How to Write Your Sales Page

It’s Time to Redesign The Sales Page! Part 2 (Part 1)

So, last time on “It’s Time to Redesign The Sales Page!” we talked about why I decided the Freckle Time Tracking sales page had to be totally redone.

Namely:

  1. We weren’t proud of the design, so we didn’t promote it
  2. We didn’t believe it was effective at reaching our visitors, so we didn’t promote it

So these problems break down into two categories:

  1. Visual appearance
  2. Message/content

Because the message/content issue is much harder than the visual appearance, that’s where I started.

Tune in next time for the design.

Pre-work: Why, and Who?

To figure out what to say on a marketing site, you first have to figure out:

Why the hell should anyone care?

Once you have the Why, you also have the Who.

Why… and Who

Freckle is focused on freelancers and small teams. 

Freelancers and small teams who do what? you may ask. Well, to us, it doesn’t really matter. We designed it around our needs—and we’re designers and developers—but, across most industries, freelancing or consulting is pretty much the same. It’s different in the same ways, too. There’s as much variation among designers in their freelance habits, as there are among all freelancers, of all types.

This is why “freelancers and small teams” isn’t really our Who.

The real difference between our customers, and people who’d be better suited with our competitors?

Attitude. And outlook.

If you like this, you’ll like us

Nobody has ever accused me of being nuanced. It’s not that I’m incapable of nuance, but it’s not my highest priority. I like bold statements, bold moves, and bold designs. 

Freckle, too, is bold. It’s got nuance to it—to quote one happy customer, it’s got “a thousand little touches”—but, at heart, it’s a bold and decisive tool. We made it to be, in many cases, the opposite of what’s out there currently for time tracking. Because, well, we used those systems, and we hated them.

We’ve thrown out a lot of time-honored time tracking tropes (teehee) in order to make Freckle what it is. But this isn’t a case of cargo-culting “less is more,” it’s less with a purpose.

Two examples of “features” we cut out: required client/project hierarchy, and the need to define tasks before you could track time for them. Those things have their place in the enterprise. 

But they’re not features for small teams, or soloists, with a flat hierarchy, a high level of trust, and a culture of independence. They’re hobbles. Annoyances. 

And those people, the ones who trust their team members, who crave freedom, efficiency, flexibility, and a 10,000 ft view of their time, are our audience. 

To be even more specific, they like bright, happy software with bright, happy colors, and a little friendly snark now and again.

And we deliver.

That’s our Who and our Why, so intimately entangled.

Now, to write the site content itself

So, after an exercise just like this one, on paper, I was able to articulate why. And who.

Now the question becomes: How?

  • How to reach people who believe in trust, freedom, efficiency, and flexibility? 
  • How to speak to them? (As in, “that really speaks to me” as opposed to “talking with your mouth”)
  • How to communicate that we help them with the 10,000 ft view? 
  • And the bright cheery bit?

Freedom, efficiency, and flexibility

I made a list of the most important aspects of Freckle, and I worked my butt off to figure out how to describe them purely in the terms of benefits: 

How does this help you, the user, kick ass? (Thanks to Kathy Sierra for this mantra.)

Features are in bold, benefits are in italic:

  • Quick entry? Enjoy entering your time, and get it done in as little as 3 key strokes, no mousing.
  • No up-front configuration? Create new clients or projects when you need them—the first time you log time for ‘em.
  • Flexible tags & description? Describe your time however you want, when you want. Use tags with reports to get as granular as you want.
  • Inline indication of time budgets? Always know exactly where your project stands, on every page.
  • The Pulse? Learn the days where you & your team work the most—and least—and on what. Get a feel for your rhythm.
  • Bright & cheerful? Lift your spirits, even if time tracking’s not your idea of The World’s Funnest Thing To Do.

Are these a little bit overblown? Of course. But they’re an example of a draft. Gimme a break.

All positive

Did you notice that the benefits I listed here (and on the actual site) are all phrased in the positive? That was on purpose. I don’t want negativity to creep in.

Even though it’s so easy to frame Freckle in terms of what it’s not: Not painful. Not ugly. Not full of horrible, evil select lists. Not disrespectful. Not ignorant of the fact that time is a business (e.g. our competitors mostly don’t offer any kind of non-billable time tracking). 

Psychological research has shown that when people hear a negating phrase (“I am not a crook!”), they forget the negative and remember it as a true, positive statement (“I am a crook!”). 

Freckle’s not an asshole. (Freckle’s an asshole! With a bad toupee!)

That’s why responding to your competitor’s claims with denials is a weak position, whereas stating things about your product that are positive is a strong one.

