SaaS Websites: Is shorter copy really better?

SaaS Websites: Is shorter copy really better?

Inside:

  • 3 CRO-killing trends to avoid in your SaaS web copy
  • What was REALLY going on in the NNG study that suggested people don’t read online
  • 5 factors for winning SaaS website copy
  • Yes, sometimes short copy is better than long copy
  • 3 actions to improve your web copy performance

“It’s too long.”

Web copywriters get this feedback all the time.

But I suspect SaaS copywriters hear it most.

Because in the world of SaaS websites, short copy reigns supreme.

For example:

And:

Oh and this:

If you search long enough, you’ll find the rare SaaS website that uses somewhat longer copy, such as rightmessage.com.

And Basecamp’s often-changing, always-experimenting homepage uses quite a bit of copy too – at least compared to most SaaS websites.

But these examples are certainly outliers.

If you don’t believe me, search for SaaS website templates. You won’t see many templates with as much copy as Basecamp’s homepage. You’ll see templates like this:

But why?

Why, in the world of SaaS websites, do so many founders and marketers demand such short copy?

As I mulled this question over, new ones arose:

  • Does shorter copy just work better on SaaS websites? If so, why?
  • Are SaaS companies recklessly conforming to the common practice of super short copy without good reason?
  • How does copy length affect conversion rates on SaaS websites?

To find out, I talked to some of the best copywriters in SaaS:

  • Joanna Wiebe, whose agency works with the likes of Shopify Plus and Egnyte
  • Joel Klettke (peer reviewer on this very post!)
  • Josh Garofalo

As well as some other experts including…

After I spoke to these experts…

After I read the UX research…

And after I combed through every long-vs-short copy SaaS case study available…

I discovered this:

Copy length is a red herring.

It’s a distraction from what’s actually important:

Forming a persuasive argument that gets your ideal visitors to take the next step in the customer journey.

Sometimes the most persuasive argument you can form is longer.

Sometimes it’s shorter.

But the length of the copy doesn’t cause visitors to convert or bounce.

Soon I’ll show you why. And what you should focus on instead of copy length.

But first…

The bad news.

3 bad reasons SaaS websites
tend to have such short copy

Bad Reason 1: The pervasive half-truth that “people don’t read online” and its dubious origins

Dig up your 60-second anti-shock discman and your Third Eye Blind CD — we’re taking a trip back to 1997.

That’s when the Nielsen Norman Group ran a study that concluded people don’t really read online:

This fancy graph from Nielson shows that the more copy you have on your page, the less your visitors will read, relative to length. Have 1000 words on your page? Few will read the whole thing. Have 1 word on your page? 100% of visitors will read it. Et voila:

And this: “79 percent of our test users always scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read word-by-word.”

Now before we discount the 16% of visitors who read EVERY word in Neilsen’s study and, in doing so, conclude that people don’t read online so we should all keep our copy short…

…let’s take off our Usability Glasses for a moment and put on our CRO Hats.

Here’s what those usability studies fail to take into account:

  1. How engaging is the copy? You can get an 8-year-old to read 1,000 pages in 3 days if you’re JK Rowling.
  2. How relevant is the copy to the reader? Here’s a sentence that Nielson asked their test participants to read:

“Nebraska is filled with internationally recognized attractions that draw large crowds of people every year, without fail.”

Total snoozefest.

I’ll read all day about my own problems and desires. But you’d have to pay me to read about how many tourists visited the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park in 1996. (It was 28,446.) UNLESS you wrote it to be specific and all about me, like:

“You’ll have the time of your life creeping the spooky halls of Buffalo Bill’s very own mansion, right here in Nebraska.” 

SHOCKING NEW STUDY REVEALS THAT PEOPLE DON’T WANT TO READ BULLSHIT!

Remember, the point is conversions and sales. Which means this:

You need to care way more about people who are likely to buy from you than you do about an average person in an average situation. 

You don’t want to cater to your average prospects.

You want to cater to your best prospects.

