A little empathy goes a long way. Whether you’re writing about insurance policies or online dating sites, the best way to nail your content is to imagine yourself as the user.
Who is the infamous “user?”
In the plainest terms, users are people. Your user is someone, anyone, who uses your products. Your target audience may already use your product—or not. Maybe they’ve been using your product for years—or maybe they just signed up.
And what about you? You’re a user too, you know. You’re a user when you plan a vacation and browse Airbnb or Booking.com to find the right rental. You’re a user when you shop Amazon for a new dog collar or when you use the Starbucks app to order your drink before arriving at the store.
Just like real people—because they are actually people—users have feelings. Maybe you get frustrated when you’ve ordered your Starbucks coffee through the app and it’s not ready on time. Perhaps you feel overwhelmed by all of the different dog collars and can’t quite find the right one. And maybe you’re feeling a mix of excitement and a bit of anxiety as you begin booking your upcoming vacation.
As content creators, it’s our job to recognize these feelings and harness them in our writing. When we successfully recognize our users’ emotions and speak to them in our copy, that’s when we’ll see a boost in performance.
Getting to know the user
In my work at Natural Intelligence in Tel Aviv, I create content for our meal delivery kit comparison site, targeted at readers based in the US. What the heck is a meal delivery kit? Yeah, I find that’s the first question I get when I talk about work with family and friends. Most people don’t know much about the product.
I’ll keep it short. A meal delivery kit is a service that’s pretty popular right now in the US. You go online and select a few meals that look yum. You’ll get all of the ingredients you need to make the meal, in exactly the right portions, delivered to your door. Follow a simple recipe and voila, you’re cooking up crazy delicious meals in no-time.
I flew to the US for a short vacation around 6 months ago, and talked about my work and these meal kits with family and friends. I probably talked about it more than I’d be willing to admit. After the first question, “what’s a meal kit?” people always wanted to know how much it cost. Sounds kind of like a luxury product, right?
Well, when I told people the price of a meal kit, around $10 a serving on average, they always seemed pleasantly surprised. So I formed a theory, a simple one—the price of this product matters to users, and is quite a persuasive selling point.
Being the user
All that talk about food had me hungry to try the product myself, so I ordered 2 meal kits. I tried them out and wrote about my experience.
Now, an important disclaimer about myself—I hate cooking. Like, really really hate cooking. So the boxes arrived at my parents’ house and I procrastinated. It became clear that I needed to know how long the ingredients would stay fresh so I wouldn’t have to throw any of the meals away.
And when I chose my recipes, I knew I’d be cooking for my parents and my mom is a vegetarian. So it mattered how many veggie options each brand offered per week.
Now for me it was about vegetarian options and how long the ingredients would last but it became clear that these issues would appear in one capacity or another for other users. Maybe it would be about the number of diabetic meal options, nut-free ingredients or anything else that matters to us when it comes to our food.
In the case of digital products, we always try them out. If we’re writing about Wix’s ADI, we’ll build a site using ADI. Comparing VPN services? Our writer will try the various VPNs and test for speed and other features that matter to the user.
Of course in the case of physical products, we can’t always try the product, especially not when we live an ocean away. What can we do? We can talk to users, use surveys or polls, crowd source, head to forums—it doesn’t have to be scientific.
What do we do with all the info on our users?
We gather a ton of info on our users and form assumptions about what does and doesn’t matter to them. We turn these assumptions into theories. And we test our theories. Yes, we’re talking A/B testing.
Remember my theory about the prices of meal kits being a top selling point? We formed a hypothesis based on that theory.
“Based on our belief that users are attracted to the relatively low prices of meal kits, we believe that displaying the lowest price per kit on our comparison chart will increase site revenues.”
The lowest price per meal kit (the highlighted text) was added to our meal delivery comparison chart as the first bullet for each brand.
We sent half of our traffic to the new version of the comparison chart with the prices included, while the other half of our users saw the original version without prices. Guess what? Our theory was right. By simply adding pricing to the page, we increased revenue by 4.7%.
This is what we do at NI on a daily basis. We pull out the emotional and cognitive barriers that we believe our users experience before making a purchase on our sites. We create a theory. We test our theory. And we do it all again and again.
This process for optimizing our sites requires us to walk a mile in our users’ shoes. We’ll walk that mile in any way we can—be it trying the product ourselves, running user research, getting in touch with users—the list goes on.
Leverage what you know on your users
Skepticism, fear, excitement, security—these are just a few of the emotional and cognitive triggers that we’ve associated with our users’ journey.
How many of the A/B tests that we run are in direct response to one or more of those barriers? Every single one. Every user comes with their own baggage. It’s how you respond to that baggage that will set your business apart.