Did you know that up to 90% of the buying cycle is completed before a B2B buyer ever speaks with a sales rep? As a B2B company, you need to help your clients choose you. A good website copy answers clients' key questions while they're still in the research phase. You might be wondering: What are the essential elements of a service page copy? In what order should I present them? Our 24-question checklist with examples of good and bad content will help you write persuasive copy that leaves no key questions unanswered.
Presenting Creative Services Online: A Website Content Writing Checklist For Digital Agencies
Update Feb 17th 2015: we've added question nr. 16, expanding the list to the total of 24 questions.
The 24-Question Checklist
I have categorized the questions in five buckets: strategy, attention, interest, desire, action.
- For which state of my readers' awareness should I write?
- Have I defined my primary objective?
- Have I defined my secondary objective?
- Have I given my service a clear, descriptive name?
- Did I show the picture of my service?
- Who is my ideal customer?
- Which industries do I serve?
- Which difficult problems do my services solve?
- Have I listed 3-5 main benefits of my services?
- What are my deliverables?
- Have I explained how the client uses my service?
- How long will it take me to deliver the service?
- Is it clear how our unique business process creates value?
- Are there persuasive case studies?
- Have I used social proof?
- Have I answered the frequently asked questions?
- Did I position us as different / better than everybody else?
- Have I defined our price range?
- Have I made our team look good?
- Does my agency look trustworthy online?
- Is there a primary call to action?
- Is there a secondary call to action?
- Did I use an opt-in bribe to get people to volunteer their contact info?
- Did I make it easy for visitors to follow our posts?
Let us explore each category and each question in detail.
1. For which state of my reader's awareness should I write?
How aware are your visitors of their problem and your agency's services as solutions to their problem? How you write depends on that.
Learn about the states of awareness framework: iconicontent.com/blog/breakthrough-headlines-from-inside-your-markets-mind
Example: if your clients are not aware that low conversion rate affects their website's revenue generation potential, you cannot start your landing page copy with listing the features of your conversion optimization service.
Your copy needs to first make the client aware of their problem. i.e. "Do you know that bad design and bad user experience makes up to 99% of your shoppers leave your online store?"
2. Have I defined my primary objective?
You should set one main goal for every landing page you create. The words you write must support that objective.
Bad example: "make the visitor like us" (too vague)
Good example: "make the visitor fill out our GET A QUOTE form" (specific enough)
3. Have I defined my secondary objective?
Most visitors will not be ready to commit to your primary objective. Capture them with an alternative.
Bad example: "educate the visitor about our service" (not actionable enough)
Good example: "make the visitor download our white paper" (actionable)
What your visitor is thinking
"What is this?"
"Is this for me?"
The visitor will leave your page if you fail to answer those two questions in the first five seconds of her visit.
You capture her attention by writing short, direct copy.
4. Have I given my service a clear, descriptive name?
At some point, you need to spell it out what it is that you're selling.
Bad example: "we help you succeed online" (imprecise)
Good example: "Content production: writing blog posts, designing infographics, creating presentations and social media posts" (nice client-centric words)
5. Did I show the picture of my service?
"Show, don't tell." Show the end result of your service.
Bad example: using generic stock photos.
Good example: case studies with visual graphs of successful campaigns; snapshots of customers' websites; "before and after" images of real projects; people working on real projects.
6. Who is my ideal customer?
Call your ideal customers by their "names": their functions, industries, geolocations, pains they want to avoid, gains they want to get.
Bad example: "clients", "companies", "businesses" (weak, vague)
Good example: "Fortune 500 B2B companies" (well-targeted)
7. Which industries do I serve?
Fail to specify the industries and the visitor will leave because you didn't answer his question "Is this for me?"
Bad example: "we work with enterprises" ("enterprise" is not an industry)
Good example: "We work with Fortune 500 B2B companies in the construction sector."
What your visitor is thinking
"Why do I need this?"
"What's in it for me?"
Now that your reader is sure that your website offers something for her, make it obvious how exactly does your service make her business better.
8. Which difficult problems do my services solve?
Clients need to have an acute problem, and you need to express it clearly.
Bad example: "We will make you more money." (too vague)
Good example: "Online store is losing you money? Our conversion rate optimization service will make more visitors stay and buy."
9. Have I listed 3-5 main benefits of my services?
As soon as possible, present your benefits in a short, clear list. Then use the rest of the page to go into more detail.
Bad example: "Fast, risk-free, and value-packed." (needs more info)
Good example: "1) Done in two weeks; 2) Money-back guarantee; 3) Two minor design revisions included."
What your visitor is thinking
"How does this work?"
"Why would I choose this agency?"
"Can I trust these people?"
Your copy has now convinced the visitor that your services could help her business. What you say here and how you say it must ooze with confidence, expertise, and trustworthiness.
10. What are my deliverables?
Is it an app? A website? A strategy document? A live meeting? A book? A campaign? An ad? Specify the format in as much detail as you can.
Bad example: "eCommerce Audit Service" (how do I get it?)
Good example: "eCommerce Audit Service: a 20-page expert study in PDF format, delivered by email"
11. Have I explained how the client uses my service?
It's not always obvious what your clients should do with your deliverables.
