Copy, Conversion, and Your Customer’s Comfort Zone

Adil Mahmood
October 21, 2015 ·
Copy, Conversion, and Your Customer’s Comfort Zone

Barry Feldman, the founder of Feldman Creative, is a legend in the digital marketing arena. With more than 25 years experience in online press, Feldman has a lot to say about how companies can improve their sites and drive better conversion rates–exactly why Convert invited him for a webinar in his area of expertise, copy.

If you want to know more about the webinar, you can watch it here, or you can continue reading.

For Barry Feldman, your site’s copy has a seemingly easy job that leads to better conversion: make the customer feel comfortable. As he says:

It’s simple. In my mind, the biggest conversion killer is the feeling of discomfort.

Barry Feldman emphasizes that every time we find ourselves in a new place, whether online or in person, there are a lot of reasons we won’t feel comfortable. It’s new, It’s foreign or It might not be trustworthy. For many websites, you can assume that the customer has come to your page already looking for one of your product or a part of your services, but that doesn’t mean they will feel comfortable to fork over money or information.

The job of the copywriting on a landing page where action is required, is to get your customer to agree this is the time and place to take action,


And he has a whole list of reasons that make people uncomfortable, getting in the way of that job. Here are Feldman’s seven primary sources of discomfort for web users and how your customers can put them at ease;

  1. Confusion
  2. Distractions
  3. Apathy
  4. Boredom
  5. Friction
  6. Lack of Trust
  7. Mystery
Reasons to make your customer uncomfortable

1. Confusion

There are a lot of strategies for getting visitors to your landing pages, from email marketing to paid advertisements, but as the manager of the site, it can be hard to know what it looks like for someone seeing it the first time. If a brand new user arrives at your site and suddenly feels confused, you have little chance of getting them through to your conversion process.

Barry Feldman points to a few things that can eliminate an off-putting landing page:

  • Avoid ambiguity
  • Have a clear headline
  • Make sure copy connects with ads, emails, etc.
  • Avoid jargon and “marketing bull”

Clarity, above all else, will help to keep your customer engaged, no matter where they have come from. So, make sure that your headline follows along with those breadcrumbs you’ve thrown out across the internet so they know they’re in the right place. He also points out with what he calls “marketing bull”, it’s important that the language of the site addresses and convinces the user, not other marketing experts or the internal teams.

2. Distractions

Part of getting at that clarity will be eliminating superfluous information that can distract a user’s eyes. This is the age of loss of attention. The pull of millions of web pages, incoming tweets, social media updates, and videos are all working against your site. How is it going to keep your potential customer’s attention?

Of course, a lot  comes with the design, but the copywriter also has to be mindful that each web page has a goal, whether it’s a signup sheet or a checkout. How can the copy be simplified and focused on that one goal? For Feldman, this has more to do with sticking to themes and, “building a case” than minimalism. The trick isn’t to put as few words on the page as possible but instead make sure they are all in service of the page’s goals. As he puts it: “Don’t count characters, make every character count!”

3. Apathy

Cutting down on fluff in your copy is one thing, but how do you make the customer see that you really care? Does your copy impart a sense of urgency, necessity, and relevance that shows both your passion and why they should be passionate too? The best way to make sure that you engage visitors is by figuring out who you are trying to reach–your target customers–and then explaining why the should listen to you. Feldman gives up this checklist to fight apathy on both sides:

  • Apply it to the reader’s life: how does your site address their needs?
  • Show them the benefit:  you clearly want something, but what do they get?
  • Put it in context: What is your customer already thinking about?
  • Show the difference: How is your product the best available?
  • Be Emotional: What really moves your primary customer?

Emotional writing can be one of the most difficult, but also one of the most important. Today’s web user has had a lot of experience with the copy–but not a lot of it uses powerful, emotional language. By injecting your copy with intensity, you can fight both apathy and Feldman’s next comfort killer.