As Eduardo Esparza, founder of the SaaS growth optimization agency Market8, tells me:

“Buyers are readers.”

So if 16% of your visitors read every word of your homepage — it sounds like you have yourself some potential buyers.

Takeaways: Yes, people are more likely to skim web copy than to read all of it. But, the original UX research that claims “people don’t read online” is misleading. 

  • First, 16% of participants in a key study read every word
  • Second, the copy that participants read was described by NNG as “Marketese,” which means that this research doesn’t apply to great copy written for a specific audience. 
  • Third, if 16% of people read every word of painfully boring “marketese,” imagine how many would read every word of copy that actually engages them. Guess: more than 16%.

Bad Reason 2: Everyone’s copying the design-first approach

When I set out to understand why SaaS websites use such short copy, my leading hypothesis was reckless conformity — the clueless following the clueless.

ConversionXL Founder Peep Laja, who’s been optimizing SaaS websites for over a decade, confirms my suspicion that this plays a role:

“In SaaS, it’s a massive everyone-copies-everyone approach. ‘Since others have short copy, we need short too!’”

This gets compounded by a related problem:

SaaS websites are often designed before they’re written. 

(So much for form follows function, eh?)

Here’s Peep again:

“Most SaaS sites are design-first. Meaning the DESIGNER designed the site to look good, and they left little room for copy. They probably used Lorem Ipsum in the design phase. So whoever wrote the copy just filled in the blanks.

The right way to do this is copy-first. First decide on the messaging, then use design to best deliver this message.

My personal experience — doing CRO for SaaS sites for some 10 years — is that copy is actually the biggest driver of conversions for them. Almost all SaaS sites look good, so design will not get them to buy. It’s table stakes. SaaS sites are fairly simple, so usability is usually not an issue. So it’s mostly copy.”

A new report from Unbounce confirms Peep’s point:

“We’ve verified that your landing page copy is twice as important to conversion rates as your design.”

Takeaways

  • If you want to optimize your website for conversions, you need to write your copy first. Then build your design around the copy. 
  • If you start with design, you’re putting arbitrary constraints on your persuasive argument.

Bad Reason 3: Copy by committee

As you just read, SaaS marketers start with the assumption that they should follow what famous brands do and keep their web copy super short.

Copyhackers founder Joanna Wiebe breaks down what often happens from there:

“The marketer starts with short copy. They share it with the boardroom. And a dozen other voices try to agree on what messages they ‘like’. So they whittle that short copy down to even shorter copy.

Finally the designers get their hands on the copy and squeeze it into a design that was built on the short-is-best assumption.”

Copy by committee + Design-first approach = Super short copy

Take this example of powerful agitation copy that the Copyhackers Agency wrote for Follow Up Boss (featured in the Copyhackers course 10x Web Copy):

Do you see many SaaS homepages taking up this much space with agitation copy?

Do you envision a boardroom with no understanding of direct-response copy principles signing off on copy like this?

Me neither. At least not without some convincing. So well done, team at Follow Up Boss! 

Takeaway: 

  • Great copy can be scary. It’s emotional. It’s specific. And it makes people who don’t understand copy and conversion optimization nervous. So the more uninformed voices weighing in, the fewer messages will pass their arbitrary requirements.

And now for some good news. Well, kinduv.

Why copy length is a red herring

When I first set out to see if short copy worked better on SaaS websites, I searched for every case study that tested short copy against long copy that I could find.

Here’s what I realized:

There are no case studies that test short copy against long copy.

There are only case studies that test one version of a persuasive argument against another. Yes, two pages may differ in length. In the case studies I reviewed, sometimes by as much as 20x. Sometimes the shorter version won. Sometimes the longer version won.

But length was never the only variable at play.

In fact, length can never be the only variable at play.

Any time you add or remove copy, you’re changing the overall message of your page.

Did the longer version win?

Looks like you found some important messages that help your visitors take the next step.

Did the shorter version win?

