If you focus your copy on your business’ status as a market leader, it’s important to consider a simple truth. What you do and what you have done will always be more significant than what you say.
If you don’t back up what you say, most visitors will see your words as nothing but waffle. Fortunately, assuming that you are what you say you are, proving your claims and values are genuine is easy to do. It comes down to showing who you are through your actions and clear evidence, rather than expecting what you tell people to do all the work.
In keeping with the theme of this post, I hope to show you why this is important rather than just tell you. To do this, I’ve turned to good storytelling and relationships as examples that demonstrate the importance of actions and how this applies to businesses.
What storytelling shows us about branding
Think back to the last great novel, film, radio play, game or stage production you enjoyed. Whatever your preferred form of storytelling, chances are it played on your emotions, had a central theme and several hooks that kept you interested. To do this, it will have told a story through actions and feelings rather than exposition and flowery description.
Showing is crucial to telling a good story. Don’t believe me? Here’s a paragraph that only worries about telling:
Steve was upset. He was going to his front door to collect the takeaway that he ordered earlier and stubbed his toe on the carpet divider. It hurt a lot. In fact, he did not answer the door in time because of all the pain and the driver left.
Tedious, isn’t it? I’m glad Steve stubbed his toe. Compare this with a paragraph that focuses on showing:
As the man turned back to his car, Steve wasn’t sure what hurt more. Sure, he had the newly severed tip of his big toe clenched in his hand, but his stomach had been rumbling for hours. As the engine kicked to life outside, Steve started to crawl back to his kitchen. It was for the best, really. He couldn’t have stomached pepperoni now anyway.
This is by no means a contender for the Man Booker Prize, but it does much more than the previous example because it focuses on actions rather than just disclosing information. I’m not suggesting novelists should be employed to write dramatic website copy, but this lesson is relevant for businesses.
Compare a company that only talks about itself and tells you about its work to one that shows its contribution through its brand, marketing and case studies. They’re essentially telling the same story, but only one of them is telling it in a way that people can believe.
Just as a red-eyed, snotty close-up conveys sadness more poignantly than an actor saying ‘I’m sad’ does, an example of your work or commitment will tell people ‘this lot are good’ in a way your copy can’t.
What relationships show us about trust
We all have a friend who tells wild tales. They have other friends who know people and uncles who’re involved in all sorts of scandal. They have run ins that nobody witnesses, mysterious illnesses that leave them bedridden for weeks and make claims that can't be verified. They swear they got a round in that time, but nobody else remembers.
It’s easy to talk, but it’s much harder to do. We realise this, it’s why we put more weight on actions than on words. It’s a cliché, but the truth often is. If you want to convince somebody who you really are, you have to show it. Of course, actions can still be used to deceive, but the responsibility that comes with actually doing something tends to act as effective reassurance.
Think about it. If somebody stole something from you but apologised when you caught them, would you remember the ten times they talked about their charity work or the one time they took your stuff? If your partner declared their love for you at every given opportunity, would you forgive them for having a secret second family in another town?
These examples are extreme, but the core message is clear: words will fall flat if they aren’t supported by actions. It’s why we sneer at politicians, bankers and other public figures, because we believe they say one thing but do another. Claiming you care for somebody means little if your actions don't show it.
To bring this back to websites, if you want your visitors to believe you, you’re going to have to give them proof. This could be an award, a testimonial, a client list, a clear walkthrough of your process or anything you have done that give your message substance. Trust elements like these are the website equivalent of looking into a salesperson’s eyes and they are crucial to ensuring your words hit their mark.
There are inherent differences between business-to-consumer and personal relationships, but the long-term importance of being honest and transparent applies to both. Whether you’re looking to convert somebody or befriend them, you can say whatever you want, just don’t be surprised when you’re asked to prove it.
There will be occasions when you just need to tell people what you can do. Sometimes they will want or even expect it, but don’t be mistaken. If you let your actions tell your story and create engaging experiences for your visitors to latch onto, you’re much more likely to be seen as a brand worth buying into and not just another business.