Why I believe in writing for connection not conversion

Mar 28, 2018 | Brand Strategy and Storytelling

There is a lot of talk in the creative online world about conversion copywriting. Lots of copywriters promise high-converting copy, or even specifically call themselves conversion copywriters. Converting basically means getting the person reading your copy or content to perform the action that you want them to do. This could be signing up to a newsletter or listening to your podcast, but more often than not, it refers to buying your product or service.

And, for obvious reasons, it’s very popular language for copywriters to use. No one is running a business just for the hell of it. Everyone wants to make money, and to bring in a sustainable income. And that means making sales. I totally understand that.

When I was writing my own website, I thought a lot about whether or not to use it myself. And I did, a couple of times. But I don’t push it, and this is because I truly believe in writing to connect, not to convert.

To me, the problem with writing to convert is that it reduces human beings to machines with buttons you are trying to press. You just want them to do one thing, and you aren’t concerned with why, or even how. I think us humans are far more intelligent and savvy than a lot of copywriters give us credit for; we can all tell when we are simply being sold to, and more often than not really don’t like it (or at least I definitely don’t).

It also, to me, seems to be focusing on the wrong thing: the end result rather than the process you are going to use to get there. It’s like only concentrating on the final kick of the ball into the net, not the many, many passes it takes to get the ball up your end of the pitch in the first place (I don’t think I’ve ever used a football analogy before in my life!).

Which is why I focus, in both my own copy and content, and in my clients’, on connecting. Feeling a connection to someone – to their story, to their values, to their ethos – is one of the main reasons people buy from other people (especially in the online creative world). In my experience conversion is a by-product of connecting, but by focusing on the connection, not the conversion, I’m focusing on the human being reading the words, not the mechanical action I want them to take afterwards. I trust that the conversion will come, even if it takes a slightly more circuitous route, but most importantly know that I am building real relationships based on something more than just a monetary exchange. 

It’s also the trick to writing copy and content that doesn’t feel sleazy or salesy. So many of us want to sell without having to sell, and I genuinely believe that this is way to do it: to focus on connection. 

There are many ways to connect to your readers through your copy and content, but taking just website copy for now, I think there are three key connection touch-points:

Your story.

One of my main website copy bugbears is when the About page isn’t actually about the person behind the website or brand.  I often see copywriters and coaches telling people to make their About page about their dream clients instead, and I strongly disagree. When I click on an About page it’s because I’m genuinely interested in finding out more about a person, and I think most people are the same. I don’t want to be sold to again. Plus, by not telling your own story you are missing out on a vital opportunity to connect to your readers. While the details of our own individual stories will always be unique, there will also always be common moments and themes that other people can relate to. So tell your own story, explain why you are running your business, and share your values and beliefs.

The problem you are solving.

All businesses solve a problem, whether they are service, product or package based. And the number one thing that you need to know before you start your business, and therefore your website copy, is what this problem is (I’ll write more fully about this soon). This problem might be practical, aspirational or emotional, but especially when it comes to solving emotional problems I do think that you need to be careful. I see a lot of copy that specifically plays on people’s insecurities, and this always makes me feel uncomfortable. Having said that showing that you understand your clients’ or customers’ current situation, the things they are struggling with (their pain points as they are often referred to) is a real way to connect. 

Your vision of the future.

This refers both to your overall vision of the future, your mission and why, and your client or customers individual future post buying from or working with you. Again, I think this needs to be treated carefully, and there is no point in making promises you can’t keep as this is only leads to distrust. You probably won’t be able to make them 60K in one day, or take away all their self-doubt and stop them procrastinating completely, but you might be able to make them feel a little lighter, a little braver, or to have a little more time in their day. Focusing on the benefits your product or service will give them, rather than its features, is a way to connect to what they want and are looking for. 

I genuinely believe that writing solely to convert is a short-term solution and not the way to build a long-term, sustainable business, which I think is, ultimately, what all of us want. I also think we all want to feel good when we make a sale, and to feel like we are delivering real value, and to me, the way to do this to really connect with people through your copy and content.

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