Bad example: "You'll get a 20-page expert report in PDF format." (and then what?)
Good example: "Give this report to your web developers. They will be implementing all the identified issues."
12. How long will it take me to deliver the service?
If you can't state this precisely, specify an average time frame (and mention that's an average).
Bad example: "We design websites fast"
Good example: "Your New Website... Launched by This Weekend." (RestaurantEngine.com)
13. Is it clear how our unique business process creates value?
List the steps you take before and after the client has hired you.
Bad example: Failing to answer clearly "What's in it for the client?" for each step of your process.
Good example: The 7 Step Conversion Testing Process by WiderFunnel (nice visualizations)
14. Are there persuasive case studies?
Tell (visual) stories about how your services made your clients' lives better. Use the problem - solution - results story format.
Bad example: a portfolio with nothing but logos and client names (not persuasive enough)
15. Have I used social proof?
Show these: client testimonials, press mentions, public reviews and ratings, authoritative endorsements, industry awards.
Bad example: "ACME Design is the best! - J.K., Chicago" (sounds fake)
Good example: Using Favorite Tweets as Testimonials
16. Have I answered the frequently asked questions?
Present information in the form of question-answer blocks to increase trust in your company.
Bad example: Presenting a clear question, but not answering it directly (the first word / sentence must be the answer)
Good example: "How do you maintain the quality of your content?" MarketingProfs.com FAQ section
17. Did I position us as different / better than everybody else?
Who are your biggest competitors? Be unlike them in at least one important way.
Bad example: "We're creative designers." (aren't they all)
Good example: "No up-front costs: you only pay us on additional revenue we bring in" (ConversionVoodoo.com)
18. Have I defined our price range?
Since most of your competitors are hiding this, mentioning a typical price for your typical service gives you a significant advantage.
Bad example: publishing your whole price list (confuses clients)
Good example: "Our projects start at $100,000." (HappyCog.com)
19. Have I made our team look good?
Who are the humans behind your company? Show their faces and their real names. Let the client google them and check your team members' digital footprint.
Bad example: using fake images, cartoonish images, no real names
Good example: using real, professionally taken photos, well-written bios.
20. Does my agency look trustworthy online?
Where are your offices? How long have you been in business? Where is your business registered? What's the name of the responsible person behind your agency?
Bad example: missing or incomplete contact information
Good example: Fat Eyes Web Development (complete info)
What your visitor is thinking
"I want to hire these guys. What do I do next?"
"This is great, but I am not ready to order just yet."
Action time! Your visitor is ready to enter into a relationship with you. Shut up (stop selling) and present the visitor with a call to action.
21. Is there a primary call to action?
The visitor is waiting for you to suggest the next step. Show them a very short form. You'll prequalify them later.
Bad example: 15 fields of data and a "Submit" button
Good example: Asking for minimum contact info, ending with i.e. "Get a Quote" or "I Want An Expert To Contact Me" button
22. Is there a secondary call to action?
Next to your primary call to action (CTA), offer a lesser commitment as an alternative.
Bad example: making the secondary CTA more prominent than the primary CTA.
Good example: "Get a Quote" (bright button) OR "Download our free ebook" (link)
23. Did I use an "opt-in bribe" to get people to volunteer their contact info?
An "opt-in bribe" is an additional incentive to subscribe to your mailing list.
Bad example: not having any.
Good example: Offer something downloadable / educational / valuable to your newsletter / email course subscribers, like an ebook.
24. Did I make it easy for visitors to follow our posts?
Most people are not ready to order or download anything, but they like you and want to "save you for later".
Bad example: hiding your social profiles.
Good example: put your social channels in the footer or somewhere where they don't get in the way of your other CTAs.
Groom your copy
When you're done writing the copy for your services landing pages, you're still not done! What you've written is just a first draft. It's time to make your copy shine.
Shorten your copy by 30-50%.
By doing so, you'll make your sentences sound human.
Humans don't talk like this: "Our ideas embed your brand into popular culture and deliver them in digital experiences your audience want to engage with".
This is how humans talk: "We'll make your customers want to connect with you online."
Reorder your copy.
According to the states of awareness I mentioned in question #1, you may want to present your services in a different order.
For example, if your ideal customer is not aware of the problem you solve, you may want to start your landing page copy by answering the "Which difficult problem do my services solve?" question first.
You don't have to present everything on a single page.
It's ok to break up your copy into several pages.
For example, you could make the visitor click away from your landing page to your blog for more education. Just make sure that your blog ends with a call to action which brings them back to the landing page they came from.
The secondary objective (and its call to action) is optional.
Experiment with having a primary call to action (Get a Quote) and a secondary one (Download Our Ebook) - or just one of them. Measure the conversion rate from visitors to leads and to downloads. Measure your conversion rate from downloads to leads. Don't trust us and don't trust yourself. Trust your data.
The Future of B2B Marketing: Fasten Your Seat Belts: "Two-thirds to 90% of the buying cycle is completed before a B2B buyer ever speaks with a sales rep."
Creative Commons image license for the cover image: john.schulz