5 Tips for Improving Your Online Customer Messaging

Michael Essany Headshot by Michael Essany on April 5, 2011

The development of your small business website could easily prove to be one of the most important, time consuming, and expensive aspects of the entire startup experience. But while design and user-friendliness are the attributes a business owner will often most intensely desire, a critical component of savvy web strategy will ultimately be lost if customer messaging doesn’t share top billing with design and functionality.

With the Yellow Pages having gone the way of the 8-track, where do potential customers first turn when looking for products and services like those offered by your business? The Internet. If you’re fortunate enough to be discovered in the first place, new visitors may not have an opportunity at all to marvel at the fantastic online ordering system you’ve created. They won’t be able to appreciate your prompt shipping notifications or even how quickly you respond to email.

Customers start out looking for your business’s message. What do you do? How do you do it? And how are you superior, more affordable, and otherwise preferable to the competition? The best — and sometimes only — way to answer these universal questions is through your website’s messaging. Here’s how to think about it.

1) It’s All About “You”

One of the biggest mistakes business owners make in connecting with customers through their website is failing to personalize the message. And even though you’re probably lacking the psychic ability to foretell the names of every visitor to your website, you can — and should — rely heavily upon the second-person personal pronoun “you” to create the impression of one-on-one communication. For example, “when you try our product…” is infinitely more personal and effective than “when customers try our product…”

At the end of the day, you know your target audience better than anyone. Speak directly to what’s most important to these core individuals. If you know what buzzwords they’ll respond to and what information they’re seeking, lay it on heavy, early, and as personally as possible.

2) Get to the Point

Whatever the message you’re communicating to customers, make it concise. Most professional copywriters who are brought in to tweak the text on amateur websites frequently report the same nagging issues: too many words are used to convey too little information. The power and importance of simple and concise messaging cannot be overstated.

3) Find the Credibility ‘Sweet Spot’

It’s one of the all-time most perplexing challenges of customer messaging. How do you convey credibility without sounding arrogant? Let’s face it. No one likes a braggart. But in order to attract new customers, some horn-tooting is called for. So go ahead and boast about the best of your business, but do so while being mindful of the following:

  1. Never exaggerate about the quality of your products and services.
  2. Be objective in claims you make and back up any big talk with facts and legitimate customer testimonials.
  3. Never reference or insult a competitor.
  4. Rather than simply declaring your business to be “the best,” explain why it is.

4) Ask, Don’t Tell

Throughout the long history of retail, customers have consistently proven themselves to be like children. Simply put, they don’t like to be told what to do. Consequently, it’s easy to understand why so many consumer studies indicate that shoppers prefer to be “invited” into a store. By comparison, being told to “shop here” is a major turn-off to customers. So no matter the nature of your message, make it a welcoming one that emphasizes just how inviting you and your business are to friendly new faces in the community.

5) Seeing is Believing

It’s important to remember that customer messaging doesn’t have to be limited to the written word. Now more than ever it’s mind-bogglingly simple — and affordable — to produce a brief video that welcomes customers to your website. Where words fail, use the power of video and images to convey the strengths of your business and the unwavering appreciation you possess for customers new and old.