I recently had the privilege of working with one of the top financial advisors in the country. She wanted to rebrand her firm, and with good reason: It didn’t reflect who she really is, and what she and her team really stand for. Common problem.
And who could blame her? She’s a little too busy running her company and managing millions in assets to worry about her website!
She had, until now, looked at her website the way most people do: A cross between a file cabinet and a billboard.
On one hand, a place to simply put all your stuff, in case anyone wants to go rifling through it (they don’t).
On the other, a digital sign that says to all the world, “Hey, here’s my file cabinet, in case anyone’s looking for it.”
Unless you’re conducting business online (selling merchandise or online programs, for example), the purpose of a website is still kind of unclear for most people. What should I put on there? What should it say?
After we had deconstructed and reconstructed her messaging, and crafted a fresh approach to how she presents her brand online, this client said something I’ll never forget.
“You approach a website differently than I’ve ever seen,” she said. “You approach it as, well, a love letter.”
She’s right. I do.
Think of the last time you received a love letter.
I bet you hung on every word. I bet you read it more than once. Why? Because it was to YOU and no one else, and you knew it. Those words were written expressly to connect with what you needed and wanted to hear, and most importantly, the person who wrote them, meant it.
Can you think of a better way to treat your website? Your brand? All the tiny touch points of it—the emails, blogs, the freebie pop-ups?
This is what’s missing, I believe, from most websites. You know, the ones that feel wooden or flimsy or a little too slick. They may have cool logos and graphics, flashing, moving parts. But what are they saying? What do they mean? Why do I care?
Here’s how to use the love letter approach for creating more powerful, compelling messaging on your site (and everywhere else).
Am I a bad date?
Most people’s websites are like terrible first dates: They’re all about THEM, and how great they are. They never ask you a question. They never show an ounce of concern or even mild interest in you. (Trust me, I’ve been on a few of these this year.)
I tell people that their websites shouldn’t simply be mirror images of themselves.
No one’s coming to your site to watch you preen in front of it. They want to know what you have to offer them. Simple concept, hard to execute on, especially if you’re not sure yourself.
Think of it, instead, as a way to connect with the person you’re looking to attract. What are his or her concerns, fears, struggles? Where are they at right now, and how can you help? The real skill is in being able to make a reader “heard” when they’re not even the ones doing the speaking.
What do I most want to do for this person?
And please don’t tell me to improve their lives, because that’s a given. Unless someone out there is publicizing their efforts to ruin yours, you can assume that most people, whether they’re bookkeepers or coaches or personal trainers, are always trying to help.
I’ll add that there’s a kind of mealy-mouthed aspect of this that I can’t stand, and it’s when someone wants credit for wanting to help. That is your job.
If you weren’t purporting to solve a problem for me and in so doing improve an aspect of my life, then you don’t have much of a business. So get past this and instead focus on what you can do for me, your one true love. Haha.
Do I actually love them?
If you don’t love the person you’re trying to reach, good luck getting and keeping their attention. Seems obvious. But if down deep you’re annoyed at, judgy of, or otherwise impatient toward the people you want to help (for instance, if you think they’re stupid and that’s why they need you), trust me, it will show.
I remember an interview with the actor John Goodman about his role in the film 10 Cloverfield Lane, in which he plays a conspiracy theorist-slash-survivalist living in a bunker. He’s a terrifying, loathsome character—and Goodman said that the only way he could face playing him is if he found something, anything, likable about him. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know he basically nailed it.
Now, you aren’t terrifying or loathsome, and neither is your audience. I hope. But when you think about what you truly want to do to help these particular people and why, connect to that part that appeals, that draws you in, that makes you excited to help.
Because if you don’t love them, at least some part of them, you by definition won’t have a love letter. Just…a letter. And that’s no fun.
Great branding, website, copy, all of it, should do one thing: Connect. And so yeah, there’s a little romance involved. And by romance I don’t mean “sexy”; I mean the kind of romance that draws you in, makes your audience feel wanted, and heard. That kind of romance.
Your job is to create meaning and value for the person whom you can most successfully serve. If you can do that, over and over, you’ll get the best kind of response from fans and prospects that you could hope to: “Tell me more.”
Does your website feel like a love letter…or a form letter? Send it to me. I’ll tell you straight up.