Content is often treated like an afterthought in the world of web design, but even the best-designed experience can be seriously hindered by mediocre or misaligned copy. We’re always trying to help the design of the web live up to its full potential, so in this special series, we’re going to teach you three tried & true copywriting techniques that we use to create compelling, persuasive user experiences: Storytelling, The Persuasive Triangle and What’s In It For Me (that’s this post).

People often act with their own interests in mind–an innate, but powerful behavioral drive that you can harness to convince them of the value your product or service offers. By using the following techniques to clearly answer the question “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM), you can craft compelling calls to action that yield significant results. 

 


I see it all the time: “We drive the competition crazy!” or “The best thing about shopping here is having us by your side.” And so on and so forth. These are the types of phrases that make the companies who express them feel pretty darn good about… themselves. But what about their customers? How does driving the competition crazy keep them engaged? And what is it exactly that makes their site so much better for shopping than the rest? What’s in it for those users? Ask yourself honestly: Are you speaking to your customers or talking at them?

Making every message you send to your users answer the question—What’s In It For Me? (WIIFM)—will not only clarify your strengths and value proposition, but it’ll position your strengths and values to your users so they can feel as though, well, you get them and their needs. Because let’s face it: it’s the core question your customers are asking your brand, so don’t forget it. Throughout this piece, you’ll learn three different ways you can apply WIIFM to your product, marketing site or your brand’s overall value proposition, and see the difference. But first things first: let’s dive into the brass tacks of WIIFM by creating a value proposition.

Article Highlights:

The WIIFM Basics: Defining Your Value Proposition

At the end of the day, your brand’s value proposition is the single most important facet to define and gain alignment on before you tackle your homepage messaging, email messaging or any other messaging and content your users are experiencing. Even if you’ve made the error of doing all that branding and messaging work without really knowing if your value prop answers the What’s In It For Me question—it’s totally fixable. But where to begin?

Daniel Decker, a strategic marketer, writes on the topic and what he says really drives it home: “WIIFM is the stuff that shows how or why what you have to sell or say matters to those who you are trying to sell or say it too. It’s […] the thing that makes them realize that what you’re offering is worth their money or their time.” So, alas, step one: How does your messaging express what you’re offering is worth your users time and/or money? Let’s try to repair some messaging and reverse engineer new WIIFM-inspired copy.

To tackle this objective, I mixed business with pleasure—or pain, in my case. My feet have been really aching in my new Vans I just bought, so I Googled “The Best Insoles,” and Google provided me with one particular insole site as the best solution to my foot woes. I’ve changed the company’s name to XYZ Insoles, for posterity. Because, well, sometimes the way to explain a Content Framework is to walk a mile in a brand’s shoes. <wink>

Here’s the site’s two main messages or value props:

Interesting choices. I still don’t know quite yet what their value prop is. Their first one actually provides no value to the user. “Ordinary” is a subjective term, and doesn’t really describe what will happen if the user chooses this company’s insoles. The second one focuses on how women’s shoes are uncomfortable and that women can finally wear the shoes you love without pain. That’s WIIFM! But is that the core audience they want to find value in their product offering? Only women who wear uncomfortable shoes? I think not.

How could we improve this messaging?

  1. Connect your users with a survey or pull together a focus group of your top ten users.
  2. Find out what they love and adore about your product, service or offering.
  3. After you discover your brand’s biggest value—from your users’ perspective—now you can begin to craft a value prop.

Let’s assume that most this site’s insole users responded and said they value pain-free comfort and injury support. Using this insight as fodder, we can then rewrite their value prop to support this:

No. 1: Step into out-of-this-world comfort and pain-free support with SuperFeet.

No. 2: Make every journey feel fantastic from start-to-finish with XYZ Insoles.

No. 3: XYZ Insoles provide the comfort and support your feet deserve.

No. 4: Just slip XYZ Insoles into any shoe, and feel the difference. Your feet just might thank you.

