At the recent Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, a topic in vogue was the idea of ‘gamification’ or ‘game thinking’– which is essentially the practice of improving user engagement by adding gaming features to non-game applications. Experts at the conference touted that gamification created “a loyalty program on steroids” — getting prospective clients hooked onto a product, service, concept, or app.
We thought it would be interesting to try to refashion the gaming tenets proposed by Venture Beats‘ Dean Takahashi into a creative approach to writing stellar copy for everything from marketing campaigns to web content.
Here are three lessons we can learn from game designers:
1. “Know who’s playing” and “Embrace intrinsic motivators”. Write text with your audience in mind. Reader-centric copy means engaging your audience with your ideas, and sparking the innate desire to explore your ideas or concept further. In practice, this means researching your target audience and finding out what they do and enjoy. Try crowdsourcing campaigns to launch mass brainstorming sessions with your fans and potential clients. Dan Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us is required reading on the power of incentives.
2. “Build fun, pleasure, and satisfaction into your core activity loop”. Take Farmville, the online game where over 55 million average players per month got to milk cows, grow carrots, and partake in the joys of idyllic cyber animal husbandry. In fact, just enough players (1-2% reportedly) make actual money purchases to buy ‘special items’ to add to their virtual farms, including pink tractors and purple Breton horses. Why were people flocking to these games (and even paying for make-believe purchases)? Because their friends were playing them and because there was an immediate payoff– an experience: you planted something and later you could harvest the ‘fruits’ of your labor.
How can your writing inspire that kind of following? By offering an immediate payoff. Are you trying to sell your e-book? Offer an ethical bribe such as a giveaway excerpt, or maintain a blog where you can offer ‘variations on a theme’ of the ideas and concepts discussed in your book. Don’t be afraid to ‘lure’ your readers with a bold statement or an intriguing detail. You need to get your readers interested first– create a captive audience– before building your case with nuanced arguments.
3. “Change the user experience over time” or “As players progress, increase the challenge and complexity”. In gaming, there are three types of players– the novice, regular, and enthusiast. In marketing, segment your target audience and write your advertising copy accordingly. Novices, or those new to your business, need to be enticed with ‘hooks’. For your regulars and loyal customers, serve up new, quirky content, maybe in the form of premium information. Your enthusiasts are your groupies– cultivate solid alliances with them and treat them well with special rewards and ‘first-peek’ privileges.
For more wordsmithing advice, ask Night Owls Press for a free consultation. Check out other writing advice here.
Businesses use websites like digital calling cards. They serve as critical focal points in marketing strategies to attract traffic, raise awareness, and turn visitors into real leads.
Night Owls Press has been working with several clients on projects that involve web content writing or website rebranding– and we found ourselves asking– well, what are the key ingredients for putting together compelling website content that draws in prospects?
Here’s our list to turn web traffic into leads:
Offer clarity. A website needs to make an impression in the first few seconds it appears in front of a visitor. Many businesses make the mistake of muddling their message by packing in too much information about their services or products upfront. It makes sense, entrepreneurs are passionate about what they do and want to convey that enthusiasm to their audience. It’s the equivalent of talking too fast when you meet someone for the first time, or rushing through a presentation or speech. On the flip side, some businesses will do the opposite. Withholding information or being ambiguous can also backfire.
Smart businesses will walk the fine line by stoking the natural curiosity of people when they are on the web. People always want to find out more and they tend to click around to find that information. Your front-page should have compelling sound bites that are clear, never misleading, but will also creatively disarm the skeptical visitor in such a way that piques their interest and drives them to click through your site. The ultimate goal is to sell your product or service– but don’t turn off visitors by writing web content that is a hackneyed, shameless sales pitch.
Add a dash of whimsy and personal touch. Show your customers that they aren’t just buying a product or service– but are doing business with people they actually like. In your ‘ABOUT’ page, write an engaging profile of your company– and also yourself. Doing so, gets your prospective customers excited about your company and its offerings at a personal, visceral level. If they see common ground with you as a person, that’s just one more edge you gain over the competition.
And don’t underestimate the power of a profile photograph. You may be camera-shy but seeing a real person, smiling back at them makes your prospects more apt to contact you. Make sure your photo is professional-looking. Video can also be powerful customer magnets. Be creative. Try talking directly to the camera and cut to scenes of you working with other customers or providing your service.
Offer a tasting menu to capture leads. The ultimate goal of your website is to get prospects moving in the direction of becoming a potential lead for your business. At any point on your site, visitors should have access to a button or link that will take them to the final step of getting in touch with you or finding out how they can ‘buy’. This critical landing page could be an easy Sign Up or Contact Us form.
Many businesses offer freebies, such as coupons, newsletters, even e-books– to encourage visitors to enter their e-mails. Many businesses make the mistake of ignoring the advantages of the ‘ethical bribe’. Your visitors get something useful, and in return your business builds up an e-mail list. Why is an e-mail database important? Visitors may not ‘buy’ from you after their first visit, but you can always send them a friendly follow-up or ‘hello’ later on. Make sure the communication is sincere (no spam or aggressive sales pitches)– and it may just turn into a real lead.
Never overdose with ads. Ads in abundance can be unwelcome distractions for visitors. Banners and flashing animation are even worse. They are digital noise and cheapen a site.
If you decide to post ads, do it sparingly and strategically on your site. Make sure the ads are in some way of interest to your target clientele. If you have any affiliate connections with vendors, make sure you practice complete transparency and disclose that information. If your business sells other products and services, try pooling them together on a single page rather than dispersing them throughout to minimize clutter.
Contact us if you’d like more advice on improving your web content or site.