Maslen on Marketing, Web copywriting

Online copy that grows your business

Ah, Spring. And a young man’s thoughts turn to … his garden. Yes, once again I find myself shopping around on the Internet for garden stuff.

And because it looks like we’ll be facing a hosepipe ban this summer, I was after irrigation and water retention solutions. Oops – did I say that? I mean water butts.

I ended up on the Crocus website and boy, do these guys know how to write well for the web. So well in fact, that I want to devote this issue to a mini-case study of their copy.

I’ve talked in previous issues about the need to reassure your online customers. Crocus obviously take this seriously, since the site is peppered with reassurances. From the five logos for prizes they’ve won on the homepage to the 33-screen page of customer testimonials (complete with authentic spelling mistakes).

But it’s more than just the safety factor that makes this site so compelling.

They have nailed the tone of voice and style that I imagine their customers respond to. (Know they will, in fact, since I am one of them.) There’s a great conclusion to this story too, right at the end of this article.

Example #1 – Our Passion Statement

Plants are our passion and we want to share everything we know about them whenever you like. So, if you need information before buying a plant, hand tool or piece of garden equipment we’re here to help. If you need a hand choosing the right plants for your garden, you’ll find useful plant guides throughout the site – including which plants to buy for different types of soil, as well as the best plants to buy for difficult conditions. If you need advice after buying a plant (pruning, fertilising that sort of thing) we’ll send you info by email. Gardening and plants are what we live for. We’d love to help you grow better plants and become a better gardener.

Lots of ‘you’s there to make the reader feel engaged. And look at those natural, conversational phrases: ‘whenever you like’, ‘we’re here to help’, ‘…that sort of thing…’, ‘We’d love to help you’.

Example #2 – Processing your order

To give you an idea of what it might be like to buy a plant from us, here’s our step-by-step guide to the Crocus buying process:

Again, they let you find out about the buying process at your own pace, rather than trying to hustle you into buying before you feel comfortable.

Example #3 – Pleased to meet you

But it’s what our customers think that we care about most. If we can make your experience at Crocus an enjoyable and productive one, then we’ve cracked it.

This passage finishes a section focusing on awards the company has won. It throws the emphasis back onto the reader. I like the sentence beginning with ‘But’ of course, and also that folksy phrase, ‘…then we’ve cracked it.’

Example #4 – Security and privacy

The Government backed organization IMRG have certified us as being ‘safe to shop at’ and given us this nice blue and gold logo to display on the site.

Nice bit of gentle humour but still a rock-solid reason to shop with Crocus.

Because it can be a bit nerve-wracking buying stuff with credit and debit cards over the internet, we’ve developed what we call the crocus.co.uk security commitment. That means that whenever you buy anything from us using your card, you don’t have to worry about anyone getting their sticky hands on your details.

More good customer–friendly tone of voice. Somebody knows about using plain but memorable words like ‘nerve-wracking’ and ‘sticky’.

Example #5 – Order confirmation email

Hello,

Many thanks for your order, we’re on the case.

[order details here but I didn’t think you’d be interested in what I was buying]

If it’s OK with you, we’ll send you the odd e-mail telling you how to look after plants you buy from us. We can also tell you about any new services we have in the pipeline, special offers, that kind of thing. If you don’t want to hear from us, we’ll try not to take it personally. Just send a blank e-mail to unsubscribe@crocus.co.uk from the email address we sent this message to and we’ll take you off our list.

What a great way to flag up the fact that they’ll be sending the reader promotional emails. But who cares – I WANT to receive them.

And I’m telling you this because?

Many websites are badly written and stuffed full of copy that means nothing to the reader, but everything to the writer.

Here’s one that’s different. A relentless focus on the reader’s interests but written in an effortlessly engaging style and tone that seems genuine because it IS genuine.

Our takeaway message this month: sincerity sells.

PS I rang Helen, Crocus’s Press Officer to ask her who wrote the copy. And guess what? A highly paid freelance? No. A big web agency? Nope.

It’s written in-house by their editor – Jonathan Edwards. Not a professional copywriter? Maybe. But someone who knows his customers and connects with them through the written word. Top marks.

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