Sell More By Being Human and Building Relationships With Your Copy

Sell More By Being Human and Building Relationships With Your Copy

Your customers are real people. They have friends, family, colleagues and yes – even feelings. How can acknowledging this help you sell more? Read here.

This time we’re taking a closer look how you can build better connections and real lasting relationships with your customers. Looking at not only web pages but also what can be done after the sale has been made to make customers come back again and again.

Customers are real people

So here’s the situation: You have a website X and you’re writing the copy for your landing page. The page that people see first and which sole responsibility is to make them understand what the product is, how it’s beneficial to them and get them to take action.

Once you have finished with what you believe is good, show it to people (your spouse, parents, siblings, partners, friends) and ask what they think this site is about and who’s it for. If they get it – success. If not, go back to the drawing board and repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Until your family understands it the way you meant it.


Your customers are people like your family members. They may not understand all that industry specific jargon than may sound oh so good  to you – but not to them. Your job is to make the wording so simple that literally anyone would understand what is it and who is it for.

(Yes, sometimes you’re selling to a very specific audience – then you need to test it with people from that world). 

Clarity trumps persuasion. Always. For your customers – understanding what you’re selling is the first step to creating trust and credibility. How can you trust something you don’t understand? You can’t.

Next let’s take a look at examples of companies who have managed to humanize business – have connected with their customers on a totally different level, developed real relationships with them.


Appsumo is the master of writing excellent copy. Just take a look at their offer pages, notice their wording and grammar (or sometimes the lack of it). The conversational style of the copy makes you feel that “they get you”, it’s like reading a letter from your friend. Their style and sense of humor is second to none and works with their audience brilliantly. They have numbers to prove it.

Here’s an fragment from an e-mail I got from Appsumo:


Neville here.  The KopywritingKourse guy.

I’m not here to talk, I’m here to TEACH.  
So let’s begin (it’s preferable you read this email while DRUNK)!

If you suck at writing (and I’ll automatically presume you DO), this is probably your problem:

LET’S PRETEND YOU’RE A SALESPERSON….and you’re trying to get new clients by emailing them.  

You sit down to write a “nice introductory” email like this:



Boring and conventional? Nope. Crazy? Yes, a bit.  But it works, and that’s what matters.

CD Baby private jet

private jetImage credit

Dereks Sivers is an successful entrepreneur and former owner of CD Baby – online alternative music shop. In his book “Anything you want” he writes about one tweak to an e-mail that changed everything.

After ordering from CD Baby customers would get an automatic reply saying:

Your order has shipped today. Please let us know if it doesn’t arrive. Thank you for your business.

After a view months he decided to change it to something a bit more creative:

Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Friday, June 6th.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as “Customer of the Year”. We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!

This one silly e-mail is an brilliant example of how you can go from just another random e-commerce site to one that your customer will come back again, and again, and again and will tell all his/her friends about.

As a testament on how much customers loved the e-mail if you Google “private CD Baby jet” you will get thousands of results still today.

Jay Cutler jersey

nflImage credit

Gary Vaynerchuk likes to share a story on how one signed Jay Cutler jersey generated tens of thousands of dollars of revenue.

On Winelibrary (Gary’s wine shop) they keep track of people who buy from them and try to figure their Facebook and Twitter accounts to find out more about them. So this one guy was non-stop talking on Twitter about Jay Cutler (obviously his biggest fan). Since he had been a solid customer in the past, they decided to do something unusual, something different, something that would touch his emotional side.

They went on eBay and bought a signed Jay Cutler jersey and sent it to their client with a card saying “Thank you for being an Winelibrary customer.”

Later it turned out that the customer was a manager of a multi-million dollar hedge fund in New York. He called back to Winelibrary to say that he is never shopping anywhere else again and that he would recommend them to all his friends.

One little act of kindness ended up bringing in tens of thousands of  dollars in lifetime value and revenue.

With data being the name of the game and all this (A/B testing and what not), people tend to forget that besides all the testing on the web their customers are still real actual people. They emotions and they care about the little silly or not so silly things. Be it sending an e-mail that is different or just being nice and sending something that is valuable to your customer (and not connected to you at all) as a way for saying we value you as a customer.

So how can we use relationship building and connections with people to boost sales online? Here are some ways you can go about it.

Pictures of real people

Someone smart once said  “a picture is worth a thousand words.” In web design pictures are the design. They are used everywhere: on landing pages, product pages, general design in the hope that they will boost conversions numbers etc.

