Why every good website should tell a story

“Every picture tells a story, don’t it?” Rod Stewart sang it, but bad grammar aside, I think every website better tell a story, shouldn’t it? In fact, when I write websites, I compartmentalize my stories into two groups — the first being the sales story and the second being the proof-point story.

For the sales story, I always think in terms of the sales motion, which is the process from introduction to close. If I look at the company’s product and services and see that there are repeat, incremental, and value-added sales opportunities, then I’ll probably try to tell a sales story along the lines of “the relationship close.” I’ll write my copy to build trust by offering insights into the challenges of the market space. In sales, no matter how hard you try to deliver something of value, if your prospect doesn’t like you, he or she probably won’t buy from you. It doesn’t matter if you’re communicating via a webpage or in a boardroom.

There are many types of sales closes, from the “Columbo” and “puppy dog” closes all the way to the “assumptive” and “backwards” closes. Some work better online than others, but the point is, sometimes if you hit a dead end with your Web text, you can try reformatting it into sales closes.

Proof-point stories build trust in a different way: They remove the company from the sales equation and let someone else do the selling. I try to use four different proof-point copy techniques in my Web writing:


  1. Lift-out customer quotes do more than provide much-needed references to the Web guest, they also help to break up paragraphs of copy and are easily updated, assuming you’ve developed your website correctly.
  2. Video testimonials are compelling if they’re short; 60 to 90 seconds is all you need, and when tagged correctly with keywords, they’re SEO-rich.
  3. Perception, attitude, and satisfaction research can win the day, assuming you didn’t conduct the research internally. If you did, there’s little, if any, credibility.
  4. Case studies are excellent, but most of the time they’re used incorrectly. Don’t just place a PDF of your printed case study on your site and call it good. Place your complete case study on your webpage and take advantage of the keywords. Include your PDF for printable convenience. If your case study is more than 250 words — and almost all of them are — you’ll initiate the process of being passed over, passed up, and passed by. The research is conclusive: We lose interest when a webpage contains more than 250 words of copy, so keep it brief.

And when I say keep it brief, that applies to me, too.

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