Can we take a moment to reflect on the fact that The Matrix happened NINETEEN years ago?!
It's officially old enough to buy liquor here in Australia, and drive irresponsibly with a provisional licence. Gosh. They grow up so fast.
Nineteen years on and I'm pretty sure Keanu hasn't aged a single day.
There's a lot we can learn from the Matrix. Like...
→ Why it's probably a bad idea to take pills from strangers.
→ How to bend the physical laws of a simulated reality so you can do cool stuff like this:
→ And uh... how to write really good website copy.
(What? Don't tell me you missed that sub-plot?!)
Let me break it down for you.
As I was thinking about how to kick-off this series on website copywriting, I knew that I HAD to begin by talking about how to prepare to write.
Stay with me here, because I know prepping isn't exactly a sexy topic. But it's also really important.
I mean - you probably came here to learn about what it takes to write copy that converts and here I am talking about being "sensible" and doing your homework...
... which sounds like the opposite of the really cool stuff that Neo gets to do in the Matrix.
But here's the thing....
We spend the ENTIRE FIRST HALF of the movie following Neo on his journey to *becoming* a kick-ass warrior so he can rage against the machine and save all of humanity from it's bleak future.
- He spends time learning about his enemies and his allies...
- He trains relentlessly...
- And also learns kung-fu, which is very important.
We know, Keanu.
Then, and only then, does he begin to fight.
And it makes me wish that more people were like Neo when it came to writing their website copy. Because most entrepreneurs do the EXACT OPPOSITE thing...
→ They decide it's time to update or re-write their website...
→ Open up a new document and start typing...
→ Only to realize that writing without a plan is really, really hard...
→ And it tends to result in garbage copy that doesn't hit the mark.
Imagine if Neo took the red pill from Morpheus and immediately went to battle. Hugo Weaving would have handed his butt to him on a computer-generated platter in 5 minutes flat.
Writing copy is like preparing for a battle.
And if you want to win, you better show up ready.
So if you're fighting against the blinking cursor right now, feeling under-prepared and a little bit clueless...
I've got some advice for you:
1. Don't panic.
2. DON'T START WRITING YET.
Yep - I want you to step away from the blinking cursor.
(Slowly. And keep your hands where I can see 'em.)
Because I'm about to give you a backstage pass to how I prepare to write copy for my clients to make sure that their message hits the mark like Neo...
Let's do this.
MY 3-STEP COPY PLANNING PROCESS
1. CLARIFY YOUR GOALS
Neo didn't enter the matrix to take a nice holiday. He had a purpose. He had a goal. And everything he did was in pursuit of his goal.
Worst. Holiday. Ever.
So whenever I see someone asking a question about what to say on their website, or which theme to use, or how to write their about page, my response is ALWAYS this:
What's the goal of your website?
I ask this question because if you don't know WHAT your website needs to do for you, and HOW it functions as a piece of your business, then it's impossible to determine what content your site needs and how to structure it.
I know that this sounds really bloody obvious, but I'm saying it because I continue to be surprised by how many people skip over this part.
So I'll ask it again... what is the #1 goal of your website?
What is the main call to action on your website?
What is the single, most important action you want people to take?
If you could only choose one, would you want your visitors to...
- Join your email list?
- Book in for a free consultation with you?
- Contact you?
- Buy something from you on the spot?
If, like most of my clients, you're a service-based business owner, it's usually a good bet to focus on getting clients to contact you or book in for a free consultation, with list-building as a secondary goal.
(PS - we'll be talking about what to send your email list later in this series, so sit tight.)
2. FIGURE OUT WHICH PAGES YOU NEED
With his goal in mind, Neo set out to learn all the skills he was going to need for his epic battle. Again - imagine if he hadn't begun his training knowing which skills he was going to need.
If he hadn't, Neo might have sunk all of his training into becoming an interpretative dancer. Fabulous, but not quite right for the task at hand, so...
Now that you know what your site needs to do for you, its time to work backwards and assess: what content and pages do I need in order to make this happen?
There are a million different ways you can structure your website.
→ There are people who just have single page sites with a strong call to action at the end, like Julie Elster.
→ Some people have an "upside down" website with a strong focus on list-building, like Philip Morgan.
→ Others don't even have a website, per se, except a landing page that they run traffic to in order to gather subscribers.