There are studies that show that trustworthiness (hence also conversions – you only buy from sites you trust) can be increased by adding relevant photos.

But are all photos created equal, will they all work? Or is there a difference between, say, a stock photo and photo of an actual person who works in the company? Let’s find out trough case studies.

Case study #1

Marketing Experiments blog run tests on a consumer credit counseling service website offering free debt consultation. They tested a smiling headset wearing stock photo girl with a picture of an actual human working in the company.

The test

The original featured a happy smiling picture of a call center lady. All very generic stock photography:

call center Image credit

The challenger, on the other hand, featured an actual employee from the company. In this concrete case it was founder of the company. And it looked something like this:

company ownerImage credit


The results from this test  showed that the generic call center girl lost out. And by quite a margin. 35% to be exact was the winning margin  a.k.a the new actual real person photo generated 35% better results.

What is important that your customers are not stupid. They know a stock photo when they see it. They know that she doesn’t actually work for your company and chances are they have seen her in other sites aswell. This doesn’t do any good for the credibility and trust of your company/product.

Or as Davit Meerman Scott puts it:

The problem with the B2B happy multicultural conference room with computer shot is that it has become a cliché. It is world-class, cutting-edge, mission-critical visual gobbledygook. Just like written gobbledygook, this kind of image is so overused to have become meaningless.

Case study #2

This one is more interesting in that it used eye-tracking software to determine exactly were people are looking at and for how long. This particular study was conducted by Jakob Nielsen, web consultant and author of numerous books about design and user interfaces.

Real people matter

Take a look at this example of a page that includes photos of real people of the executive team of FreshBooks:

executive teamImage credit

Users spent 10% more time viewing the portrait photos than reading bios, even though the bios consumed 316% more space.

And now for contrast take a look here:

invisible photoImage credit

Users completely ignored the stock photo. The photo was pure filler.

Amazon vs Pottery Barn

First look at Amazon:

amazonImage credit

And then Pottery Barn:

pottery barnImage credit

On the Amazon page only 18% of viewing time was spent on photos, while 82% was spent on text. On Pottery Barn it was pretty much reversed.


Pottery Barn shows pictures of products in an environment where they would be most likely used creating more and better context for the potential buyer. Amazon (and most ecommerce sites) have generic photos that don’t create any context at all.

(Amazon is Amazon – what works for them won’t work for you).

The power of storytelling

It’s long been thought that story telling is a great tool to bring people together and build empathy. Now, thanks to a neuroscience study it has been explained why that happens.

The experiment

A team of scientists at Princeton had a woman tell a story while being in an MRI scanner. MRI scanners detect brain activity by monitoring brain activity. As she told the story, her brain activity was monitored as she spoke. She did so twice – once in English, once in Russian.

Next they had a group of volunteers listen to the story both in English and in Russian all while having their brains scanned. It’s important to note that none of the volunteers understood Russian.


Results from brain activity showed that when the story was in English, volunteers understood the story and their brains where synchronized. By simply telling a story, the woman could plant ideas, thoughts and emotions literally into the listeners’ brains.

In comparison when volunteers heard the same story in Russian, the brain coupling disappeared. Without words that they understood volunteers couldn’t make sense of her story.

powerImage credit

Relevancy to web design

This study shows that by telling a story using the right words (meaning words that your customer understands), you can influence how they think and feel about you and your services. That’s huge.

Sharing your story and engaging customers is easiest through a blog and many companies use that. But it doesn’t stop there, things like “About” pages are also opportunities for engaging through storytelling. The story of your business. Why you do what you do.

But it’s not just what you say, but also how you say it. Read on.

Tone of voice matters

No, not the voice that comes out of your mouth. The tone of voice as in how you communicate your message in writing, what words you choose and how you choose them. Remember Appsumo and their tone? It’s even somewhat shocking to some, but still works for them.

How do you find the tone your customers connect with?

By asking your current paying customers.

Copyhackers recommends the following for finding your tone:

Poll your new customers. Send a follow-up “thanks for choosing us” email within days of a purchase, and ask your customer to indicate – quite simply – which adjective (of a short list of options) best describes how they feel about your brand.

Your tone could happy, funny, formal, flirty, nerdy, patriotic etc. There are literally thousands of possibilities.

One thing it could not be, though, is BORING. Like this one:boring ad

Image credit

There is absolutely no emotion in there, just plain text.

“Emotion is the adhesive that, when mixed with trust, equals loyalty.”

 John O’Shaughnessym author of “The Marketing Power of Emotion

Want to see a website with a distinct style and tone (besides everyone’s favorite example Mailchimp)? I recommend you spend some time on The Middle Finger Project site. She’s something else.


