You can't just give your copy a "refresh" or aimlessly fiddle with headlines to get a huge boost in conversions. These kinds of false hopes (and complete lack of a process) are why so many conversion copywriting projects fail, and so many new sites perform worse than the old ones.
If you want to make sure your new copy hits a conversion home run, keep reading.
Last October, I had the opportunity to collaborate with the team at HubSpot to rewrite their copy as part of their site's redesign. It was a conversion copywriter's dream come true!
In this post, I'll share the exact process we used to fine-tune the messaging and nearly double the site's conversion rate.
Diagnosing Issues and Setting Goals
The first step to improving your copy and conversion funnel is to learn what's not working. To do this, Josh Garofalo (who also wrote copy for this project) and I turned to a few sources:
We grilled HubSpot's product development, sales, and support staff to get their inside perspective.
The product teamgave us a better perspective on the evolution of the HubSpot software into the Growth Stack, so we could write about the product as it is now instead of how it was in the past. The HubSpot Growth Stack consists of HubSpot's marketing, sales, and CRM software.
The sales team illuminated the questions, objections and pain points most frequently mentioned by leads on calls. They also shared their most successful ways of overcoming objections and answering questions -- things we could mimic with the site's copy.
The support team shared the recurring questions and frustrations expressed by leads. We pored over support chat logs, highlighting recurring questions that we could solve proactively on the new site
We learned that HubSpot customers didn't understand HubSpot had evolved into the Growth Stack: multiple tools that accomplish different goals individually, but are even more powerful used together.
Making this clear became a huge priority for the new copy.
Analytics & User Journey Mapping
HubSpot's internal team consulted their analytics data and user journey maps and confirmed that clarity was an issue. Conversion flows were tangled as leads struggled to understand what they were signing up for.
We needed to simplify the path from interest to action.
As HubSpot grew rapidly, the copy on their website was written by multiple people with multiple perspectives. This caused style guide inconsistencies, a lack of unified positioning and an inconsistent voice across the site.
This was our chance to bring consistency to HubSpot's messaging and showcase their solutions in words that clicked with their customers.
Now, we just needed to find out what those words were.
Conducting Customer Research
To tell a persuasive story that your leads can see themselves in, you need to understand four things about them:
Pain points: The challenges and frustrations they face
Anxieties: The obstacles and fears that keep them from buying
Desired outcomes: What success looks like for them
Priorities: Which pain points, features, and benefits are most important to them
Instead of guessing at these things, why not just steal the words right out of their mouths?
Customer research is all about capturing your customer's challenges, fears and desires in their own words so that you can use those same words in your headlines, body copy, and calls-to-action.
And when you know your customers' priorities, you know exactly what features and benefits to emphasize, too.
Let's dig into how you can start stealing like the pros.
Segment Your Audience
Depending on what you want to learn, some segments of your audience will be more informative than others.
We identified three important segments to talk to in order to fully understand our audience:
Active (3 - 6 months or longer)
This group purchased recently enough to describe their pain points and priorities, as well as some benefits they'd realized. (Make sure that you're surveying customers who have had enough time to evaluate your product and find success with it.)
Leads are deeply in tune with their pain points and anxieties -- perfect for learning frustrations with the existing website and the obstacles they're facing.
This customer group can help us understand what went wrong and how we could mitigate those problems.
We also segmented these groups across HubSpot's different products to make sure we were talking to people who actually used each tool.
Create Your Research Docs
Whatever you do, don't skip this step!
There's a temptation to jump right into talking to your customers -- but first, you need a plan for pulling all the feedback together and keeping it organized. Josh and I developed a spreadsheet that saved us hours of headaches and dramatically sped up analysis. You can download a copy for yourself here.
Where & Who?
"I have time for double the work now. I can create my blogs in a few hours, manage my calendar, analyze my data, and still have time to break for lunch."
Sticky. Well-said; possibly revamp into headline: + "Grow like a team twice your size"
G2 Crowd, Joe Shmoe
To use this spreadsheet:
Copy and paste standout customer quotes into the first column.
Categorize the quote by pain point, benefit, anxiety or priority. If the quote applies to more than one, choose the most appropriate and list the others in the "Notes" section.
As themes emerge, add them in the third column. Don't worry about filling this column on a first pass -- themes usually surface during review.
If the quote pertains to a specific feature, add it to the "Feature" column. This will make it easier to sort later on, giving you a cheat sheet for every feature.
Use "Notes" for your own reference. Remind yourself why you like the quote or how you might use it. If it's a quote you might think about stealing copy from, tag it as "Sticky".
List who said it and where. This will make sure you can go back to the source.
Collecting Customer Feedback
To get fast customer feedback at scale, so we turned to two channels: email surveys and review/testimonial mining.