Your options are endless, but if you're really stuck, here's a safe bet:
The "brochure" website. It's got 5 key pages:
- A homepage
- An about page
- A "work with me" page
- A contact page
- And a blog.
And it's the perfect place to start for service providers who want to give their visitors a snap shot of who they are and what they do.
(Again, I know this might sound obvious, but I want to remind you that you don't HAVE to structure your site in a certain way. You can choose your own adventure and mix-and-match your content so that it leads people towards the action that's most important to you. Maybe that means you need a brochure-style site, and maybe it doesn't.)
Either way, once you've got a clear idea of which pages your site NEEDS, its time to figure out how people should flow through your site. Which leads us to...
2A: remember to MAP YO' FLOW
NOT doing this is one of the biggest mistakes I see people making with their site.
They throw together all of the standard pages on their site, add more to it over time, and then before they know it, they have a franken-website that leads people down loads of confusing rabbit holes and vortexes don't go anywhere.
Result? People get confused. So they leave.
Avoid that problem by asking yourself this question:
"What's the ideal pathway for people to move through my site?"
And, for every single page on your site, you need to ask:
"Where do I want this person to go next?"
Again, back to our brochure-style site for service-based businesses, an ideal user-flow might look like this:
Home → About → Work With Me → Contact/Buy
In which case, you want to make sure that you're including a strong call to action on each page to keep people moving through your site in a way that makes sense. Keeping this in mind will help you as you bring your copy and content together. It means you get to throw away any words that don't help nudge your readers towards the next step.
I also think it helps take away the pressure of writing, because instead of asking, "What do I say to make someone think I'm awesome, fall in love with me and want to work with me?", you get to reframe it and ask, "What content do I need to include on this page in order to get them to move to the next one?"
See. Baby steps. They're totally back in fashion. (And it's also the reason why Neo doesn't face his boss battle until the end of the movie.)
By the way - If you’re not sure WHAT to write on each page of your site, sit tight. We’ll be going through each one individually in the weeks to come. I'll update this article with links as I publish each blog.
3. CHECK YOUR EGO
Remember how Neo spends almost HALF his time learning about his target before going into battle? This is really important.
And I'm bringing it home today with a resource to help you plan out how to speak to your ideal clients through your website copy.
I call it the killer copy matrix.
Because you need to master the matrix before you can save the world.
(Am I stretching the Matrix references too far yet? Maybe. But you've gotta respect my commitment to the theme, right?)
Anyway, here's the crux: your copy is about you... but also, it isn't.
Yes, I am a world of contradictions. Here's what I mean:
Most people approach the process of marketing (including writing copy) by putting their EGO first:
- How can I make myself look good?
- How can I seem credible?
- How do I make people like me and want to work with me?
- How do I do that without feeling like a giant douche-hat?
This is ego-driven marketing at its finest. And it achieves two things:
1. It makes the process of writing copy feel VERY intimidating and scary.
2. It takes the focus OFF the reader...
That is, it lacks EMPATHY - which is the key to effective copy, and effective marketing in general.
Notice how Neo got whooped by Morpheus when he was too cocky in his training? Yep. Ego.
Good copy makes people feel heard and seen. Great copy puts your clients and their needs on the pedestal, above everything else.
And your ego is getting in the way of that.
Which is why if you want to write good copy, you need to review the killer copy matrix...
Check your ego at the door...
And create a plan for how you'll connect with your readers through your copy BEFORE you try to write anything.
Here are the 9 questions inside the killer copy matrix:
Who am I writing for?
What are they struggling with right now?
What are some specific examples of their pain/problem?
What do they really want?
What’s the solution to their problems?
What’s MY solution, and how is it different?
Where do they normally get stuck along the way?
Why might they hesistate/object to taking action?
How *aware* are they when they land on my website?
I'm serious when I say that I work through these questions on every single project... before I write a single word.
The result of this approach is that everything I write is with a purpose, a strategy, and it's written to connect with the right people.
It also means that if I have to go toe-to-toe with Agent Smith one day... I might be able to do Neo proud.
(Not gonna lie though - I'd probably still take the blue pill. 'Cuz I don't wanna live in a world without Netflix.)
Here's to planning your way to world domination (with some killer copy along the way),
Want to keep this for later + get access to a bonus 10th question? Click below to download the killer copy matrix, plus my best resources for honing your message and researching your audience, in one delightfully convenient bundle: