Product Descriptions are FundamentalToo often, we don’t give our product descriptions the attention they deserve. After all, if a visitor to your site takes the time to read a product description, she’s clearly interested. It’s your time to shine. A compelling product description can build engagement, differentiate your offering, and build trust. Easier said than done, but the effort is worthwhile. Well-crafted product descriptions represent a real point of leverage.
Elements of a StoryMy business partner, Laura Black, started her career as a writer and editor for an award-winning travel magazine. Later, as a consultant and college professor, much of her work involved telling complex stories in engaging ways. After all, if people aren’t engaged, they won’t pay attention to what you have to say. I spoke with Laura recently about the elements of authentic storytelling.
Laura explains that stories contain these elements:
Authentic Storytelling Means Revealing ValuesIdentifying a customer challenge and describing your product as a solution seems like basic marketing. It is. That said, the marketing challenge for makers of unique consumer products sold online requires us to demonstrate our real, valid, and true empathy with our would-be customers. To do so, we must share evidence of the values that drive our decisions about design, materials, and sourcing. Laura presents the case of Penzeys, which sells spices: Consider the way Penzeys describes bay leaves:
Turkish bay leaves are the best in the world. Though not as strong as the California variety, they have a natural depth of flavor that the California bay leaves can’t hope to match. Bay leaves grow wild on the hilly mountains of western Turkey in the area around Izmir (Smyrna).In a very concise way, Penzeys communicates the care they take in selecting spices. That’s a value a potential buyer can share and can be the basis for a meaningful connection with the product.
The Customer Need Not Be the Only Character in Your StoryAlthough your customer is always a character in your product’s story, he need not be the only character – or even the main character. Consider the case of Montana Planks, a maker of wood cutting boards constructed from the upcycled wood scrap: I love this description of the materials used in this product:
Materials: repurposed hardwoods, blood, sweat, tears, laughter, family time, Montana Planks Finishing Oil, coconut oil, beeswax, maple, walnutThe owner of Montana Planks, Heather Kearney, expresses her values regarding the environment, the creative struggle of creating products made from an unpredictable stream of raw materials, and family and place. She’s an important character in the story. By purchasing Heather’s product, a customer participates in and supports Heather’s personal transformation as well as solving his own need for a decorative, functional cutting board. Characters in product stories can also include third parties not related to the production or consumption of the product. After being exposed to the plights of widows and orphans in Ethiopia, Josh Allen launched WO Design, which makes pet products: The values of pet care, safety, and environmental responsibility are expressed along with a desire to help orphans in a very tangible way by underwriting the cost of two meals from the proceeds of the sale of a single product. WO Design’s customers can satisfy their desire to be caring pet owners and participate in the transformation of children such as Abdurahman.