Updated: Dec 15, 2021
You don't have to be a good writer to craft persuasive conversion copy.
In fact, copywriting might have more in common with sales than the experience of writing a blog or college essay.
In this article, I'll cover the methods and structures we use to optimize SaaS website copy for conversions.
By the end, you'll see copywriting has more to do with research, structure, and psychology than simply throwing pretty words on a blank page.
Let's get typin’.
#1. Let customers write and structure your copy
The foundation of conversion-optimized SaaS copy is research.
And the primary focus of your research should be customers.
When a company writes about themselves without customer research, they tend to use internal business jargon that only makes sense to their team. To outsiders (like your customers), this internal language is unclear at best, and downright confusing at its worst.
The point of customer research is to uncover what customers care about and how they talk about your products, services, and brand. It’s to not only figure out what language they use, but to understand their underlying feelings, behaviors, and pain points.
Structure your website through customer research
What do your customers complain about? What do they love? Which features do they pay attention to? Which ones do they ignore?
Answering these questions through customer research gives you an idea of how to structure the features on your website.
For example, if all your customers get excited about the same two or three features, you should make sure those features are prioritized early on your website. It may seem obvious, but make sure you give them prime real estate on your home page, features page, or product-specific landing page.
Customer research helps you identify the elements of your product that matter most to your best customers. With that information, you can double down to improve and market those features.
Use real customer language across your website
As you interview customers, read online reviews about your products, and conduct UX research to see how customers navigate your product and website, you’ll begin to uncover new ways to talk about your product.
Customers want to see themselves on your page. The more your copy aligns with how your customers actually talk, the more they will feel like you understand their pain points, challenges, and desired outcome.
You find that language alignment by literally using customer language across your website.
How do you capture the voice of your ideal customer?
Start with online reviews.
You can find SaaS customer reviews on sites like G2, Product Hunt, Capterra, TrustRadius, Trustpilot, and other technology review sites. Joana Wiebe, famous conversion copywriter and founder of Copyhackers, calls this “review mining.”
But the very best way to perform customer research is to speak directly with your customers. There are two primary methods to do this: Run surveys or reach out to schedule interviews with your customers.
Both sound scary, but keep in mind: Many of your users might actually love the opportunity to speak with you about their experience with your product—and the chance to influence where your product goes next.
Preferably, you start with surveys and then move on to have real conversations with your customers. The more, the merrier.
SaaS copywriting example: Customer language in copywriting
We recently worked with Kofi Group on the relaunch of their website. Before writing a single line of copy, we read reviews, talked with the Kofi Group team, and pored over case studies.
One line from a case study grabbed my attention.
This pain point jumped off the page. We decided to use that language in the above the fold on the new website.
A few tweaks later, we drummed up this line: "Stop missing out on top candidates."
Source: Kofi Group
This headline is meant to grab visitor’s attention by hitting on their biggest pain point as startups seeking talent: Top candidates often go to the Big Five (Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc.) instead of choosing the volatility of working in the startup world.
This specialized recruitment service helps align candidates with startups so everyone’s on the same page—a huge benefit for startups needing to scale fast.
#2. Use customer-first language
The Kofi Group headline showcases another SaaS copywriting best practice: make your customer the focus of your copy.
Many companies talk about their offerings using “we-language.”
We-language looks a lot like: “We’re the best team to do X.”
This type of copy is everywhere.
The big problem is, customers don't care about your company. At least, they don't care about your company until you show that you care about them first.
The difference between customer-centric language and we-language can be very subtle. Often, it’s as simple as using verb-first sentences to make sure the reader is the center of the action.
Gill Andrews, a conversion copywriter and web consultant, recently posted a great example of customer-centric copy on LinkedIn:
“In case you ever doubted the power of the customer-focused copy:
“I A/B tested the subject of my last email newsletter. I knew you care less about me than about yourself. But that it's SO MUCH less? 😄.”
Source: Gill Andrews
Simple tweak. Big results.
But if you just have to name your business in your copy, there are ways to still be customer-centric. Consider the new copy Ahrefs added above the fold:
They don't use the verb-first approach, but Ahrefs still puts the customer at the center of the action and names a core customer pain point: getting a higher rank and more traffic.
The best business websites, in my opinion, exist to serve the site visitor. Not the other way around. Make it clear to customers that you serve them by putting them at the center of your messaging.
Quick aside: If you want to learn more about Ahrefs’ new homepage, they published a great video about why they spent $30,000+ on copywriting for their homepage. If you geek out about SaaS copywriting like me, it might be a fun video for you.
#3. Make your copy memorable by avoiding jargon
How do you make something stick in the mind of your reader? You use words that connect: tell stories, use analogies, paint a picture, and replace jargon with simple language.
The big problem with business jargon is that you can read an entire paragraph and not learn anything new about the company. It’s vague. It’s complex. It doesn't teach the reader anything new.
Consider how ClickUp uses a blend of simplicity and imagery to make a memorable statement as soon as you arrive on their website.
“One app to replace them all.”
Why is this so catchy? Because most of us have heard this line before in another context: “One ring to rule them all.”
For anyone who grew up reading or watching Lord of the Rings, this copy subtly recalls that famous line.
Okay, okay, but how do you write clever lines like that one?
Start complex, then simplify
A lot of SaaS copywriting is pretty technical. It's hard not to use jargon when discussing technical tools. But there are tricks to simplify your writing.
Here's one I use:
When facing the challenge of writing about a technical product, I usually start by just writing whatever I can about the product, no matter how sloppy or complex it comes across.
Once I have something on the page, I say out loud, “What I’m trying to say is….” and often the line that follows is much simpler than what I just wrote.
Getting to simplicity is an iterative process. I have to start complex before I can say something simply.
