This week, David Pogue wrote an article in the New York Times about OpenDNS.com, a company I had never heard of before.
He began, "I’m about to make your life better. No need to thank me."
Then, following a brief description of the DNS system (the one that turns numerical IP addresses like 188.8.131.52 into www.google.com so you and I can easily navigate to websites), Pogue explained the key benefits of OpenDNS:
- Surf the web faster
- Get to websites that are unavailable to everyone else due to crashes of the DNS system
- Correct typos (like askhowie.cmo) automatically
- Protection against phishing sites that try to steal your sensitive data by spoofing real sites like PayPal and eBay
- Shortcuts, so you can just type ahblog in your browser's address bar instead of askhowie.com/blog
- Parental controls such as site blocking
- Totally free for individual users
Sounds great, huh? So I surfed over to OpenDNS to download or setup whatever it is and give it a try (I trust Pogue).
Here's what I found:
What on earth are they talking about?
What does that mean, who is it for, and why should I care?
The Curse of Knowledge
According to Pogue, OpenDNS is perfect for me, and you. Yet the folks at OpenDNS either strongly disagree, or else think that you and I already know enough to see the obvious sense in a bunch of complicated and intimidating router reconfigurations.
If we asked OpenDNS to think about it, of course they would realize that their home page is perfectly inscrutable to their ideal consumer end-user. But nobody has asked them to think about it.
They suffer from the Curse of Knowledge – the inability to recall what it was like NOT to know what you know.
Pogue, on the other hand, writes to his readers. He knows who they are. He knows what they care about. And he knows how to explain complicated topics in accessible ways.
So the best OpenDNS can do is put a link to Pogue's article on their home page. "We can't explain what we do, but here's a guy who can."
Get Your Pogue On
For kicks, send a few ideal customers to your home page, or your landing page, or whatever page is most important to you. Then ask them three questions:
- What's the big benefit of doing business with me?
- How am I different from everyone else offering the same or similar benefit?
- What makes you believe the claims I make?
If they get all tongue-tied and vague, you need to channel the Pogue. Or hire someone who can. (I'm available, for a price ;)
Start with Your Customer
The way to Pogue-ify your writing is to start with your ideal customer, not your product or service or delivery method.
The most effective way I know to do this is the Checkmate Method, which you can experience for free here (email required).
However you do, though, remember that you know too much about the features, and not enough about how your customers experience the benefits. Writing effective copy is an exercise in recapturing innocence.
So your homework is to imagine Pogue were going to write about your business, regardless of your industry. You could be a travel agent, an author, a broker, an office supply dealer; doesn't matter. You provide something that makes someone's life better, and you have a competitive advantage. (If not, stop reading and get yourself a competitive advantage.)
How would Pogue simplify and highlight the benefits of what you do so someone would have to be a fool not to give you a try?
Need guidance on writing clear and powerful benefit-laden copy? Check out the 3-part Landing Page Clinic. 10 more days at the crazy-low price of $115.87.