Email surveys can reach a huge number of customers in a short time period -- but to get actionable feedback, you need to ask the right questions.
Your respondents have limited time and energy, so you need to keep your survey focused. That means defining what you need to learn and crafting your questions around that goal.
We structured our survey as follows:
Qualifying questions We asked respondents to describe their role (helping us segment) and how they used HubSpot. Any respondent who said they didn't use HubSpot anymore was pushed to a different set of questions to help us learn why they quit. We accomplished this "on-the-fly segmenting" by using Typeform's Logic Jumps.
Preferences We asked how they liked to learn about software -- whether by watching videos, reading landing pages, calling support, chatting online or reading reviews. This helped us decide if things like video or live chat should be included to support the copy.
Early experiences We asked respondents, "What was going on in your business when you sought out a solution like HubSpot?" This gave us a goldmine of insight into their pain points, purchase triggers and desired outcomes.
Priorities We had respondents rank the criteria that were most important to them when making a purchase decision (price, ease of use, access to support, etc.). We also had them rank the features most important to them. This gave us a roadmap for which features we needed to call out early and often in the new copy, and which features weren't as important to mention.
Results We finished up the survey by asking leads what they'd been able to achieve using HubSpot. This gave us insight into the outcomes people wanted, the wins they'd achieved, and what made them happiest about using HubSpot.
Review and Testimonial Mining
You can learn a ton about your customers by reading reviews, testimonials, and case studies. As the email survey was collecting responses, Josh and I pored over 100 reviews on TrustRadius, G2 Crowd, Capterra and more.
We also analyzed reviews for competitors, looking for the most common objections or frustrations so we could position the HubSpot Growth Stack as the superior solution.
We cross-referenced the things we read with the primary data we collected to make sure we weren't just hearing from the vocal minority.
Analyzing the Feedback
When analyzing feedback, how do you know which quotes to consider and which to ignore? Here's what to look for:
Find Recurring Themes
On your first read through the responses, keep a running tally of the themes you see emerging. As an example, when analyzing HubSpot's customer responses I tracked:
Which specific features were brought up most often as difference makers (like pipeline management or email automation)
Which pain points were frequently mentioned, and how they were described (e.g. a need for more sales, more flexibility, time savings, etc.)
How many responses mentioned specific benefits or outcomes (like saving money, generating leads or automating processes)
Below are just a few examples of the responses we got to one of our surveys. In these examples (and dozens of others), a theme emerged: a need for a CRM the customer's sales team would actually use.
This type of analysis helps you pinpoint what is motivating your audience to action. Now, you know exactly what pains to agitate and benefits to emphasize on your new pages. Better yet, you can borrow the ways your customers explained them so that the copy is immediately relatable.
Pay Attention to Frequently Used Words
Look for the terms people use to describe you, their problems, and their ideal solutions. As a shortcut, you can paste customer responses into a word cloud generator:
Just like the recurring themes, you can pull these terms and phrases into your copy to make it stick.
Uncover Those Well-Said / Fresh Soundbites
You don't want your message to be drowned out in a sea of sameness. Because your customers aren't under pressure to try and craft the "perfect line," they're great at finding compelling ways to talk about their pain points and benefits.
Flag responses that immediately jump out as interesting or clever. For example, we loved this quote from one of our survey respondents:
I have time for double the work now. I can create blogs in a few hours, manage my calendar, analyze my data, and still have time to break for lunch.
We played with this quote a little, tied it to a need we saw coming up over and over (growth) and used it to inspire our homepage copy.
Creating a Cheat Sheet
Josh and I created a cheat sheet like the one below for each different product. It tied together our customers' highest-priority pain points, the benefits of solving them, and the sticky pieces of copy we'd found.
Everything we needed to write a page was right in front of us.
Pain Point Eliminated
Hold on -- isn't wireframing the designer's job? Absolutely! … sort of.
Copywriters need to understand how the compelling copy they write will translate to the web to avoid creating intimidating walls of text. Designers need to know how to arrange the visual elements of the page to make consuming the copy an effortless and engaging experience.
As for who should take the lead, there's no debate: copy should dictate design -- cramming copy into a pre-defined design makes it difficult to tell the best possible story.
Building HubSpot's Page Templates
With 36 feature pages, three core product pages, and a brand new homepage to create on a rapidly approaching deadline, we needed to find efficiencies to get this project done on time. To speed up the process, the copy and design teams worked in tandem to build copy-driven, conversion-focused templates for similar page types.
To make your design-copy collaboration productive, you can follow these steps:
Let the Research Drive
After discussing everything we'd learned about our customers, the copy and design team had a reasonable idea of what information we'd need to share to drive a conversion. We knew that every feature page would need a hero section, a space to discuss the top two or three benefits, a spot to share integrations, and a call-to-action.
