How Much Do You Pay For Words?

So you want to build an ecommerce site.

You’re looking for that Internet home run. So you invest about a million bucks. This isn’t a major venture capital moment, but it’s a fair chunk of change for most of us.

So how much of that money are you going to invest in the written word? You know, those things that transform your site from being a patchwork of linked pictures to being a place of business, designed to sell. And I’m not talking about leftover cash in the marketing budget. How about a whole new budget line devoted to writing?

Writing of the site is just the beginning. After that, you have a thousand site updates to look after. And then you have those outbound emails to write. These are the short, one-on-one communications that can turn a one-time buyer into a regular customer. Or a regular customer into a devoted advocate. Or an unhappy customer into a forgiving customer. Or a puzzled customer into an enlightened customer.

And it’s all down to words, words, words. As an example, I wonder how much money TheGift.com invested in the following email:

“Thank you for shopping at ThGift.com! No parking lots, no long lines, no hassles. No, you’re not dreaming…you’ve been shopping at TheGift.com! We hope you enjoyed you’re experience with us and would appreciate your feedback. At TheGift.com we are dedicated to serving you better. Our team directs our efforts to creating a site that is easy to use and fun to shop. We wish to offer you extensive product knowledge and exclusive services, while maintaining superior customer care.”

(There’s more but it doesn’t get any better.)

For a moment, let’s put aside the fact that this email was sent to a colleague of mine six weeks after she had made her one and only purchase from the site.

Let’s ignore the fact that in the first sentence there’s a typo in the spelling of their own domain name.

Let’s pass over the fact that in the first sentence of the second paragraph the word “you’re” should be the word “your.”

And let’s not dwell on why on earth anyone would want to say, “No, you’re not dreaming…you’ve been shopping at TheGift.com!”

The point is, the entire piece appears to have been written by someone for whom English is a second language.

What would I have done with this email? Considering that it went out six weeks after the last purchase, I would have used this opportunity to try to get the customer back to the site. I would likely have made them some kind of offer to make that happen. A free gift. A discount. A special announcement. But one thing is for sure, if getting them back to the site was the purpose of the piece, every word would have been pulling in that one direction.

But I digress.

I don’t want to beat up on this site in particular. Poor writing – and poor thinking behind the writing – is a weakness common to many ecommerce sites. Who’s at fault? It’s not really the writers. It’s the person at a management level who is responsible for making the site sell.

It’s not enough to invest big bucks to get red hot programmers, designers, software “solutions” and marketing gurus.

To make your site sell, it needs the right words.

To get the right words, you need a red hot writer or two or three. And to get the right level of talent, you need to put aside a decent budget to make it happen.

My message is to people at a management level: Words can sell. It’s your call to make it happen.

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