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October 24, 2010

How to Create a Website that Sells

There are many differing opinions on the best way to create a website. However, when it comes to creating a website that actually sells, your choices become much more limited. Why? If you want a website that sells, you must follow proven principles from sales and marketing.

But the first step is to become crystal clear on what you want.

What is your primary outcome? Are you building your list? Are you providing content to interact with your prospects/customers? Are you selling a product or generating a lead?

Only when you know exactly what you are trying to accomplish, will you be able to achieve that.

*** Model Your Website After This Proven Method ***

A great selling website starts with great copy. But that’s only the beginning. Great copy alone won’t do it.

Advertising takes many different forms: websites, sales letters, brochures, video scripts, and many more. What do all successful sales promotions have in common?

They are modeled after a proven advertising method. That translates to the particular media being used. What do websites that sell have in common? They model successful direct marketing strategies and copywriting in the offline world.

Why direct marketing and not something else? Direct marketing is measurable. And the Internet (as a type of media) is closest to direct marketing than anything else. Finally, direct marketing is based on response, not awareness or image creation. Its primary goal is to make a sale.

*** Why Your Offer Is Most Important ***

Besides the copy there are two other important considerations in writing a website that sells. First is your offer. While many place huge emphasis on the headline, it’s the creation of a compelling, irresistible offer that is most important.

Why? Without an offer with all the right ingredients everything else can be right, but you won’t make many sales. Sure a captivating headline is critical to draw the reader in. However, you can take them all the way from the headline and opening, through the body copy, to the close. And if the offer doesn’t make it, they still won’t respond.

The offer has to do with packaging what you provide directly with what your target market wants and desires.

*** Without The Right Strategy, Great Copy Is Useless ***

The final component of a great selling website is strategy. This is why it’s so important to know your outcome, before you begin. If your main goal is lead generation, to build a list you’ll want to create a lead capture page for your website.

If on the other hand your website page is selling a product, then you’ll want to create a landing page. A landing page is the direct marketing equivalent of a direct mail promo. The main feature is the sales letter, but there are many other structural and design elements that work together to make the sale. A landing page may include testimonials, an about the author box, and other information to help make a buying decision.

There are many other considerations when discussing strategy. But these are a few of the most important.

Notice I still have not discussed copy much. There are many that speak of the copy, like the Holy Grail. It’s not. It is exciting to see the possibilities of transforming really bad copy into great copy. However, it is ultimately not the most important thing. That’s why so often online marketers wonder why they got zero response. Stop blaming the copy, and look at the bigger picture. Even bad copy will usually get some
response if everything else is right.

Having the right match between your target market, your offer, and strategy will get you pointed in the right direction.

*** What Makes Great Copy That Sells ***

As far as writing good copy? The biggest mistakes that I see being constantly made: Lack of clear communication. Copywriters who just don’t have a grasp of clarity in their writing. What you say is more important than how you say it, with one exception. When what you say is confusing or conveys the wrong message.

The second major blunder I see is going to extremes. Either by screaming out an over-hyped sales message like a late-night television infomercial. Or the boring opposite: fear of creating a really hard selling message and erring on the side of too careful. This is where most corporate copy falls short.

The power comes right in the middle. Hard selling copy, that’s interesting without being unbelievable. Proving every claim you make. Drawing the reader into an emotionally irresistible web of desire. Not stopping until you ask for the sale at the end.

Finally, the last major copywriting mistake I see is writers going off on a tangent. Failing to stay zeroed in on the sales message like a laser. Every time you go off track there’s a good chance you’ll lose the reader.

That’s why it’s so important to have rhythm to your copy: A natural cadence of short and long sentences. The best way to achieve this is by writing out great copy by hand. To ensure your copy has a good rhythm be sure to read it out loud. That will easily expose any rough spots.

When you have this rhythm, write in the language of your prospect, and write clearly with compelling copy…then you will motivate the reader to act.

Ken Hoffman is a strategic business advisor and direct response copywriter. He is the author of “Scientific Advertising For The New Economy.” Download his free report, “17 Website Conversion Strategies To Boost Your Bottom Line.” Download it now from