Each example I provided above answers the question What’s In It For Me? like so:

For No. 1) pain-free comfort and support

For No. 2) every walking journey will feel more comfortable

For No. 3) my feet deserve to feel good

For No. 4) easy-to-use and makes feet happy

In this way, we broadened the message from their original one to encompass all gender and users, and we also made it specific to the benefits and features of XYZ Insoles, which is imperative to making your customers connect your product to the marketing of it.

The WIIFM Basics: Marketing Your Product

It might be fitting at this juncture to tackle a product, and by fitting, let’s make the product we reverse engineer have something to do with content. I’ve been noticing this thing called Ceros floating around my social streams. I assume it’s due to targeted marketing, but alas, it’s a cool product that apparently helps you create infographics, e-books, banners and the like without the help of a code-blasting developer. Pretty cool. But let’s see, what’s their homepage messaging like? What’s in it for me?

Nicely done. As a potential user, I know that with Ceros, I can “create engaging interactive content” by using “the most powerful interactive content creation software for marketers and designers.” Ceros clearly knows its value prop. Its biggest benefit is that its software affords non-developers the ability to craft beautiful interactions for branded content. I like to call this approach the KISS—Keep It Simple, Stupid. It’s not my favorite initialism, but it gets the point across. Capturing the ethos of your product’s value proposition shouldn’t be overly complicated. It should do one, just one, major thing that your chosen segment of the world really freakin’ needs. Ceros is a good example of how this looks when executed properly.

Capturing the ethos of your product’s value proposition shouldn’t be overly complicated. It should express one—just one—major thing that your chosen segment of the world really freakin’ needs.

We actually employed the “KISS” technique during a recent engagement with one of our clients, Unoceros. Their value proposition is really difficult to understand because their service is ultra high-tech. So what is it that they do? Well, to put it (non) simply: Unoceros is the world’s first distributed, high-performance computing network hosted entirely on mobile technology. The Unoceros platform makes the unused power of mobile phones all over the world accessible to data scientists, coders, engineers and researchers. Their service dramatically decreases the cost of computing with traditional data centers, and affords users the opportunity to “try anything” without worrying about budget. Well then, how in the world do you succinctly explain that? Let’s take a look at what our copywriter provided Unoceros with here and here and to the right.

Shown here is the feature-benefit redux for Unoceros' below-the-fold messaging alongside custom illustrations we crafted in-house.

Above the fold, our copywriter created a powerful WIIFM-inspired message to draw the user in: “All the computing power you need, and more.” But it’s still hard to understand, even with the help of their sub-messaging, so we added a below the fold bucketing of the “and more” aspect to show the features and benefits of using Unoceros. Still currently in its beta/early access stage of growth, Unoceros is poised to make computing a lot less pricey. And now their value proposition is positioned to afford their savvy Marketing Team to do the rest of the legwork that their site has kicked off for them.

We even added a section at the very bottom area of the homepage that explains how the company harnesses power with simplified step-by-step directions, so users can understand a little more just how easy it is to compute with Unoceros. The focus is on the users, with a lot of strong user-focused language included, and the WIIFM is clear, too.

WIIFM BASICS: Marketing Messaging & Copy

One of the fastest ways to make your copy shine with WIIFM is to employ the second-person in your content, which can be achieved by using the pronouns: You, Yours and Your. Starting any of your messaging with these pronouns can really drive home the WIIFM. Me? You’re talking to me? Yep. When you use “your” or “you” to start a message, the receiver immediately feels as though it’s directed at them, personally.

Oftentimes though, it can start to sound pretty crazy if you start every message you compose with a second-person pronoun. That’s where a second-person verb comes in handy. For instance, Ceros’ homepage (in the prior section above) starts with “Create,” which is a less wordy way to say, “You Can Create,” yada yada, right?

When crafting your marketing messaging, using WIIFM is a great way to build a value prop that leads to features and benefits of your product, service or offering. Using this approach as a framework can make it simple for even the most novice of marketers to distill information and create a brand story that encompasses its value proposition(s) that seamlessly leads and support the features and benefits.

Let’s take a peek at one brand doing it right and one doing it wrong, and see if we can reverse engineer their technique and repair the content…

SALESFORCE: Thumbs Up!