Looks like the longer version has some counterproductive messages that only got in the way.

Either way, it comes back to the message. Not the length of the copy.

In a moment, you’ll see why some messaging strategies call for longer copy than others.

But first, I need to add a big fat caveat to the whole “copy length doesn’t cause conversions” idea…

“If copy length doesn’t cause conversions, I can write as long as I want, right?”

Not so fast.

First, I don’t advocate wordiness. Nor do I encourage you to muddle your copy’s power by cramming in every idea you wish to express.

What I do suggest is that we SaaS marketers and copywriters stop focusing so much on copy length in our review process. And instead focus on figuring out the exact messages our ideal visitors need to hear in order to take the next step.

Second, copy length may not influence conversions directly, but readability sure can.

So now that I’ve complained about misleading UX research…

And now that I’ve said copy should come before design…

…I get to come crawling back to the UX researchers and designers of the world to beg their forgiveness.

Because readability matters.

Even if you have great copy, a wall of text is still a wall of text.

And poor readability causes all sorts of problems that hurt conversions.

Namely these two:

  • Friction: “This page looks like work. I’m outta here.”
  • Credibility: “This doesn’t look like a trustworthy business.”

So follow the readability best practices. Long copy is no excuse for a bad user experience.

Here’s one more reason to pause before you start writing 5,000 word homepages.

Research suggests shorter word counts
may perform better in SaaS on average

Even though copy length doesn’t cause conversions per se, there’s some evidence that copy length is correlated with conversion rate:

This Unbounce 2020 Conversion Benchmark Report found an inverse correlation between copy length and conversion rate on SaaS landing pages.

Translation: On average, SaaS landing pages with more copy had lower conversion rates than SaaS landing pages with less copy.

Compare that to the business services industry, where Unbounce found no clear relationship between copy length and conversion rate.

SaaS:

Business services:

This study is for Unbounce landing pages, so we don’t know exactly how this applies to websites.

But it’s not unfathomable to think the results might be similar.

“Wait — but Andrew you just said that copy length doesn’t cause conversions. Why would there be any correlation?”

Because some situations call for a messaging strategy that requires lots of copy. And other situations call for a strategy that requires less copy.

In either case, it’s the overall messaging — not the length of the copy — that truly drives conversion rate.

If that seems a tad confusing now, don’t worry. This should clear things up…

When you focus on these 5 factors, your “copy length” question will answer itself 

What follows are 5 factors that you need to consider in your messaging strategy.

When your copy accounts for all 5 of these factors, the natural consequence is that your copy will be about as long as it needs to be.

Because these factors largely determine how much copy your ideal messaging strategy will require.

Factor 1: Visitor awareness and the structure of your customer journey

In the copywriting bible that is Breakthrough Advertising, Eugene Schwartz introduced stages of awareness to the world. It’s a continuum of 5 stages that describe how much a given prospect knows about how your product will improve their life, which Copyblogger has summarized nicely:

  1. Most Aware: Your prospect knows your product, and only needs to know “the deal.”
  2. Product-Aware: Your prospect knows what you sell, but isn’t sure it’s right for them.
  3. Solution-Aware: Your prospect knows the result they want, but not that your product provides it.
  4. Problem-Aware: Your prospect senses they have a problem, but doesn’t know there’s a solution.
  5. Completely Unaware: No knowledge of anything except, perhaps, their own identity or opinion.

On the less aware end of the spectrum, the prospect doesn’t even understand that they have a problem, much less that your product could solve it. It’s you staring blankly at the TV during life insurance commercials — you don’t have life insurance, haven’t thought about getting it, would be better off with it, but haven’t yet felt the need for it… 

On the more aware end of the spectrum, the prospect already knows all about your product and why it’s likely to be a very good fit for them. 

For example, I like to order the exact same pair of jeans from Levi’s whenever mine wear out. I’m “most aware.”

