Does Your Product Description Create a Guessing Game?

SMM Staff

It’s been said that if you can’t clearly explain what a company does in a sentence or two, you shouldn’t buy shares of their stock. The same holds true in marketing. If your company can’t clearly explain how your product or service will help prospective buyers, can you seriously expect them to invest in you?

Before you reassure yourself that your product or service — and the value it brings — is clear in your current marketing materials, run them past a few associates outside of your company and ask them to summarize what it is they think you do.

Next, ask the head of every department in your company and your executive team to send you the product description they use in communicating with prospects and employees. It’s the rare company that finds consistency across the organization, says Anita Brearton, founder and CEO of CabinetIM, a marketing technology discovery and management platform. (For the record, Brearton explains that CabinetIM helps marketing teams manage the technology they have and find the technology they need.)

Consistency is as crucial as clarity

“When we did this exercise, we found we had all been using a slightly different variant of a company and product description, and we were emphasizing different things about our business,” Brearton states. She likens it to the fable of the six blind men who offer completely different descriptions of an elephant based on the part of the animal they felt.

Brearton’s tips for improving your product description:

  • If you made up a new product category, delete it. Choose the correct, standard category for your product. Nobody is searching for your funky new category in which you are the only vendor.
  • If you’ve used the words first, best, only, leading, innovative or any other self-aggrandizing terminology, delete that as well. It may make you feel good, but no one will believe it.
  • Read your product description out loud, preferably to your mother, but in a pinch, your CFO. Do they understand what you’ve written? If not, go back and remove all the big words you never use in everyday speech. This is not Scrabble — you don’t get extra points for using X and Q.

Once you land on a description you are happy with, update your website with your new, easy-to-understand description. Also, share your company/product descriptions across the organization and make it clear that these should be used in all relevant communications until further notice.

This should be a quarterly exercise, Brearton says. “I’m astounded that companies can’t be bothered to make sure their descriptions are correct in product and business directories. There aren’t that many.”

Define your target buyer

If you think of your product description as a conversation with a prospect, then the first step is to define the prospect. “Having a solid image of your ideal customer makes it much easier to create a connection and converse with them through your writing,” says Krista Fabregas, a contributor to Fit Small Business. “This step is key to a good product description because it turns product-centered copy into a vibrant customer-centered conversation. And that’s what sells.”

Fabregas recommends actually imagining where a customer will encounter your product description to help determine tone. Would you meet them in a professional office setting? In an industrial setting? Knowing where in-person conversations would take place helps you decide whether to be button-down, technical, casual, instructive or something else. This is also a helpful tool for writing your blog posts, marketing emails and other website content.

By imagining your product description as a conversation with a prospect, you are more likely to keep the focus on what matters to the buyer. “When you’re dying to create truly unique, cutting-edge content, it’s easy to stray from your organization’s mission and focus,” says Meghan Keaney Anderson, vice president of marketing at HubSpot. “While it’s great to think outside of the box, use clever subject lines, or even write every email with an overarching humorous tone — keep it relevant and include the information that the people reading it signed up to receive in the first place. Then, keep it human.”

Use visuals

When it comes to written content, don’t hesitate to use visuals when it makes sense — and it often makes sense. Among its other advantages, visual content can help boost a viewer’s retention of things like brand information, Keaney Anderson says. Eye-tracking studies show readers pay closer attention to informational images and spend more time looking at them than they do reading text.

Simple and authentic graphics are a safe bet, says Kayleigh Alexandra, an author at Micro Startups, a website that offers insights for small businesses. “The thing is, the most effective visuals are often the simplest. Your clients are busy and time-poor; they need you to get to the point quickly,” she says. “You want the images to grab their attention, add context, and make your content more memorable. But at the same time, they shouldn’t detract from the message entirely — and it shouldn’t be hard work to look at them.”