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The Website Secret You Should Steal From Amazon

The Website Secret You Should Steal From AmazonSo. Like any photographer, you probably have your eye on a piece of gear, right?

Even if it’s just niggling in the back of your mind.

(If you’re not a photographer, insert something else you have your eye on for this example.)

Now, tell me – why do you want that piece of gear?  How will it make your life easier or better – what can you do with it that you can’t do now?

And what concerns might you have that you’d want to check out before buying?  Go ahead and make a mental list of reasons:







Okay –

Let’s say for a moment that you chose to describe the Canon 50mm 1.2 lens.

(Don’t get too hung up on the specific piece of gear.)

Let’s go take a look at the actual product description from the Canon website:

“The EF 50mm f/1.2L USM is a peerless new standard lens featuring an ultra-large aperture for a narrow depth of field and soft background blur so loved by photographers everywhere. The EF 50mm f/1.2L USM is suitable for any shooting situation; its lens coating and construction are optimized to minimize the ghosting and flare that frequently occurs when lenses are used with digital cameras. This high-performance, weather-resistant lens delivers all the superb image resolution and contrast you expect in a Canon L Series Lens.”

I’m guessing that whatever piece of gear you picked, the official product description will probably be pretty similar to this style of language.

Now, let me ask you:

Does that description cover the top 3 reasons you want that lens?

Does it nail your top reasons and questions about buying?

OK, maybe you mentioned the “soft background blur” – that’s a good reason to want a narrow depth of field.  But – did you mention “lens coating” in your daydreaming?  Did you use the words “minimize ghosting and flare” at all?  I’m guessing not.  Not that these things aren’t important, but when you sit down and list the reasons you want this thing, the Canon description probably doesn’t do much to stir up your “I HAVE to have it” enthusiasm.

So if Canon were using that description as sales copy (and it might not be, but if it were) – it would not be particularly successful.

Now, let’s try something new.  Let’s go to Amazon, look up the Canon 50mm 1.2, and scroll down to the reviews.

The first review that came up for me (the one that 786 people found helpful), says the following near the top:

“If you ever want to shoot snapshots of downtown without a flash at midnight WHILE walking, this is the lens to have. I’m so in love with this lens.”

How does it feel to read that versus what you saw from the manufacturer?

The writer goes on to bullet point specific pros and cons – quietness when focusing, sharpness, subjective feeling when you hold it, etc.  Other reviews go into depth about possible backfocusing issues, comparisons of the 1.2 to the 1.4 version of this lens, and so on.

In other words:  The reviews cover the stuff that you probably REALLY CARE ABOUT.  In the language you’re actually using in your head and searching for.

Now, let’s not get caught up in gear talk, ok?  This isn’t about the 50mm lens at all.

This is about the way things are described.

Can you see a big difference between the way the company describes its product, and the way that users actually talk about it?

amazon-secret-to-sales-2397For a company, it’s easy to want to speak broadly.  (Anyone will love it!)  To boast about specific technical achievements.  (LOOK, WE COATED THE LENS AND MINIMIZED GHOSTING.)

But what occupies the minds of most users is simpler, more concrete, and more specific to their situation:  Can I take good pictures at night?  Is this going to take forever to hunt for focus and waste my time while I miss the shot?  How does it compare to the other models?

As sales copy goes – Amazon reviews are actually pretty great.

In fact, in a class I taught once, one person said “I never spend more than a few seconds on the Amazon product description – I just scroll straight down to the reviews and decide there.”  I’d be willing to bet that you’ve done the same thing while shopping on Amazon at least a few times.

Yes, there is a ‘testimonial’ factor here – there is something inherently trustworthy about what other people say versus the description a company gives.  (That’s one reason I have encouraged testimonial use extensively.)

But the “review” factor is not the only facet of Amazon reviews that makes them so helpful and persuasive.

Amazon basically got consumers to write sales copy for all its products by having them identify and address real concerns, instead of relying solely on product descriptions.

So how can we steal this concept for ourselves?

When we talk about our services, we want to describe them in terms of things we are proud of.  Things we care about.

But sometimes, that means we inadvertently write a “Canon” description – it might be out of touch with what the client is really looking for.  You can brag all you want about X, but if clients are searching for info on Y, then your description is not as helpful to them.

A great marketing practice is to step outside of yourself for a moment and ask:  What would a five-star Amazon review say about my work?  What would it focus on?  What kind of language would it use?

“Takes pictures of you that you actually like without making you feel frumpy or stressed out – five stars!”?

Not that you have to use the exact same language, but this will help you focus in on what clients are actually searching for.

Not sure what they’re searching for?  Well, doing market research and interviewing past clients is a good idea, but here’s an incredibly simple way to start:

Hire someone to do whatever you do professionally.

If you’re a photographer, hire a photographer.  (If you’re a graphic designer, hire a graphic designer.  Etc.)

Even if it’s only a simulated hiring (you just do the research and pick someone who you would hire), DO IT.

WATCH how your perspective changes.

From the minute you begin a Google search, things start running through your mind.  If you’re hiring a photographer, you might find the following thoughts:

I hate how I look right now.

I have never had anyone take a good photo.

When am I going to even schedule this?

Does this person seem trustworthy?

Why can’t I find a phone number?

This gallery is annoying.

Do other people like them?  What are they saying?

It becomes clear:  Suddenly you’re looking at things QUITE differently.  Write all these thoughts down as you have them, because they’re absolute gold.

Now go to your own site and ask – what am I doing for the person who has all these thoughts as they look at my site?

They don’t have any Amazon reviews to go on here.  So what can I do to address their actual main concerns?  Especially the ones that come to mind first?  Am I answering their questions?  Am I reassuring them that X and Y things that they’re suddenly obsessing over are totally okay and I can handle them?  How can I make that prominent?