Salesforce has become a driving force for many businesses that require heavy sales support. A game-changer in their own right, Salesforce’s messaging is all WIIFM-ized and it’s winning. Take a look at their homepage messaging below: “Sell smarter with the world’s #1 CRM solution. More leads. Less work.” Begins with the second-person—check. Drives home a value proposition that users are seeking: check. Friction-free messaging at its finest.

In addition, Salesforce’s homepage drives those visiting towards funnels of intent. Are you mildly interested: Watch a demo. More interested than that: “Try it for Free.” Due to the nature of their business, using these CTAs, in conjunction with their value proposition, helps them eliminate the users that are just there for who-knows-what.

BETTERMENT: Needs Work…

Betterment caught my eye when Inc. magazine did a roundup of brands to watch in 2016 and there was Betterment, a brand that helps Millennials manage their finances. They’ve landed a ton of funding, as indicated here, and now they have a website that offers their value proposition front-and-center to their new audience. But unfortunately, there’s a real lot, of “We do this” and “We do that” floating around—but where’s the WIIFM? What’s in it for those users? This main message actually can be fixed quite simply with the power of WIIFM…

Before:
We are the largest automated investing service, empowering you to achieve your goals.”

After:
“Achieve your goals with the largest automated investing service—empowering you every step of the way.”

FINAL WORDS…

WIIFM is an effective approach to guide you towards massaging your existing copy, or to even a better way to begin crafting new branding messages or to help you build a brand from the ground up. Wayne English, president of Web Content Rx, supports this reasoning by noting,

“One thing is for sure, when your web site does not tell people what you can do for them, and the competition does, you are at a competitive disadvantage. Never require the reader to figure out your message.”

And this is the core of why using WIIFM is so important. If you’re we-we-we-ing all over the place, how do your users uncover what’s in it for them?

If you can’t succinctly wrap-up your value proposition into a strong, WIIFM statement, it’s time to head back to the drawing board—it’s a common issue we tackle here at DT for many of the brands we support. And this all begs the ultimate issue that many brands lose sight of: You must inform your users as to “what you can do for them, not what you do. Telling people we do this and we do that is not the same as telling them what you can do for them. Not the same thing at all,” Wayne reiterates. If you can consistently remember this when you’re crafting anything from your Careers Page to your Homepage, you’ll soon find how much simpler it makes writing. Just ask yourself: What’s in it for them? And you’ll win every time.

Comments
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  • Lauren Ventura

    Thank you so much for the insights! Glad you were happy with the Ceros shout-out. We’re impressed:)

  • Thanks for the article Raaf! Great tips. Thanks for sharing Ceros too.. I loved exploring their website (felt like I was on an epic journey to solve my content needs).

    At my day job I market software so I was checking boxes and writing ideas down while reading through this. In my spare time, however, I’m a novelist. Non-fiction is easy to apply these points to, but fiction is another story. I still haven’t figured out how to hit the “what’s in it for them” on the head. Any suggestions?

    • Meg Cannistra

      Hey, Michael!

      Thanks for checking out Ceros (I work there on the content marketing side). We love when people enjoy exploring our site! 🙂

      As a marketer by day and fiction writer by night, I struggle with this too. Some of the best advice I’ve heard on this topic is to write your first draft for yourself. I know this sounds opposing to the “what’s in it for them” idea, but readers can tell when a story lacks that passion and soul that comes from writing for oneself. To many, that’s a major turn off (you see this a lot in cookie-cutter books ghost written for celebrities–they may sell fast the first month or so, but inevitably they don’t have staying power).

      For me, the audience comes into play during the editing process–when I’m honing in on my theme. When editing, I tend to ask myself a few questions like:
      1. What genre am I working in? Where would this book sit in a bookstore?
      2. Who would this appeal to?
      3. Am I telling someone else’s story (as in: do I have the right to tell this story)?
      4. How would a publisher market this book?

      This is when you can apply that “what’s in it for them” concept. By taking into account how your story will impact your audience, how it’ll make them feel, and the type of person who would pick up your book. That’s when you can start editing your work more to them. Also, it never hurts to have someone read your writing (like a beta reader) to give you some feedback on what spoke to them and what didn’t.

      Hope this helps a bit!