Write website copy with personas in mind

I’ve written thousands of words for websites over the years. I know what it’s like to start with a blank screen, try out some paragraphs of text, erase a lot of it and struggle. Often, a primary reason for the struggle is that you have an amorphous audience in mind, like an auditorium of thousands of people that you can’t see and don’t know why they’re there.

I’ve discovered that having specific people in mind helps a lot. I don’t necessarily mean real people, but composites of people who want your product or service. Developing personas can get really complicated if you work for a huge company like 3M. But they’re quite doable if you run a small consulting business, for instance, and you have a history with clients who’ve hired you.

Going through a persona development process creates an opportunity for an internal team to take a good look at who the best customers are, what they’re buying, why they’re buying from you, what questions they ask and so on. With this information, you can then write pertinent copy.

So here’s the start of one persona that a client and I worked up:

Bob is 48 and owns a trucking company based in suburb X, Minnesota. He is the classic “jack of all trades” small business owner, having worked in all facets of the business since he was 16 when the company was founded by his dad. He’s a modern thinker is looking to make his new warehouse and operations “green.”

When we wrote the new website copy, we made sure that Bob’s questions and concerns are addressed. We’re not making up what we think Bob needs. We’re not pulling it out of thin air. It’s based on actual buyers’ needs and questions.

The website copy was 10 times easier to write because we stopped guessing about what that amorphous audience needs to know. We’ve got Bob and a few other personals we’re writing for. We’ll revisit these personas soon to see if they’re still relevant.

When I’m hired to manage a website project, I ask my client to go through the persona development process with me and everyone finds it’s a really useful exercise. Often, we end up talking about the business plan and we discover where team members are not aligned or clear.