How customer-focused is your language?

laptop on desk showing back end of website with pen and notepad and cup of coffee on desk, clean slate copywriting

I’m constantly surprised how little businesses think about language from the perspective of the customer. Most seem to use language that reflects how they want to be seen, rather than considering the needs of potential clients.

Don’t focus on yourself

I was working with a startup client recently, who had developed an idea for a new service-based business and wanted a website. He had put a great deal of thought into how he wanted to come across, what services he wanted to offer and his image. What he hadn’t considered was who his client base would actually be, and what their needs were. The notes he had written all began with “I”. The language was complex and sophisticated because he wanted to come across as an expert.

Focus on your client’s needs

This type of writing appears frequently on business websites. All the copy begins “We” or “I” and lists the things a business can do and why they’re so great. They waffle on, and use bigger words than necessary. But the copy won’t engage prospects unless it speaks to them about their needs, in terms they can understand. Simplification makes a huge difference. And, by considering customer problems from their point of view and addressing them in the simplest possible language, engagement can dramatically increase.

So how did I help my startup client? Well, together we turned his business idea on its head and thought about it in reverse. Who was having which problems and needed help? What would they be searching for? How could we address this in the simplest possible language and hook them from the off?

These were the actions that worked

  • We created a home page that addressed customer pain points and offered help.
  • We condensed long sentences into short.
  • We used an online thesaurus to find simpler terms and a readability checker to keep our score above 60 (as a rule of thumb, business writing should be 60-70).
  • We read the text aloud to ensure it could be understood aurally as well as visually.

These are all techniques that can be easily applied. By creating client-focused, simple language you can reach a far wider audience and significantly improve the effectiveness of your copy. But if you’re still attached to business-speak I’ve outlined a few more reasons to simplify:

Improve your bounce rate

Language choices have a huge impact on bounce rate. Google focuses on finding the results that are clearest and most helpful to users. What this means in copy terms, is that if you don’t engage site visitors on your landing page with simple, clear language they easily understand, they will leave and go straight back to the results page. By checking readability, cutting out waffle and writing from the perspective of the customer, you can have a huge impact on your bounce rate.

The rising importance of voice searches

As voice searches become the norm for many smart phone users, copy not only has to work on the page, but also when listened to. Sentence construction and vocabulary choices are increasingly important factors. Complicated, over-long sentences are very confusing when heard aloud, so these are good reasons to aim for simplicity. It’s time to think much less about language that reflects the image you want to portray and much more about being a source of accessible knowledge.

Why readability is important

A low readability score means that the language is very difficult to understand and therefore narrows the number of people you can reach. You may think that graduate-level language matches your brand, but internet users prefer quick and easy to understand. Whatever their level of education, overly complex language is off-putting. So when you next write a blog or website content, cut and paste it into a readability checker, or use the readability tool on MS Word. The higher your score, the more people can access it. For B2B, 60-70 is about right. For B2C, aim for even higher. Removing words of more than 3 syllables and condensing long, complex sentences into shorter, simpler ones can also make a big difference.

When did you last check the readability of your website? The Fleisch Kincaid score reflects the readability of a text. Check your pages here

If you need help finding the best language for your customers please do get in touch.

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