Because my awareness of that specific pair of Levi’s is so high — I already know they’re exactly what I want — Levi’s doesn’t have to tell me much to get me to buy. A discount and a checkout button could be plenty to get the sale. Sending me to a long-form sales page would be hilariously counterproductive.

On the other hand, imagine you want me to sign up for a course that teaches a skill I’ve never even heard of. 

Before I’m ready to buy, you’ll need to build my awareness. And you may have to do it in multiple steps — not all on one page. You’ll need to get me to…

  1. Realize that I have a problem
  2. Understand that there are solutions to that problem
  3. See that your solution will deliver the outcome I want
  4. Decide that your solution is the best choice for me
  5. Get me to take action

In this situation, this hypothetical company has a whole lot more work to do than Levi’s.

How does this apply to SaaS websites?

I turned to QuickSprout CEO Lars Lofgren. He knows a thing or two about building a website. And he’s tested a lot of SaaS websites over the years. (And as Senior Director of Growth & Product at Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich, he’s tested a lot of long-form sales pages too.)

In his experience, short-form copy tends to work better for most SaaS companies — particularly B2B websites with longer sales cycles:

“The reason long-form copy rarely works for SaaS websites is structural.

Long-form sales pages are so long and keep all the copy in one place because the copy needs to take someone through the entire journey at once. The copy needs to do all the work.

For SaaS companies, the web copy is rarely responsible for doing all the selling. The sales funnels are typically longer, and the journey happens over multiple steps and multiple places.”

He adds, “The role of the website is to get the buyer to the next step, usually a free trial or a demo. And that’s it.”

Joel Klettke, Founder of Business Casual Copywriting and Case Study Buddy tells me something similar:

“In my experience, the SaaS purchase decision is sort of an odd one… so much of the conversion happens away from the site. And it’s pretty rare to get a lead who is super unaware and needs tons of copy to educate them on their problem.”

Factor 2: Market sophistication

Remember when the word “cloud” referred to a puffy cluster of sky marshmallows?

Then Salesforce arrived in the late 90s and the concept of cloud computing crept into the mainstream.

Check out this artifact I found using Wayback Machine:

Does anyone else hear dialup modem tones?

Sometime between then and now, “cloud” became a buzzword.

Eventually, customers expected their CRM to be cloud-based. And the term largely disappeared from marketing messages.

As a market matures, it goes through states of sophistication — another crucial concept from Breakthrough Advertising. And since I spent $130 on this book, let’s grab the definition straight from the source.

Your market’s state of sophistication is the answer to this question:

“How many similar products have they been told about before?”

For example…

If you own a regular ol’ shoe store, you’re selling to a sophisticated market. Your entire audience already knows about the benefits of wearing shoes. Footlocker’s homepage can skip straight past the question “why buy shoes?” and go straight into “why buy our shoes”. Or “why buy our shoes today.”

In other words, in a sophisticated market…

…you don’t have to sell your product category. Just your product.

In 2000, Salesforce still had to explain the advantages of replacing physical CRM software with a cloud-based CRM. Now that the market’s mature, they don’t.

How does this apply to SaaS websites?

In a case study from 2012, the heatmap software Crazy Egg tested their homepage against a new page that was about 20x the length of the control.

The longer page won by 64%.

Some time later, Crazy Egg hired Joanna Wiebe to see if she could beat the new control.

This time, a much, much shorter version won.

Joanna attributes much of this to the maturation of the heatmap market.

In the beginning, visitors didn’t really know what heat mapping tools were or why they should want them.

To boost conversions during the early stage of sophistication, Crazy Egg needed more messaging that explained the what and why of heatmap tools.

As the market matured, people became familiar with heatmap tools, and much of that messaging became unnecessary. It only got in the way.

As your market becomes more familiar with products like yours, you may find that some of your copy becomes so obvious that it’s unnecessary. The same way that Salesforce doesn’t have to explain what a cloud is anymore.

Factor 3: Intent, motivation and your visitors’ context

Joanna Wiebe noticed something interesting back in her days as a copywriter for a famous tax and accounting software:

Selling the product during tax season was easy.