Headline: Setting the tone

The headline is the first thing a person will see when they load the page. ( Well, in theory, anyway.)

So, I spent my time brainstorming potential headlines that would set the tone for the rest of the page. Tone, of course, being a bit playful and irreverent, but still smart and get-down-to-business, because that’s how we roll (as a company, and as a software product). 

I decided up front that “Freckle Time Tracking” wasn’t good enough. If you tell people “Oh, we do time tracking software,” their eyes immediately glaze over. 

More importantly, if I tell you “time tracking” you immediately think of all those other apps that do time tracking. Those apps are mostly the same. It sets (incorrect) expectations: Oh, a time tracking app. I know what that looks like. 

If your app takes a really different approach, like ours, you’ve just screwed the pooch, and you haven’t even closed your </h1> yet!  

So really, my number two goal was to set the tone—the number one goal was to provoke a bit of curiosity. 

One headline I toyed with was: Sorry, control freaks!

The one that won, for now? 

Goodbye, Administrivia.

Is it perfect? No. But it’s surely better than “Freckle Time Tracking.” Or something nauseatingly self-congratulatory, like “Time Tracking: Solved” or some such. 

The others aren’t worth mentioning; they were various shades of boring, predictable, and ho-hum. That’s how it always is when you want to do good shit. Gotta keep cranking through all the predictable stuff until something cool sneaks through by accident.

Set the stage: highlighting the problem

But you can’t just drop benefits into a potential customer’s lap, and expect to get anywhere. It’s like trying to walk through a door that isn’t open. You’re just going to walk away with a big embarassing bruise on your forehead.

So, before popping out benefits, I tried to open the door. I tried to get the visitor in the mood to hear about benefits. That means getting them to think about their current lack of benefits.

My goal with the first two paragraphs on the page was to set the stage:

Frustration—many people find time tracking to be a truly ornerous task, because of bad software, mostly. So, first, I bring up the image of how awful it usually is, followed by the premise: Freckle can make it better.

Raising the question—does the visitor’s current system support the visitor in these critical ways? Freckle does.

Deliver the solution: benefits

And then, with the benefits work I did above, I wrote the copy for the benefits section—below the call to action for the tour. In case people weren’t ready for the tour yet.

This section I edited, over and over. Every time I wrote anything that sounded like a feature, I ripped it out and started again. I kept bringing the focus back to you, you, you. Our potential customers don’t want to hear about us unless it’s how we can help them. (Fundamental human fact: Your customer is the most important person in the world. Everybody goes through life looking at everything relative to them. You, too.)

I tried to make headlines for these mini-sections that would be descriptive, but, like the big heading up top, create a tone that fits with our software and our audience, and create curiosity as well.

I selected screenshots, especially, that showcased the little touches in Freckle, and the brightness and cheerfulness.

Lay it all out: features

Finally, for those who are less interested in touchy-feely benefits, who want cold hard facts: a feature list. 

I grouped the features by broad category, situating them in context to show how they created the great user experience.

Everything we say about Freckle, I want to always bring it back to that user experience. Even though we’ve got a lot of features that the competition don’t, what really ties it all together is the experience of using it. 

Now, your turn

Do you have a product with a sales page? How’d you decide to create your content?

And…Would you like more articles like this?

7 Comments

  1. Jurie says:

    Hey Amy, nice article! Please write more like these – I like reading about the craftmanship other people bring to their work.

  2. Luke says:

    Encore! Thank you for sharing your thought process on this. Gave me some ideas of my own.

    Always nice when your posts pop up in my feed reader. :-)

  3. Phil Wilson says:

    Great article but i noticed a mistake on the copywriting.

    Where it says: freckle is perfect for freelancers, consultants & and small teams.

    Remove either the & or and. Its not a big thing, but where you take the time to write such a good article, I thought you’d appreciate the oversight.

  4. Oy, Hoy:

    I have struggled with this since taking up my current contract. We publish a very serious piece of API infrastructure, and our target users are not the joking around types.

    The industry we swim is cemented in place, and even the most enlightened potential clients need a good while to review the sell points said in several ways.

    I keep seeking the one economical way to convert our twinkle into English.

  5. Wes Garrison says:

    Amy:

    Thanks for the insight. I enjoyed the first article, as well, and hope you continue writing them.

  6. Great article. I liked the step by step decision process you describe. Thank you for sharing. Yes, more please.

  7. Mark Weston says:

    Thank you, and yes please to more of these.

    During my career I’ve always been focused on the technical stuff. But now I’m trying to get my head round at least the basics of design and marketing. Articles like this that describe a thought process rather than simply list "top tips" or "golden rules" are interesting and valuable.

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