Let the Purpose Guide You

The other day, a guy comes up to me in the grocery store. "Hey, you're that Martian what's-it from GrokDotCom, aren't you?"

I plaster on my how-nice smile as I poke through the tomatoes. "That's me, alright."

He settles into a soap-box stance. "You know, I read that book on copywriting ... you know, the one with the picture of you on the cover? It was pretty good."

"Thanks, dude," I nod. "I'll convey your reactions to Bryan, Jeffrey and Lisa."

"Yeah, but ..."

Here it comes. I hate this. The moment when I'm going to have to justify something in the nicest way possible when what I really want to do is zap the guy with a lightening bolt (if only Martians could).

It seems my grocery store commentator really liked Persuasive Online Copywriting, so he decided to visit the Web site for this newsletter. It was there he determined that while we might understand the theory of writing persuasively, we were inept at putting it into practice for ourselves.

"I was wondering what I might learn about persuasive writing from evaluating your GrokDotCom Web site. I'm still wondering." I can still hear his toe tapping.

Every last one of my eyeballs was stuck rolled up in their sockets (but that how-nice smile was still plastered to my face), and then, suddenly, it dawned on me. He doesn't get it. And if this regular dude who looks very normal and speaks quite intelligently doesn't get it, then lots and lots of other folks aren't getting it either (which actually is pretty obvious).

Every little thing you do on your Web site must have a purpose - an objective. You must be clear about what that purpose is, so you can develop all the associated elements with that purpose in mind. Lose the focus of your purpose and you will no longer be able to even communicate, much less persuade, effectively. Your purpose may change over time - very little stays static - but the changes must always be considered and intentional, shaped within the context of the evolving purpose.

I said to my confrontational dude, "The purpose of GrokDotCom's copy is to inform and build long-term relationships with our readers by providing valuable content, not by selling them anything. Through this laid-back approach, we demonstrate our abilities, which, quite naturally, we hope will influence someone to contact us. But all this material is there for free, whether or not you ever contact us. And you can use it to perform large and small miracles on your Web site."

"Our strategy not only works for us, it works extraordinarily well. Over 40% of the folks who come to this Web site sign up for the newsletter. Not bad, eh dude?" I grin, plucking the perfect tomato from the pile. "Although it could be a lot better, I'll grant you that!" And I wink.

Keep this in mind as you puzzle over the many elements on your Web site. No one thing can be everything to all people. You'll go berserk thinking otherwise. That's why you need to think of any conversion system in larger terms - as a construction of Persuasion Architecture.

So think about what you need to accomplish, how you can best accomplish it, then head out and get it done. Webward Ho (with a purpose)!

Volume 90: 4/1/04


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