I recently came across an old article by marketer Mike Moran that contained a story about a long-haired hippie in the 1960s struggling to get a ride to his destination. The hitchhiker kept sticking out his thumb, but no one stopped. Finally, he scrawled on a piece of cardboard, “Going to the Barber” and he was picked up within minutes.

Hitchhiker needs barber.It’s great copywriting for a couple of reasons: it’s short and to the point and its orientation is all about the target audience.  As soon as the hitchhiker stopped thinking about what he wanted (a ride) and considered what most of the people driving by might want, he got the desired response.

The story made me think about a problem with website writing, including logistics website writing. It too often reflects our love affair with our own companies and products. “Our company can….We provide….Choose us because….”

News flash: your prospects don’t care about you, even if they are on your website!

They care about their own fears, problems and goals. 

Let’s try something.  Do you have a MS word document of some web copy recently written? Just for kicks, open it up and use the “find” feature to search for the number of instances of the words “we” and “our” in the entire document. Then do the same for the words “you” and “your.”  If the we/our combo dominates, it may be time to stop looking into the mirror when writing your copy and, instead, get inside it.

Here is home page web copy for two supply chain software companies. These are the first words the visitor encounters on the site.  Which one would you be more likely to investigate?

Founded in XXXX, BLUECO is an innovative software company that specializes in the design and implementation of distribution center management and transportation management solutions. BLUECO has a knowledgeable staff of distribution professionals, programmers and customer service specialists, all experienced in the many facets of logistics management.

REDCO provides easy-to-use, on-demand warehouse management software (WMS) for 3PLs, public warehouses and warehouse operations of all kinds, helping them run more efficiently, grow their business and satisfy customers— all starting at less than $500 per month per warehouse.

If you said “BLUECO,” my work here has been in vain.  REDCO’s copy, while it could be improved, is aimed directly at its target audience. And I love the inclusion of the specific price at the end – clearly a point of differentiation for the company. It helps that REDCO seems to have a much clearer positioning strategy in mind than BLUECO.

A clear strategy begets good copy. If you struggle to communicate your unique value because you haven’t done that strategy work, don’t worry, it’s not a copywriting problem. Nail the strategy first.

Back to our hitchhiker. He realized that the people who actually owned vehicles in the 1960s were unlikely to be fellow hippies. And his appearance was turning off the few who might be willing to give him a ride. So he changed his perspective and got inside the head of the drivers.  After that, the right message, I imagine, become obvious.

Looking for more ideas on good website writing?  I like this blog post from Vappingo.