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Override all the safeties (SIGAVDI #28)

Hello friends,

It’s been a warm week here the foothills of the Smokies. The snow is gone as quickly as it came. There are those who call Tennessee weather “unpredictable”. I like to think of it as “agile weather”.

It’s warm enough that the salamanders have come out, to the great delight of the chickens. This one was preserved from a fowl fate by a concerned child.

I’m noticing that the topic of empathy is starting to be discussed more and more and developer circles. In retrospect, it’s strange that it has taken so long to come to the fore. After all, in a way it’s the core skill determining our success or failure on a project. Our job is to teach an inanimate object to behave as if it cares about a user’s desires, and can anticipate their needs. How can we do that without empathy?

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Advice to myself 8 years ago

A SIGAVDI correspondent asked:

If you don’t mind me asking, what advice would you give to a 28 year-old Avdi?

My response, for what it’s worth:

I think about this kind of question a lot. I think that at 28, which is only 8 years ago, my rough trajectory had already been set. I’m happy with that trajectory so far, so it’s hard to think of any major adjustments that I would suggest to the 28-year-old me.

I think I would confirm to my younger self that the most important investment that I can make is to earn the gratefulness, trust, goodwill, and love of a broad community of people. And to earn it honestly, by making myself available, valuable, and open.

Landing pages are written, not designed

As I’ve been reading up on marketing and copywriting, I realized something: as a programmer, ignorant of marketing and surrounded by countless slick pitches for programmer-oriented products, I had come to think of sales/landing pages as something you create, or design. (Or, more likely, hire someone else to design.)

Whereas the people I’m reading now talk about writing a landing page.

Sure, that might just be because they are professional copywriters.

But they are also professional marketers. And they lead with the assumption that a landing page is something you write.

Yeah, they usually have a few things to say about making it look nice. But looking nice is pretty far down their list of priorities. Let alone having something custom-designed and bespoke for your brand.

This makes the whole concept feel a lot more approachable for me.

Notes on Writing a Landing Page

I can consume gobs of material on marketing and copywriting, but when it comes time to actually write a landing page my mind suddenly goes blank. I had this happened yesterday, so I went back and reread parts of Joanna Wiebe’s little e-book The Conversion Marketer’s Guide to Landing Page Copywriting. This time around, I thought I’d take some notes, and hopes the knowledge will stick a little better.

Here are my biggest takeaways:

  • A landing page should have one, and only one, call to action. Everything on the page should support the call to action.
  • That means that if the call to action is “sign up for my newsletter”, then there shouldn’t also be social media sharing buttons on the same page.
  • Instead of starting with the headline, start with the call to action. Work backwards from there: what do readers need to know before they will take that action?
  • Specifically: what are the implicit anxieties and objections that need to overcome before they will take the action?
  • Even getting someone to opt-in to a mailing list is “sale”. It’s an exchange of permission for content. That means there needs to be a unique value proposition for the content, even when there is no money changing hands.
  • “Learn about this thing” is not a unique value proposition.
  • The length of the copy should be a function of the expected reader’s awareness level. Are they already familiar with your product? Brief landing page. Do they just know that they have a pain point, and nothing else? Long landing page.
  • Start with the long version, then cut sections out to make landing pages that target more where audiences.
  • Landing page should be an unbroken chain, with each element playing exactly one role. The headline leads to the subhead, the subhead leads to the hero copy, and so on down to the call to action.
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