With so much legal and financial pressure, prospects were so motivated to solve their problems every April that the copy, well, didn’t matter so much. At least not as much as it mattered the rest of the year. She referred to selling in this context as The Hot Coal Effect: you could put hot coals between a prospect and the “buy now” button, and they’d walk over them just to click the button. 

It’s the same reason meth dealers don’t need good customer service to sell their product. (At least that’s what I learned from Breaking Bad.)

Or why people will wait in long lines to eat at famous restaurants that are known for being rude.

Sure you’ll lose some self-respect, but have you tried the chicken noodle?

The more motivated your prospects are, the less work you need to do to convince them to convert. 

So when you know your audience is highly motivated, you should focus on paving a clear path to conversion. And ruthlessly cut any messages that get in the way.

When your prospects land on your website clutching a credit card and hunting for the BUY NOW button, your copy’s main job is to pave a smooth path and stay out of the way.

The point is, you can’t determine the right messaging strategy without deep empathy for the context in which your ideal visitors find your website.

What’s their intent?

Are they in a rush?

Are they reading your copy on their phone?

The context matters.

How does this apply to SaaS websites?

Here’s Joel Klettke again:

“Often, leads have a very specific use case or feature set in mind. They’re moving fast to find a SaaS that does what they need: ‘Does it do this? Does it do that? Can it accommodate my use cases? Okay, what does it cost?’”

In other words, many visitors don’t need a long, desire-building story — they need to check items off their checklist.

Joel continues, “in my experience, they’re often comparing. They know the ‘big players’ and need to quickly differentiate them and make the call.”

And sometimes, Joel adds, “many SaaS products are researched by someone who’s just trying to get a quick quote or whip through a demo so they can pass that info to a C-level decision maker.”

Joel’s insight might help explain the Unbounce report finding we discussed earlier: 

That shorter copy correlates with higher conversion rates in SaaS.

Factor 4: Risk, price and complexity

Consider these two situations:

  1. You’ve been invited to a free webinar by a brand you know and trust. All you have to do is submit your email address to attend.
  1. You’re a CMO and you’re considering a 6-figure marketing automation purchase.

In the first situation, your risk is low. The worst thing you envision happening is that you waste 20 minutes on a webinar.

In the second situation, a bad purchase could cost you your job. You know, the thing you use to put food on your family’s table.

In the second situation, you would have more questions, anxieties, hesitations and objections that need to be addressed before you buy. Often there’s a team of salespeople to help with purchases that big.

But your web copy still needs to address the complexity and risk that your visitors perceive.

Look at the difference between Intercom’s free webinar page and their pricing page:

The pricing page simply has more risk and complexity to address than the webinar page.

This isn’t just theory — Flint McGlaughlin of MECLABS found this:

“Our testing suggests a direct relationship between the cost/complexity of an offer and the amount of information that is required to achieve a conversion.”

How does this apply to SaaS websites?

Many SaaS websites have very low-risk offers such as demos and free trials. Which may help explain why many SaaS websites get away with shorter copy. Your challenge is to figure out which questions, anxieties and objections you need to address to get your ideal visitors to overcome their resistance. 

More on that when we get to the 3 actions you can take to nail your messaging strategy.

Factor 5: Targeting multiple segments and personas

This idea comes from Joanna again:

“Long copy is tricky. It’s easy to get wrong.”

In other words, the more you say, the more likely it is you’ll say the wrong thing. (That’s also some good dating advice I always ignored.)

Think about it.

Most websites are designed to please multiple segments. And the list of messages you can say to all segments is small. The messages, generic. Say much more and you risk alienating an important part of your audience.

How does this apply to SaaS websites?

If you look at the Airtable homepage through this lens, the super short copy makes sense. Their audiences are all over the place.

Because Airtable can be many different things to many different people:

To me it’s a CRM. To the head of operations at a 1000-person company it’s a project management tool. The list of personas and use cases goes on.

