The importance of words
Mao Tse-Tung understood the power of words when he wrote that “words are like little dynamite sticks in people’s minds . . . .” He was talking about communism, but the same holds true for marketing. Words are much more than labels, they are potential explosions that will connect and create an emotional response. Don’t let your website languish with wimpy, neutered copy. Create explosions with the power of words.
I Love Tractors!
I’ve been watching a few websites over the past few years. Watching the evolution of design and content on certain websites has always been a game, and a nice way to keep the pulse on the evolution of marketing on the internet.
The interest in the first was one spawned by Nick Usborne, after listening to his presentation on Writing for the Web in 2004. He showed the John Deere website that had promotional copy for the 4000 series tractor that was some of the softest, spineless, non-committal and vague content one could ever find. Don’t take my word for it, Nick’s caption for this example was “What has the reader learned?
The content reads:
Underneath their familiar green and yellow exterior isn’t just a redesign of the compact tractor, but a transformation. Where power is no longer measured by horsepower. Where implements practically attach themselves. And comfort is no longer at odds with productivity. One hundred and twenty improvements. Zero gimmicks. And countless firsts. These tractors are ready. 120 Improvements. Countless Firsts. Zero Gimmicks.
This content has no flavor, no meat. It’s boring and borderline ridiculous. They aren’t selling luxury cars here; they are selling tractors to people who have very specific needs. The funny thing is that I was in the market for a tractor, and this hit home. I was looking for something that I can get dirty tilling, mowing, digging and landscaping. Not something that looks nice on a glossy brochure. Plus the fact that NO attachments attach themselves – that’s just an out and out dirty lie. Power is no longer measured by horsepower? Please – that’s just insulting. Can it drag fallen Oak trees? Because that’s what I NEED.
Get More Done
Fortunately, things change and most times they get better. The new page for the 4000 series tractor makes so much more sense – as if they realized that people have needs, and this page speaks to it!
GET MORE DONE
With 133 attachments available you can:
Mow up to 20 acres
Till up to 5.5 acres
Lift up to 2728 lbs
Dig with a 36-inch bucket up to 8.5 feet deep.
Now that’s action – those factors speak to my needs for a tractor! This makes me excited, this allows me to envision the possibilities of what I can do, and creates the need for me to own this tractor.
On the down side, this amazingly explosive content is tied up inside of an image, rather than allowed to live on and propagate in an HTML format. Placing this content inside of a graphic keeps it contained to those who see the graphic. Allowing it to be HTML text allows it to be searchable and published in search results, copied, sent, and highlighted by those people who, like me, love this tractor stuff.
The other site that I found a while ago was petsafe.net.
The homepage just struck me as soon as I found it, as it was very generic and totally image-focused. The main problem is that it was focused entirely on one image. Unfortunately, the navigation did not help this site, as the first navigational choice was “product information”. Now think about this for a second. The word product does not carry any power at all, it’s a generic word. The second problem is that the word is singular. There is no visual or contextual indication that there is an entire catalog of pet supplies. The large image dedicated to one product and the non-contextual navigation stop any user that does not have a need for that particular product. Nothing draws the viewer into the website.
Fast-forward a few years, and the new PetSmart website is miles beyond the prior installment. This homepage provides a clear explanation of the website:
Safe Pets. Happy Owners.
Awesome tagline! You know what they sell and what they are about in only a split second of looking at the page. The links and groupings allow people to instantly get into the deep content of the website, either through the pet product finder (relational links) or specific product links (utility links).
Thankfully, the navigation was changed to “Products” which is still generic, but plural, implying many more products are available through that link. The new page has much more emphasis on content, the customer testimonial is a nice bonus, and the content directs people to the importance of loving your pet. This connects on a different level, as you will buy products to protect and benefit your pet because you love them, not so much because you need to be sold into it.
I am assuming that the change in this site to this new homepage has made a significant impact of increased traffic and search engine rankings. By implementing more html-based content, it gives the search engines a little more ammunition for contextually classifying your website. But the best result of creating content that connects with readers is that it works. It provides benefits, ideas, answers. And that’s what people are looking for.
I love seeing companies get the content right on their websites. I don’t mean explode from the bulk of content, but exploding in relevance and power. Too many companies rely on spineless, filler content in the place of real words that have actual meaning. Customers aren’t looking for filler, they are looking for explosions that will motivate and inspire them to action.