Be memorable and clear
You have to earn a reader's attention.
That happens through clarity, emotion, and painting a vivid picture that sticks with the customer after they leave your website. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by leaving a positive image in the customer’s mind.
Teachers call this “positive framing.” Try to stay away from using words in your headlines that you actually want to help your users avoid. For example, "Get non-spammy emails," probably won't work as well for you as conveying what type of emails you do send.
Choose to frame in a positive light, not in negative terms.
You should also try to write simply.
The characteristics of simple writing include: short words and sentences, stories, analogies, and ample white space to make sure you don't overwhelm the reader.
Nothing is worse for readers on a website than staring down a massive wall of text that they think they have to read to understand what you offer.
Spoiler alert: No one reads those large walls of text. Ever.
#4. What will the reader miss out on if they don't choose you?
Readers need to know the risk of not choosing you as their software of choice.
What do you offer that no one else does? Don't assume the reader will know what they're missing out on just because they see what you offer. You need to spell it out for them in the copy on your website.
SaaS copywriters will often use comparison copy to inspire a sense of FOMO. A simple comparison table can work wonder: On the left hand side you might brag about what you do better than anyone else. On the right side you might paint industry standards for similar products and solutions.
We even use this concept on our own homepage to describe why SaaS companies might choose us over other copywriters.
Source: Lewis Commercial Writing
You can use the same idea of comparison without building a comparison table. Sarabeth recently helped AppSumo relaunch their partner page. She used a great example of FOMO copy just above the first call to action:
It’s subtle. But the ideal reader will see the comparison loud and clear: Either spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in ads or get paid for promoting your product.
Pretty compelling if you ask me.
#5. Write to your customer's stage of awareness
The more you know your customer and their stage of awareness, the easier it will be for you to frame your SaaS in a way that sets it apart from your competitors.
If you have created a new, ground-breaking product that no one understands or knows about, you’re working on the first stage of awareness: Unaware. This requires a lot of education and trust-building.
But for many products today, there’s a whole cottage industry solving the exact same problems you do (Example: social media scheduling tools or project management tools).
If you’re in a crowded space, chances are your visitors are solution- or even product-aware, which means you need to do the work to differentiate your product from your competitors in your website copy.
Source: Nerd Fitness
Maybe no one does this better than Nerd Fitness. This company took a hard look at the fitness industry and saw a lot of the same ideas and messages. They chose to make a hard pivot away from that image to build a powerful brand.
Let’s name a few expectations they push against:
Normal fitness company: Fit, shirtless person in the above the fold
Nerd Fitness: People wearing fun costumes
Normal fitness company: Serious, gruff, go-get-’em tone
Nerd Fitness: Playful, lighthearted, inclusive tone
And that’s just looking at surface-level details. What about their choices in colors, fonts, and their focus on community over individuality? We could go so much deeper.
But you don’t have to form your entire brand around the way you deviate from your industry. You can make differentiating statements using a simple line or two of copy.
Shortcut to finding a USP
To quickly find what separates your brand from others in your industry, go to your customer reviews and find out what positive elements of your business or product that keep coming up in reviews.
Then, visit the reviews of your competitors to see where your positive reviews and their negative reviews overlap. This is an easy shortcut to find a strong unique sales proposition.
#6. Show the human side of your brand, without forgetting you’re a business
When writing for B2B SaaS companies, remember that you're always talking to humans. Just because a business is buying your software doesn't mean a person isn't behind that business.
Use humor. Be casual. Be conversational. Show site visitors that there’s more to you than spreadsheets and business jargon. Show them that you're human.
The best way to show personality is to emulate people, writers, and brands you love hearing from.
You know who I'm talking about. There are some brands that make reading copy fun.
You enjoy learning about them. You celebrate their successes like they're your own. And most important of all, you feel like you know these on a personal level. Or rather, that they know you.
That is what you want to aim for as a company. In fact, a good personality in your brand can be a type of value proposition. People buy from you because they like you.
For example, Intercom has gone hard on writing in a conversational tone—which perfectly aligns with the product they offer their customers as well (a customer messaging platform).
Another company that always comes to mind is Basecamp. See how they break the rules, writing a highly informal before and after in their body copy?
Lastly, note how Proposify makes a pun in this headline at the top of their product tour page:
Even if it’s not your unique value proposition, having a clear personality makes it easier for people to differentiate you from your boring competitors.
The way to start this is to develop a style guide to establish your brand’s unique voice and tone.
#7. Make it easy to purchase from you
Clarity is the mother of conversion.
Clarity is the opposite of confusion.
Customers should know exactly what your offer. And buying from you should be the easiest thing anyone can do on your website. That means having a precise, value-driven call to action.
I love this copy.
Thumbtack hands the reader a bat and tosses them a slow pitch. In one sentence they tell you what Thumbtack does. Then the call to action is an immediate opportunity to solve the customer's problem.
Their call to action could have been generic like: “Try it free.” Instead, they put a search bar for site visitors to quickly find talent.
It's easy to add unnecessary busyness to the buying process. If someone lands on your website, they should be able to take action immediately without digging around.
#8. Show some social proof
Anyone can say they’re the best. Customers want you to show them why they should trust you to solve their problem.
One of the most powerful ways to show trustworthiness is through social proof.
There are thousands of companies who use social proof well. The problem is, the go-to tactics are so common that they’ve become somewhat commoditized.
It might be worth thinking of social proof through a different lens.
How do you make your social proof stand out and grab attention?
Maybe take a note from the team at Proposify.
From my experience, social proof tends to focus on the company. Most SaaS companies use the same “As featured in,” section or “Trusted by,” section to list publications and big-name customers.
How can you switch things up?
Proposify did this by focusing their social proof on the customer experience instead of their company.