What stands in the way of your new favourite idea and getting it live in your online shop?
The trauma of how to write a decent product description.
Yes, those few simple lines of text can often prove as tricky as boiling the perfect egg and cause an otherwise lovely product to fall at the final hurdle.
Today I’m talking about how to tackle the challenge.
But first, here’s the thing we always get wrong
People don’t actually buy stuff. They buy feelings.
One of the best things I’ve ever heard about what products actually are is when Collyn Ahart describes them as “souvenirs” of a brand in this talk.
The product isn’t it. It’s what the product stands for that really matters.
So the phrase ‘product description’ is misleading because it makes us think that we need to describe things. The terrible truth is that most people don’t care about the things you think are important in your product, like the colour. They care about whether it solves a problem for them or fulfills a need or aspiration or desire that they have.
And that’s what you go for in a product description. You go for EMOTION.
So start with a hook
Every time I sit down to write about a product the first thing I do is decide on what I call “the one thing”. What is the one thing this product actually does? I look for the aspiration/desire/need/problem every time.
Here are some examples:
For a gold sequinned top, a bad hook would be “it has sequins sewn on by hand”. It’s bad because honestly, no one will care. People care much more about how they look.
If the top delivers in the aesthetic department, most people won’t give a second thought about whether the sequins were sewn on by hand or not.
How about “channel your inner Beyoncé” for a good hook instead? If your target audience respects who she is and what she stands for, the suggestion that wearing this top is going to make them look more like her will strike home.
And that’s why…
You really, really need to know your audience
I’m hoping that you knew them before you made the product. That it was based on your biggest bestseller or ten different people had asked you why it wasn’t already in your range or you saw something similar flying off the shelves of a competitor.
All of those insights will have already taken you to the place where you can design something best-selling.
So think about your customers and what they like and don’t like. Do they use specific words and phrases? What’s really important to them?
If you follow your customers on social media, you might start to see common words and themes in the words that they use. Perhaps they often refer to “making a difference” or always struggling to “find the time”.
Look out for common themes and then start to mirror those same phrases back to them in the words that you write. You are literally starting to talk their language and find out what really matters to them.
Knowing your audience helps you to craft your hook.
Here’s another example but this time, imagine the product is a beautifully illustrated family calendar.
If your target audience is a busy yummy mummy, which of these opening lines do you think will be more compelling?
“This calendar has beautiful illustrations for every month” (So what?)
“Get your entire family life organised in one beautiful swoop and know exactly where you need to be and when”. (Yes! That solves a problem!)
The second option is much more effective because it’s entirely based on you solving an actual problem that your target audience has. The only reason you know her life is hectic and she is having a nightmare juggling all the family commitments is because you know her.
If you want to write product descriptions that will resonate, you have to know your audience. You have to know their pain points, what they want and what they aspire to.
Let’s talk about layout
When it comes to the perfect length for a product description there is no right answer but the product itself can give you some clues.
When I wrote product copy for an exquisite handmade jewellery range, some of the diamond rings carried price tags of thousands of pounds. I made sure to start with a strong, emotional hook, then laid out my description clearly with bullet points to cover every question a buyer might have.
After all, if you’re going to spend £3000 on a ring you’ve never physically held, you need to feel like you’ve held it. You’re going to need to know every little detail to convince you to part with the money.
A £10 melamine tea tray is a different proposition. In that case, I’d rather keep it short and sweet.
Whatever you do, consider your layout.
Look at this article. It’s broken up into blocks of a couple of sentences at most and that’s because it’s hard to concentrate on big chunks of text when you’re reading online.
So when it comes to layout:
use some bullet points
write short paragraphs
make sure you have a clear title with a keyword (more of that later…)
order your information with the opening hook in the first paragraph, follow on with more features and benefits. Put the dimensions, shipping info and any other practical stuff at the end.
Copy and paste product descriptions?
If you sell products online it’s very likely you sell them in more than one place. I’ve been asked many times (and I understand why) if I can write one product description for an item that will be sold across several different platforms.
I think this is a bad idea.
First of all, different platforms, from Amazon to Etsy to your own website shop will sort and rank products in different ways.
If you’re serious about your product getting found then take an hour out to read the up-to-date guidelines about how best to list products and write descriptions for each different platform.
I know you don’t want to do it. It sounds dull.
But getting more sales won’t be dull.
Take the time to work out which category is going to suit your product the best.
Next, consider what copy and pasting product descriptions will do for your ranking in search. You can delve into the nitty-gritty of it here but the short answer is that search engines like Google are out to deliver the best answers to queries.
If duplicate text appears in several different places Google just doesn’t know what to pick. It doesn’t know how to decide which is the best answer because they’re all the same and the result is reduced visibility for your product.
For me, a much better approach is to learn about the platform you’re selling on then choose a different target keyword for each listing.
I’ve written everything you could ever need to know about finding keywords here but the basic gist of this is that if I was selling, for example, a gold necklace with pearls I would look up three different keywords for the same item and write a different listing based around each.
Think of this like experiments, not a science. Keep an eye on your stats for different listings in different places and if one is clearly outstripping the others, tweak accordingly.
And now, let’s write
First of all, ask yourself what “the one thing” is. What is the most important need/desire/aspiration/problem your product solves? Think about how your product is going to make someone feel.
In other words, why should they care? You could even brainstorm some of the things you know your customers love, the literal reasons they have told you why they’ve bought something in the past.
Think of the emotion and the aspiration. If you’re selling a diary, don’t sell the patterned cover, sell the possibility to get seriously organised in a super-stylish way.
If you’re selling a pair of handmade slippers from Tibet, don’t sell the colour, sell the feeling of being deeply snug and safe all winter long.
Now write that as your opening sentence.
Next, it’s time to build on your hook by adding some detail. Again, brainstorm the questions your customer might have and try to answer them.
What’s it made of? How was it made? What does it do? Imagine you’re meeting this thing for the first time. What would you want to know?
Now, write it.
Follow up with the practical stuff. Shipping info, dimensions, packaging. The nuts and bolts.
Finally, hop over to a keyword tool (you can read all about them and how to use them here). Look up a keyword for your product, then weave it naturally into your copy at least once and make sure you get it into your title too.
Once you’ve done all this, you should have a pretty good product description taking shape.
First published on thestitchwriter.com