If Airtable gets much more specific in their copy, they risk scaring away huge segments.

When you have multiple personas who need drastically different messages, you may have to sacrifice specificity, which usually means shorter copy. And unfortunately, worse copy. However, you may have opportunities for more specific and powerful messaging on pages that are designed for specific personas or use cases.

Flow by Pluralsight has good examples of persona-segmented pages across their website, like this one for Product Leaders, where the copy is specific to what a product manager needs to know about how Flow will improve his/her life:

And remember, not all visitors are equally valuable. It may be net positive for you to double down on certain messages for certain visitors, even if it risks alienating some of your less valuable traffic.

Putting the 5 factors together:
A tale of two SaaS websites

This hypothetical scenario from SaaS Copywriter and CRO Josh Garofalo illustrates how these 5 factors influence your messaging strategy:

“Company 1 is the incumbent in the general email marketing software market. 

The decision-maker, buyer, and end-user is the same person. They’ve evaluated, bought, and used other email marketing solutions in the past. The buyer’s goal is to save money. And the offer is to sign up for the new, unlimited, forever-free plan designed to increase market share.

Company 2 is an AI solution that autonomously evaluates, chooses, and purchases software for enterprise companies. Nothing like this exists. Most people don’t yet think of manually evaluating and buying software as a problem that can be solved.

It’s not hard to imagine a long list of questions, objections, and hesitations that will need to be addressed.

And the kicker?

A meaningful demo requires phone calls, coordination between departments, and plugging into their software stack to simulate real software purchases.

And if they buy? Thousands of dollars per month.

Company 1 can get away with short copy. Customers are aware of who they are and what they do. The ask is as frictionless as it gets — have the thing you want for free, forever.

Company 2 will require longer copy. They are first to market and the technology is complex. They need buy-in from different parties with different goals. The ask requires cross-departmental cooperation. The price tag is staggering.”

Enough theory! Here are 3 actions you can take to optimize your messaging strategy for conversions

Action 1: Interview your best customers to find out why they switched

One of the keys to Conversion Copywriting is a hyper-focus on your prospects. You’re not writing copy for yourself. Or your boss. You’re creating it for your ideal visitors.

Without a doubt, the strongest qualitative method to uncover the messages your prospects need to hear is to run customer interviews.

But not just any customer interviews. You can’t just talk to your customers and expect golden insights to pour out of their mouths.

To zero in on the messages you need to include in your web copy, you’ll want to ask questions about the experience of leaving their old way of doing things and switching to your product.

The interview should cover the before, during and after phases of their experience.

Here are some sample questions borrowed from the Jobs-to-be-done framework to get you started:

Before questions:

  • When did you first realize you [needed something to solve your problem]? 
  • What were you doing, or trying to do when this happened?
  • Before you began [using the current solution], how did you solve these same problems in the past?

During questions:

  • Tell me about how you looked for a product to solve your problem.
  • What alternatives did you consider before using [the solution]? 
  • What was good or bad about each of those?
  • What was the hardest part of figuring out what solution to use? 

After questions:

  • What can you do now that you have [the solution] that you couldn’t do before?
  • And why is that important to you?
  • What else? (Following up is the key to getting deeper insights)

In the Copyhackers 10x Web Copy course, Joanna teaches a specialized style of interview called the Obstacle Interview. In this style of interview, the key is to home in on the things that almost got in the way of your customers saying yes. (E.g., “What do you remember being the biggest obstacle that nearly prevented you from choosing [Solution Name]?”

Once you can hypothesize what’s getting in the way, you’ll be better able to tell the messages you need to include from the ones you can safely omit.

Action 2: Use scroll maps to see where to cut — but be careful!

Scroll maps use color to show you where your visitors drop off the page:

But drop off isn’t necessarily bad. It’s natural for drop off to increase as you go further and further down the page.

As this Crazy Egg article points out, the question is…

…are the visitors who go all the way down the page still clicking links?

Let’s say 100 out of every 1000 visitors make it to the bottom of your homepage.

