Last month I talked about how to develop your storytelling skills (because everyone has a story worth telling), and this month I’m going to teach you how to apply them to your product descriptions.
Product descriptions are generally less intimidating because you’re telling the story of whatever you’re selling rather than your personal odyssey.
But first, we’re going to start with the magic of invocation.
Long ago in college, I was an ancient Greek mythology major (When people ask me how you become a copywriter, I tell them you start by majoring in the thing that is least likely to get you a job). We read a lot of plays, and they all started with an invocation: a “command or conjuration”. In the beginning of any Greek play, the chorus gets together to set the tone of the play. Since the ancient Greeks had no conception of spoilers, this can be a giveaway if you want to be surprised, but it’s a quick and easy way to get your audience in the same mental space as the characters.
For me, writing product descriptions has always felt a lot like writing an invocation. After all, product descriptions have the same purpose. You want your audience to feel a certain emotion as they’re introduced to the pictures of your product. If you’ve done your research right, this emotion will help convince them to click the button and buy your product.
Lessons in Practical Invocation.
First, we’re going to start out with some technical discussion. Two weeks ago, I would have told all Etsy sellers to start with a romantic and mysterious product title that tells a story. Now, I’m not. This is because Etsy has changed the default search to one that favors relevancy over how recently the product was listed. Etsy has some great tips for how to deal with this listed here, but in practical terms this means that you want your titles to be as boring and specific as you can possibly make them. If you are affected by this change, it means that the actual product description will have to do much more of the heavy lifting when it comes to converting browsers into buyers.
Etsy seller or not, the rules of writing great product descriptions are really the same across the board.
The biggest challenge of writing product descriptions is invoking the right mood while providing specifics to the customer.
1. Set the scene.
Like the Greeks, you want to let people know what they should expect. The scene can be outdoorsy and natural, or mysterious and fantastical. The sky is the limit. This doesn’t have to be like writing a novel. It can be as simple as “Imagine yourself __________.” If you’ve shot really interesting or stylized pictures of your work, it’s great to take your scene from those. Let the customer know where they should be as they start reading your description, and you’ve already got them on your side.
If you sell something with a very small market (and I’ve worked with tons of fabulous artists where this was the case), take the scene setting to the extreme. If you sell products based on a certain work of literature or sub-culture, write your description so anyone unfamiliar with the source wouldn’t understand the product. Yes, you’re turning random people off your product. However, when you’ve got a tiny market, it’s more important to have everyone in that market buys something than build a bigger market out of nothing. In this case, alienation sells.
2. Suggest uses for your product.
If you make handmade yarn, tell people what kind of garments they could make with it. If you sell vintage dresses, describe the different sorts of occasions the dress could be worn on. If you sell jewelry, what sorts of occasions would it make a good gift for? Now that you’ve set the scene, give people a way to imagine themselves interacting with your product. Let them picture your new handcrafted wineglasses on a tray at their next party, or how it would feel to wake up in that silk nightgown you could make for them. Help them conjure up their own images and uses for your product.
3. Solidify the sale with details.
Always put the details of the product last in your description. If this doesn’t make sense, think of it this way. You’re not going to measure your living room to see if a sofa you don’t want will fit, right?
Your customers won’t care about the details until they actually want to buy the product.
When you do give details, make sure they’re complete. Talk about coloration if it varies from your photos, along with technical specs and measurements. If there are any flaws in the product (this is especially important for vintage sellers), let customers know that as well. The details are just so the customer can confirm if this purchase is technically feasible. If you’ve got an incredibly strong product description, the sale should have already happened in their head.
Holly Jackson is the owner of Cottage Copy, a copywriting boutique. She lives in Mississippi with an artist, two dogs, and a whole bunch of mystery novels.
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