason to buy”.

After they show me a series of few bad examples withvague and confusing headlines from real websites, I’m convinced — the headline better be direct and clear, not smart and suggestive (like ours). Luckily, we get formulas:

a) (Do something difficult) in (short amount of time) without (problem)

b) (Do something difficult) in (short amount of time) and get (something valuable)

c) Avoid (something frustrating) by (doing something difficult) in (a short amount of time) with (product).

I’m not even going to repeat the super smart headline we had for our landing page before. Here’s our landing page title now:

The course has totally convinced me that there is no place for smart implications and creative phrasing on landing page copy. Just say what it is, and get on with it. Nobody’s got time to figure out what you’re selling.

CEO of Zelos Team Management — an app for gig work and communities.