Create a Mockup to Review
Drawing on these early conversations and some high-converting templates that had been tested in the past, the design team mocked up a new wireframe for us to work from. We used this as our foundation.
Finally, it was time to pull all that sticky copy into the new wireframes we'd created and use customer priorities to guide what we talked about and when. To illustrate how we used our customer research, I'll outline three examples of changes we made to HubSpot's copy and page structure.
Solving the Clarity Problem
You'll remember that one of the biggest problems plaguing HubSpot's old site was a lack of clarity:
Customers had no idea HubSpot had evolved into the Growth Stack -- three different pieces of software that worked both separately and together.
Leads didn't understand which tools they needed to solve their problem or what they were signing up for.
Between copy and design, we solved this problem in a few different ways.
Before, HubSpot's homepage offered little context or insight into what each of the tools did, or that they were separate:
HubSpot's homepage prior to the update.
For the new homepage, we introduced a confusion-busting section that explained that the HubSpot Growth Stack was "a full stack of products" customers could use alone or together.
We listed each solution and shared a quick bit of copy on what a lead could accomplish with each -- then gave leads the opportunity to dig deeper on the one the were interested in.
A section added to the homepage during the update. See it here.
Below this section, we added clarity by using copy pulled from customer quotes to explain what each tool could be used for. We arranged these features based on the highest-priority outcomes of our customers:
The CRM description as it appears on the updated homepage. See it here.
But we didn't put all our eggs in the homepage basket. We brought that clarity into the product pages, too.
On the old product pages there was no mention at all that the tools were connected and could be used together. For the redesign, we added a section to our templates that told the story of how each of the tools connected:
The Growth Stack as explained on individual product pages. See it here.
But just in case a lead jumped straight to the "Get Started" page without reading the homepage or product pages, we made sure that the copy on the "Get Started" page also explained the challenges each tool could solve:
For example, on the HubSpot Sales page, we organized the different features by how often they were mentioned in our survey results. All of those subheadings -- "Uncover new leads, connect with more leads, close deals faster and manage your pipeline" -- are direct quotes from customers as to the benefits of using the feature being highlighted.
Even the crosshead ("Sell more. Work less.") came from the way a customer explained what they could do thanks to HubSpot Sales!
By organizing the page this way, we've made sure the most compelling features and benefits are seen.
Thanks to analyzing chat logs and interviewing HubSpot's support team, we knew where there were gaps in a lead's understanding and the fears the old copy wasn't alleviating. That meant we could be proactive about addressing those with the new site.
For example, one of the biggest questions people have about HubSpot Sales is whether or not it'll work with their email provider, so we added "Works with Gmail and Outlook" to the microcopy by the call-to-action. This leaves the lead no excuse not to get going right away.
Microcopy beneath this HubSpot Sales CTA mentions specific email providers. See it here.
We also learned that a large number of CRM users were frustrated with how long it took to learn other platforms. New leads were concerned about how long it'd take to master the HubSpot CRM, so we obliterated that anxiety early on in the CRM product page:
HubSpot CRM automates the tasks salespeople hate and takes minutes to learn – not months. That means doing more deals and less data entry.
As much as I'd like to say all of that glorious copy I just shared came out of our first drafts, it didn't - and yours won't either. Every draft went through multiple revisions, including:
Accuracy Control All pages of copy were run past team members who worked directly on those products. You should do the same.
Voice/Tone Every draft was run past HubSpot's team to make sure the copy stuck to HubSpot's style guidelines and spoke with a unified voice.
When writing new copy -- especially when you have multiple authors -- give one person the responsibility to enforce a consistent style guide. We didn't pass drafts around the entire company for feedback, and neither should you. That's a surefire way to kill your messaging. Dozens of competing priorities will always water down your copy.
Instead, HubSpot designated a small, multidisciplinary SWAT team and agreed to limit the exposure of the drafts to those people inside of the team. This small group could stay agile and avoid writing copy by committee.
When you steal your copy from your customers, great things happen.
A few weeks after HubSpot's redesign went live, the results were eye-popping:
The new "Get Started" flow nearly doubled the site's overall conversion rate.
There had been a 35% increase in the total volume of demo requests.
There'd been a 27% increase in the total volume of product signups post-launch.
Copy can't take all the credit: an improved conversion flow and dramatically different design were huge factors, too!
But if there's one thing I want you to leave this piece understanding, it's that you can't write high-converting copy in a vacuum. The only way we were able to refocus HubSpot's messaging and bring clarity to their conversion funnel was by getting to know their customers. Talk to yours!
After this project, HubSpot has a proven, repeatable process they can use to write copy that converts -- and now, so do you!
Originally published Mar 23, 2017 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017