Our website is a foundational component of our digital communications strategy. This is your virtual office – quite literally – where you invite prospects and audiences in, to get a sense of who you are and what you can do for them. A lot of businesses struggle with empathy in their virtual offices; with making their websites about the potential customers and their needs. As we all know, though, prospects are looking for solutions and desired future states where their problems are solved. They buy what you can do for them and where your business will place them in the future.

It’s not me, it’s you

The vast majority of businesses use their websites to talk about themselves. They talk about their accolades and their achievements. They talk about every in and out of every single service. It’s natural and it happens all the time. Still, by the time a visitor is done reading through one of these websites, it’s likely they feel very little in the way of empathy and understanding for them and their needs. Instead of addressing the reader and prospect directly, we go on and on about ourselves.

It’s isn’t strange that this happens, though. It’s easy to talk about yourself. You know the ins and outs of your business incredibly well and (hopefully!) you believe in what your business is doing and trying to achieve. It’s natural to try convincing your visitor of your passion, rather than tapping into them and their situation. However, talking too much about ourselves and focusing too little on our visitors in our writing is one of the biggest mistakes we can make on our websites. Think about it like this: If you’re at a party, Would you rather talk to the person who goes on and on about themselves, or would you rather talk to the one who listens to you and asks curious and empathetic questions?   

If you want to connect with ideal clients who come to your website, it’s absolutely essential that you focus on them and their needs.

Your business and your offerings need to be put into the context of which solutions your visitors are looking for. (Which, by the way, goes far beyond just talking about the features of your services.) People who buy a service are looking for a transformation, and your website writing needs to convince them that you’re the best person to make that transformation happen.

How to structure a website around empathy  

In order to shift your website to focus it on your potential clients and visitors you need to start by figuring out who it is you’re talking to. Which people do you want to connect with? Which people do you want to impress? Which people do you want to make feel like they should work with you? In business comms and marketing, it’s essential to know who your audience is – specifically. Far too many businesses try appealing to everyone, and by default end up appealing to no one. Tone of voice, word choice, structure, and narrative should all be tailored specifically to the individuals you’re looking to build a relationship with.

For website writing purposes this understanding of your audience needs to go far beyond classic ideal client persona work.  We want to be tapping into the humanity and emotions of your perfect customers.

You should sit down and examine things like what their dreams are, what they’re afraid of, what problems they’re currently facing. 

What they’re interested in, what their values are, and who they are as people. After all, it is humans you’re trying to connect with and that means your website writing should appeal in a human way.

A final important question to ask yourself in order to build a website based around empathy is how you can actually help the people you want to help. By narrowing down who your ideal client is and honing in on their emotional needs, it becomes a lot easier to write for them with more precision and purpose.  

The FAB formula: Writing that sells 

Let’s face it. The main purpose of your website is to promote and sell your offerings. You’re ultimately trying to sell – but you’re trying to sell through connection and communication that resonates with the people you want to work with. In sales, the FAB formula is often used to understand how to highlight your services in a way that becomes relevant to the transformation your prospects are looking for. The acronym is short for feature, advantage, and benefit, and in comms, it’s a three-step ladder that you can go through every time you want to make a point of how you’ll help your dream customers on their journey.

The feature component includes the basic facts about whatever it is you’re offering. It can be how many calls you’ll do as part of a coaching package, or how many articles you’ll write as part of a content writing service. It lays out the basics of tangible things your client will receive if they choose to work with you. A lot of businesses rely far too heavily on the feature component in their website writing. They go through every detail of their offering and completely forget to tap into how those features will help the client solve their problems.

The advantage component is a slightly more emotive piece of the puzzle that will talk about the pros of each service. If you’re offering a content writing package, the advantage might be that your client receives well written and relevant articles, and that they don’t have to worry about producing this content themselves. 

The benefit, however, is where we really have a chance to connect through our website writing. 

This is where we talk about the consequences for our client – and even for their clients – of choosing to work with us. So in the content writing package example, the benefit would be that our client is able to generate more awareness and increase brand authority, because they’ll have articles their audience can’t wait to read. Apple’s advertisement for their iPod is a great example of feature versus advantage and benefit. Their ad didn’t say how many megabytes the iPod could hold, or how much it weighed. The ad said: “1000 songs in your pocket”.

In your website writing, it’s absolutely essential that everything you say is linked to what the benefit will be for your ideal client.

What does your experience mean for them and their clients? What will your service do for them and their clients? How is it going to solve something real for them? Paint that picture, and you’ll be much closer to a website that is centred around them, their needs, and their desired future states.

The Hero’s Journey, and other website stories

There are plenty of narrative structures and tools you can use in order to create a more empathetic and audience-centred website. The Hero’s Journey (made popular by Donald Miller and his Storybrand and first mapped out by Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with A Thousand Faces) is particularly well-suited for landing and sales pages. It positions the reader or ideal client as the hero, and your business as the guide. Then it takes the reader through the adventure – through the hero’s journey. It ultimately arrives at the desired future state, which can only happen by means of what the business is offering.

You don’t have to use the hero’s journey to speak to your prospects on your website, though. Any story you tell that includes them, and is centred around them and their needs and their transformation, is going to do the job just fine. As long as you’re basing your website writing on an in-depth, empathetic and human understanding of your audience and ideal clients, your website will stand out.

You’ll be able to connect with the people you dream of connecting with, simply because your communications are coming from a place of curiosity – and understanding for the people you want to help.