If you don’t consider this perspective while designing your website, it’s likely that you’re missing out on bookings.

Clients can only act on available information, and the more that information is in tune with their real-time concerns, the more likely they are to choose you over someone else.

It’s not that you need to ONLY talk about these concerns.

You do have to show your portfolio, introduce your personality, and to some extent – teach them what they should be thinking about.

But if that’s all you do, and you expect them to trust that all their “Amazon review” type concerns will be resolved on their own, you are probably wasting a lot of traffic.

Nail both their excitement and their concerns.

It isn’t “selling out” to do this, by the way.

You’ve probably heard the phrase before “sell them what they want, give them what they need.”  (If you’re feeding a toddler, and they refuse to eat “broccoli” but love “tiny trees,” well shoot – tiny trees it is.  Either way they’re getting their vitamins.)

You might know that someone needs captured moments.  But what they WANT is “a living room that makes me feel peaceful, like I live in a catalogue.”

Fortunately, you can achieve both of those things at the same time.  You can sell them what you want – show the living room galleries and talk about how you deliver them – but you are simultaneously giving them what they need (heirloom images).

Isn’t it great when everyone gets what they want?  Try it out!

Want more help?


Specifically – a satisfying website + blog that doesn’t exhaust you and pulls in more clients?

I wrote Irresistible Words because so many people have beautiful websites that aren’t converting as many clients as they’d like.

And because writing drains your time if you’re not sure what you’re supposed to say – it never feels “good enough” or “done.”

But that’s totally unnecessary.  This course covers how to write what clients actually want to hear, how to get people to keep reading even while you’re selling, how to speed up the whole process on your end, and more.  (There’s an entire section on how to write a blog post in 20 minutes or less.)


Why not at least head over and read the free sample chapter?  You’ll learn my favorite trick (that I can’t believe I’m giving away for free) to get people to keep reading.

See you there.


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  1. Paul Parkinson on May 30, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    It’s all about the distinctions between “features” and “benefits”. Features are about what you are buying/selling and benefits are about why…

    Feature – bridge – benefit.

    Our fire extinguisher is red (feature) which means that (bridge) you can see it more easily in an emergency (benefit)

    If you sell features you sell less than if you sell benefits.

    • Jenika on June 4, 2016 at 11:32 pm

      Agreed – and thanks for pointing out this additional framing and labeling of this concept. Part of the reason I phrased it this way is that creative business owners often have a terrible time seeing the benefits *clients* are most concerned with and motivated by. A photographer might think that the best benefit is having your memories 50 years from now; even though that’s true, clients aren’t often motivated by what’s best for them 50 years from now (See: retirement savings industry), they care a lot about today though. Just one example of many. I see features/benefits framings used often in business books, but something gets lost in translation when some business owners try to do that – hopefully thinking of Amazon reviews will help them figure out what clients care about and have more success as they apply this idea. Thanks for your thoughts Paul!

  2. Kenneth Wesley McNay on May 31, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    I kinda noticed a point about the sales copy with the technical details: I found myself wanting those technical specifications and comparing whether my current lens stacked up well against it. The lens coating, the ghosting, the flare, the weather-resistance, and the increased aperture are all technical specifications that my current lens stacks up against, but not as well. If I really felt those were detrimental, I’d know immediately that I’ve got to consider the upgrade.

    In contrast to that, I totally agree that Amazon reviews are frequently great. In fact, one of my first behaviors in reviews is to look at the lowest ratings to see what the frustrations and painful failures have been for other customers. Even a few of those will give a better impression of whether I’ll really appreciate the purchase or find myself also unhappy and ready to rate low.

    I think my insight is that having aspiration and inspiration in the content is probably needed. I want to educate my clients that buying prints through me means they get protective coating, choice of paper finish, paper backing on canvas wraps, shipped directly to the home, ready to hang/already framed, and other features that are benefits–if they haven’t been thinking of those, I hope seeing those listed creates some aspiration for a client to have those features. Likewise, I want the testimonials to provide inspiration, such as, great choice of location for staging, advice for styling and clothing, friendly demeanor and trustworthy conduct, customer service and attention to detail, superb images, etc.

    With the technical details, I might seem boring, but hopefully clients feel informed and sense aspiration to have the highest quality–or at least know what to compare to recognize quality. With reviews and testimonials, I hopefully seem human and realistic, yet hopefully clients are also getting the inspiration for their own experience.

    • Jenika on June 4, 2016 at 11:41 pm

      Thanks for your detailed thoughts Kenneth! I enjoyed reading them.

      Part of this post that I wrote, then edited out just for length and not introducing too many ideas at once, was writing more about placement. If Canon’s description were sales copy, I wouldn’t suggest deleting the information about lens coating and glare. Just moving it further down, since it’s less likely to be the primary concern or the emotional motivator (focusing issues are probably the primary concern, and bokeh/portrait/low light performance are probably bigger motivators). The bigger point is this: When someone is searching for a photographer they aren’t typically comparing technical specifications upon first pass, so I recommend moving that information further down and drawing people in with what’s top on their mind, and once they feel understood and thoroughly amazed that someone is “reading their mind,” THEN moving on to that kind of education. (There are some people who would be impressed by comments on technicality and delivery, and if that person is your target client then run with it up front. Most people aren’t though.) I simply see too many people whose websites look like they’re written for fellow photographers rather than clients, and that’s the sort of thing I’m taking aim at with this post. Anyway thanks for chatting!

  3. Daisy on May 31, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    I’ve actually done this with an email course I was offering my readers and it definitely helped me get them more excited about it. Thanks for talking about it in more detail.

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