4. Boredom

One important question to ask yourself, especially if your copy is filled with marketing buzzwords and industry jargon, is why can’t my copy be fun? Feldman says that “If attention is the web’s Golden Goose, boredom is its rotten egg.” Just like with distractions, there are a lot of attention grabbers out there on the web, your writing needs to compete.

According to a study done for Time Magazine, the average user only gives each page 15 seconds to grab their attention. That’s not long at all to keep someone from getting bored. Make sure that your copy follows the basic rules of good writing in general: vary your sentences, be concise (breaking up any large paragraphs), give it a good rhythm. Beyond that, it’s also important that you, once again, use emotions. Grab them in the first paragraph with the beginning of a narrative. Tell them a funny story about your product that will appeal to their memories or daily life. You don’t have long to get their attention, so you might as well be bold.

5. Friction

Readers of Convert and those who have listened to our previous webinars will recognize the common theme at the heart of this area of discomfort: ease of use. Nothing is more counterproductive for increasing your conversion rates than a clunky site that throws unnecessary obstacles at your visitors. As he puts it,

Desire minus friction equals conversion rate…give your readers what they are looking for!

Feldman also points out that another part of friction is potential objections. Your users have come to your site looking for something, but their mind is clouded with what ifs. What if this isn’t a legitimate company? What if the product doesn’t work? What if other people regret buying it? Make copy that clearly guides them to your end goal while also helping them to imagine a positive outcome, giving them no reason to click away at the last minute.

6. Lack of Trust

You might be asking yourself, but how can copy help users to imagine a positive outcome? The answer lies with the next area of discomfort: lack of trust. It’s best to assume that your visitors are suspicious of your site, so it’s up to you to give them a reason to trust you. Feldman’s checklist for building trust consists of five simple tactics:

  • Write conversationally
  • Express that you care
  • Be direct
  • Be simple
  • Break rules

A big part of the problem with a lot of copies according to Barry Feldman is, “We talk too much like marketers because we’re not listening to our customers.” Web copy that utilizes the first person (I or We) and addressed the customer directly (you) instead of using the company’s name and referring to visitors as “customers” will go a long way in creating a conversational tone and making it feel like you empathize with them. It’s also a first step in writing like human sounds when they talk instead of a robot promoting a website.

Feldman’s best example of how he achieved this in the past was with the marketing company Autopilots. Their original headline read, “Create remarkable journeys”, but this didn’t sound natural, caring, direct, or simple. Instead he looked to a funny direct quotes from the CEO, and created a new headline that broke the rules but made a vast improvement on all fronts: “Finally, marketing software that isn’t a pain in the butt!”

7. Mystery

Barry Feldman’s final area of discomfort to consider really synthesizes all the others. When you leave no room for mystery in your copy–meaning that you address all potential issues and give a clear path forward for your user–you’re going to make them feel more comfortable and also increase your conversion. This can be as broad as eliminating doubt about your competency to specifically getting rid of anything that takes away from your main call to action. For Feldman, one choice is always the best choice on your landing page.

If you’re not creating a landing page, you’re creating a leading page

Another important aspect about mystery applies more globally to your entire site. As Feldman says, “If you’re not creating a landing page, you’re creating a leading page.” Blogs, product descriptions, and about us pages shouldn’t create mystery either! The landing page presumably follows a specific ad or campaign and is directly tied to your call to action, but that doesn’t mean that your whole site shouldn’t be pushing the user forward while avoiding these points of discomfort.

For more great insight from industry experts, keep checking Convert’s blog and webinar academy to get even more comfortable with maximizing your conversion rates. If you want to know more about the webinar, you can watch it here.

Or you can also watch and download Barry Feldman’s presentation.

Originally published October 21, 2015 - Updated December 10, 2021
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Adil Mahmood
Adil Mahmood Online marketing strategist with over 4 years of solid experience in content marketing, SEO, social media and website optimization strategies.

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