In the last 11 years of relentless A/B testing, we’ve seen the awesome power of product stories; this article is a how-to guide for developing the perfect product story.
Our goal at this point is to create Exploring Product Story Angles doc that will house all the best fragments of our exploration (potential product story angles). Many of these ideas will not make it to the final product story, and that’s OK. At this point, we’re just exploring ideas. Don’t think too much about the final product.
Ok, let’s look at the step-by-step process. Through this entire process be sure to be noting your thoughts (product story angles) in the Exploring Product Story Angles doc. There is no “good” or “bad” idea. If it pops in your head, write it down.
— Step 1: extract the soul of the story
At the heart of our entire marketing thesis are two fundamental ideas: “why we exist” and “why our product must exist.” We’re living in a world where shoppers have more choices than ever and their attention has never been more fragmented. By using these 2 ideas you can break through the clutter and grab the buyer’s attention.
We talk about how to develop “why we exist” and “why our product must exist” in this article.
— Step 2: read and understand current content
When we start work on a client project, be it dog wheelchairs, a gourmet truffle hot sauce, or room air purifiers, we don’t really know their target audience (even if we think we do). So that’s where we start.
Often, the client’s current marketing playbook isn’t enough. So you need to zoom out for a better bird’s eye view. For example, if you’re working for a site whose USP is giving instant price quotes for selling a car online, go to Google and search for a term like “car selling quote” and see what paid ads show up. Study these paid landing pages.
What product stories are these sites telling? What psychological product story angles are they using? Study and note them down.
— Step 3: start noting hidden assets
What are hidden assets? These are items that can help drive sales but aren’t being used properly.
- An image that does a good job demonstrating the product but isn’t super visible.
- Clever product story angle being used on a competitor site.
- A clever hook that’s buried lower on the page.
- An important sales angle that’s not even mentioned on the main sale page; it’s hidden away somewhere on the FAQ page.
- While reading customer reviews on Amazon you stumble on review #34 where the buyer describes why they bought the product. It’s really compelling but our main sales pitch on the website makes no mention of this.
These are examples of hidden assets.
— Step 4: published research
It’s unlikely that the thing you are working on doesn’t have any references. There would be tons of research about some of the topics you are writing about. Seek them out. For example, I was working on a sales pitch for a car auction site. The biggest competitors for this site are car dealerships. I knew I had to build a case against dealerships. So I Googled to find everything I could. I wasn’t looking for it, but I found a newspaper report about how car dealerships scam older customers. I immediately took a screenshot of this article.
— Step 5: justify price
Your buyer is constantly wondering if the product they are about to buy is priced too high or low. If you don’t address this question the shopper will just assume it’s too high or your quality is too low.
Learn more in our price justification article.
— Step 6: take a 24-hour break
You’ve done an excellent job looking at the product story from every possible angle. Now give your brain a rest. We’ll revisit this tomorrow.
— Step 7: identify killer product story angles
Product story angles are the workhorses of our sales pitch. These angles are what will grab the reader’s attention. We need to identify killer angles. From the notes you’ve been taking in steps 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 we need to identify our main killer product story angles.
Step 7 is also when you craft a headline and/or sub-headline for our product story.
— Step 8: write the first draft
All the foundational work has been done. Now we shift gears to crafting the copy. Don’t think too much about the final copy at this time. I like to just free write my ideas. We’re looking for flow. It needs to feel natural. Keep writing until you’ve run out of inspiration.
— Step 9: Frame product story around 9 buyer psychology principles
There is a reason why conversion rates of ecommerce sites are a measly 2.3% (source). Here is the reality: the shopper on your site doesn’t want to part with their hard-earned money. You know that it’s a good trade, meaning they will get more value from the purchase than the price of the item. But the buyer doesn’t know this, they’ve been disappointed too many times. Their entire psyche (buyer psychology) has evolved to protect them from bad decisions. But this isn’t a bad decision. This is good for the buyer. How do we convince and convert them? This is why a deep understanding of 9 core aspects of buyer psychology comes into play.
Your job now is to organize your product story around these 9 core conversion copywriting ideas.
— Step 10: incubation period
Now let the work marinate in your head. Give it time to breathe. Add a reminder to look at the copy the next day. I like to do it first thing in the morning when my brain is fresh.
Reread the copy and make tweaks.
— Step 11: edit ruthlessly
Editing is the most important part of the process. Here is where we chisel away anything that doesn’t add to our copy.
One editing trick is to take a printout of the copy and edit it with a pen. Reading printed copy slightly changes our mental context, which leads to new insights.
To explore the topic of editing read this definitive post: Conversion Copywriting: Let’s Talk Editing.
— Step 12: the art of the start
Obviously our entire sales pitch matters but the opening really matters. If you can get the reader to read the first few sentences of your pitch you’ve won most the battle. The process is explained in more detail here: The Art of The Start.
— Step 13: organize
The sequence for this step is preference driven, some prefer to create an outline first. I prefer to get my thoughts out first, and then organize. You can change the order of this step to suit your style.
A/B test your idea on your product page.
A little about us
Thank you for reading this product story how-to article. We are Frictionless Commerce and over the last 11 years, we’ve thought about just one thing: how do we get online shoppers to convert? We’re fascinated by buyer psychology. And once we understand how your site visitor thinks we use our 9 point copywriting process to convince and convert them.
If you’re on LinkedIn much you
can should definitely connect with me. On LinkedIn, I post ecommerce conversion ideas every day, multiple times a day.