Copywriters are tasked with creating engaging, accessible, and actionable content that will lead someone to take action on a website, like going deeper into a site, signing up for a demo, or purchasing an item. The best way to drive this kind of action is to tailor your writing to meet every person in your target audience where they are. To do this effectively, you need to have empathy.
I would characterize myself as a naturally empathetic person – for instance, anytime I know that something embarrassing is going to happen on a TV show, I have to fast-forward through it or it will ruin my night – and that extends into my professional life as well. Professional empathy centers around getting into the mindset of your audience and understanding their needs to develop and deliver a message they find meaningful.
Professional empathy doesn’t come naturally to some people, and that can affect how they convey a message when they are writing website copy. So, here are five strategies writers and marketers can use to practice empathy in their writing. Keep reading to learn more!
1. Create Buyer Personas
Buyer personas are basic profiles of the people who would reasonably need your company’s services or products. To develop buyer personas, you need to research your customers and prospects to look for trends, like pain points, job titles, and demographic information, that can be combined to create a single representative entity. I like to give each persona a name, job title, and brief backstory to give them more substance. I’ll give you an example.
At a previous job, I helped create several buyer personas for a software company – two of them were named Bill and Linda.
Bill is the Chief Technology Officer at his company, and his current software systems aren’t equipped to provide security protocols that can protect sensitive client and company information, so he’s looking for a new solution that can. Linda is a social worker at Bill’s company and was tasked by her manager to find a few software solutions that will create a digital archive of important case notes. In this example, my company’s software is capable of swiftly alleviating both pain points, so both personas are likely to evaluate it. So, it was important to understand their specific needs so I could write content that would answer the vastly different questions that each persona, along with others, had about the software.
Creating buyer personas allowed me to get into the headspace of my specific audience to really understand their pain points and motivations, which helped me market to them more effectively. I highly recommend taking the time to do this for your company to boost your professional empathy as it relates to your audience.
2. Avoid Using Complicated Copy
One of the biggest red flags I see in website copy is the use of overly-complicated, jargon-heavy language. Not only is it distracting, but it will also likely drive away your audience. No one wants to sift through buzzwords and platitudes to find your point, and they won’t try to; they’ll simply go to a competitor’s site. So, look at your website through the lens of professional empathy to tailor your language for the benefit of your audience.
The cornerstone of good content is to make it accessible to everyone who reads it. My most tried and true piece of advice to clients is to take a step back and read their website copy as if they’ve never encountered anything like their product or service before. Once they do that, they inevitably go back through to simplify their messaging.
3. Place a Summary of Your Service Offering Above the Fold
When web designers say “above the fold”, they are referring to the portion of the webpage that’s seen when the page first loads. It’s the first impression that your audience will get from your website, so it’s important to make the impression a good one. One way to do that is to include a headline above the fold that briefly summarizes your company’s main service offering. So, if your company sells enterprise software for government agencies, that should be the first thing someone learns from your website.
A surprising number of companies neglect to summarize their service offerings above the fold, and it all comes down to a lack of professional empathy. A lot of web writers want to create headlines that are attention-grabbing, but that often means sacrificing effective messaging and disregarding your audience’s time.
This does two things – it increases the chances of people bouncing from your website and significantly reduces the number of people who are willing to engage with your services.
So, resist the urge to lead with a clever page header and make sure that the one you write clearly demonstrates what your company provides to your customers, even if you’re writing for a well-known brand. It’s a simple fix, but trust me, it makes a world of difference in the mind of the user.
4. Hire a Third-Party Editor
One way to make sure that your copy is accessible is to hire someone that is outside your organization to edit it. Third-party editors are trained to provide feedback and changes that will help you create better content for your users while also keeping your tone, voice, and goals at the forefront of the copy. They are also much more likely to find communication gaps that internal writers and stakeholders can miss because they provide a fresh set of eyes.
An added bonus of this service is that you can review their feedback to learn how you can better connect with your audience through your copy. This will not only provide even more bang for your buck, but it will also deepen your understanding of what first-time visitors of your website will see and interact with. These insights are great to have in your back pocket for any future website copy projects.
A great way to find independent editors is to look at Upwork. This website is a chock-full of talented writers and editors who offer their services at reasonable prices. If you need ongoing copy support, however, I highly recommend partnering with an agency. Either way, this is an incredibly valuable service that is worth the investment.
5. Monitor Social Media to Find Trends
One simple way to learn what pain points your audience is experiencing is to monitor social media for their comments. Nowadays, people are quick to air their satisfaction and grievances on social platforms, and companies should take advantage of these insights. I like to think of these comments as free business advice that can make your service and website better.
To set up social media monitoring, you can use tools, like Sprout Social or Buzzsumo, to set up searches pertaining to your brand and any keywords that you’d like to keep an eye on. So, if your audience tags you directly, you’ll see it instantly. Or, if they mention a keyword that you’re interested in, you’ll be able to take note of it right away. You can then change your website’s language to reflect those pain points and how your product improves upon them. Talk about a win-win!
What other ways have you used to build up your professional empathy? I’d love to hear them! Feel free to leave me a comment below.
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