But of those 100, 75 click on your call-to-action button. The drop-off rate is 90%. But the 10% who scrolled all the way down converted at a really high rate of 75%. That tells us not to worry about the drop off. The copy is doing its job.

On the other hand…

If almost no visitors convert after a sharp drop off, you either need to fix a section, or cut it all together. Repeat as needed.

One more note of caution: If you have a Log In button in your hero section, don’t forget to account for existing customers when you analyze your scroll maps. Otherwise, you might think prospects are dropping off when it’s actually your customers logging in.

Action 3: Write for both types of decision makers — fast and slow

“Write to one person.”

You may have heard that advice before. You might have heard that advice from this very website.

The idea is, the more targeted you are in your copy, the more your ideal reader will respond.

This rule still applies in web copy, but there’s more nuance.

Unlike email sequences or PPC ad campaigns, you don’t have all that much control over who’s coming to your website. Especially your homepage.

This means your homepage has to work for multiple personas who may have completely different needs and concerns.

You still want to write to one person, but you need to hedge your bet a bit more on your website.

In the Copyhackers 10x Web Copy course, Joanna teaches that you can divide your web visitors into 2 categories (and I’m simplifying here):

  1. Fast decision makers
  2. Slow decision makers

Fast decision makers rely on your hero section, search, navigation and other website shortcuts that help them quickly get to their goals.

Scannable hero copy is your ally for these visitors. You can expect that they catch some of your hero copy and crossheads. But not much else.

Slow decision makers, on the other hand, are readers. They don’t stop at the crosshead. They read the body copy too. Then they check some reviews on G2Crowd. Then they check your competitors’ websites. Then they come back to your website and read it again.

As Jo puts it in the course, for this audience, “details are everything.”

If you know that your audience falls into the fast or slow decision-making category, by all means, write for them and them alone.

But most of the time, you need to write for both.

Here are some quick tips to help you do just that:

  • Make the copy at the top of each page scannable. This helps fast decision makers move quickly.

Give them what they need to know in the hero section. Then rely on clear navigation, links and buttons so they can get where they need to go. Slow decision makers will keep reading down the page if you hit the right notes in the hero.

  • Tell a story with your crossheads. Fast decisions-makers won’t read paragraphs of body copy. But they may skim your crossheads. So don’t waste your crossheads on placeholder copy such as “Features” “Why us?” and “Trusted by”. Replace those with more specific, value-based crossheads.

For example, this crosshead on the Follow Up Boss homepage packs a lot more credibility than the standard “Trusted by”

  • Use 3rd-party social proof early on your homepage and other entry points. That way, you establish credibility with fast decision makers before they dart to the next page.
  • Use icons and images to draw the eyes of fast-paced decision makers to the most important messages.

Settle the “it’s too long” debate once and for all

Only a split test will reveal exactly what works and what doesn’t.

But the vast majority of SaaS marketers aren’t testing their web copy all that rigorously. Or at all.

So if split tests aren’t practical for you right now, you need to rely more on your research to build a winning messaging strategy.

When your team focuses on the 5 factors discussed earlier, the “copy length” debate will settle itself.

Or at least you’ll have a more productive conversation about which messages to include and which to omit. Instead of whittling your copy down until it’s generic and impotent.

When your team starts debating copy length, try bringing the discussion back to the messaging factors that truly matter:

  1. Awareness & the customer journey: What messages do your ideal visitors need to read so that more of them get from point A to point B? What can you leave out? 
  2. Context: What is the context in which your ideal prospects visit your website? Do they just need to check if your software fits their use case? Or do they need to thoroughly evaluate the details?
  3. Market sophistication: Do your ideal visitors already understand your product category? Or do you need to explain it?
  4. Price, risk, complexity & trust: How many questions, objections and anxieties do you need to address? 
  5. Segments: Which messages will resonate with your ideal visitors rather than your average visitors? How can you target your most valuable visitors without completely alienating anyone important?

~andrew

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