Likeability, trust and relationships

According to famed psychologist – and author of “Influence” among other books – Robert Cialdini, we’re more likely to be influenced by people we like (Principle #4 in his book).

Likability comes in many forms – people might be similar or familiar to us, they might woo us with compliments, or we may just simply trust them without really knowing why.

This article on Forbes, says that one the most overlooked strategies to make people like you is to find commonalities with the people you’re meeting. It creates a level of shared trust.

If you want to influence influencers

If there’s a particular blogger or a CEO you want to get closer to, here’s a tip from Ramit Sethi, a personal finance adviser and entrepreneur + the author of the 2009 personal finance book “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” (New York Times Bestseller) says the following on his blog:

You want to focus on the idea, ‘I’m going to add value to this person over time.’ The first thing you could do is leave some thoughtful comments on their blog. Next, you could send them some email saying, ‘Hey, that was really great, but I thought you may have missed this one point. Here’s an interesting article with a different perspective on it.’ If you thought it through and did some research, the author will think, ‘Wow, thanks very much!’ and you are not asking for anything.

All of a sudden now you’ve differentiated yourself first by adding value. You are not going directly for the kill.

Most people make the mistake of instantly asking for something. Famous people get asked stuff all the time. If you don’t add value without asking anything it will return, you’ll eventually get rewarded by “karma” (and the principle of reciprocity).

Don’t ask for the sale right away: it’s a marathon, not a sprint


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One example of using finding commonalities and adding value over time to increase your likability  is not to go straight for the kill (sending them straight to the sales page), but first offering something of value to them.

Offer a lead magnet in exchange for their e-mail and keep nurturing the relationship by sending something of value on a regular basis.  Once they understand you better and see you’re not full of s***, they start to trust you. Only then are they ready to buy from you.

It’s a long term strategy and doesn’t pay off quickly (length of the sales cycle depends on the cost and complexity of your product), but looking at the lifetime value of the customer it’s well worth it.

Product testimonials

According to Nielsen’s latest Global Trust in Advertising report (more than 28,000 Internet respondents surveyd in 56 countries) 92% of consumers around the world say they trust earned media. Earned media as in recommendations from people they know. That was followed up by 70% who said that they trusted consumer opinions posted online (people they don’t know) and 58% who trusted editorial content (such as newspaper articles) and branded websites.

Similar studies seem to support those numbers. According to research by Lightspeed Research 56% of Americans and 64% of Brits  said that they trust reviews from other consumers and 62% of Americans and 51% of Brits respectively trust reviews from friends, family and colleagues.

Although numbers from these two reports differ slightly the overarching trend is clear – people trust reviews posted online and ones by friends and family.

Use testimonials

Doh, right? Well, you need to get the right kind of testimonials. Don’t just send your customers emails asking for a testimonials. You don’t want to end up with useless “I like it!” comments.

CopyBlogger suggests asking these six questions for testimonials:

  1. What was the obstacle that would have prevented you from buying this product?
  2. What did you find as a result of buying this product?
  3. What specific feature did you like most about this product?
  4. What would be three other benefits about this product?
  5. Would you recommend this product? If so, why?
  6. Is there anything you’d like to add?

You can slightly alter these questions of course. The point is to get info about their initial fears and info on how this product help them or how a specific thing helped them.

Once you have the answers don’t just go and copy the whole to your page. It’s okay and in most cases needed to edit (but not change) the testimonial to make more to the point and useful for you.

Another way

Dane Maxwell in his excellent “The Copywriting Checklist” suggest using the following formula with concrete example:

Specific end result or benefit customer got + Specific Period of time + Accompanied Feeling + The Persons Name With Their Stats

“I’ve saved $200 per month alone in file folder savings. It took 3 days to get implemented, and I recruited my first agent in the first month as a result. I can now be home with my baby son and review files. The freedom is incredible. – Robb Campbell Top 10 RE/MAX
In The World 200+ Agents”

Try both and see which works best for you – the longer 6 question one or Maxwell’s shorter and simpler. In any case you have to get info first from actual customers to get testimonials – do not make them up.

Here’s how Ramit Sethi showcases testimonials:


Full names and photos – mandatory. Testimonials signed by “K.L” or “John, 35” are just not credible.

Testimonials boost conversions

Adding testimonials to sales pages can help your conversions quite a bit.

WikiJob is UKs largest graduate jobs website which attract over 500 000 visits a month. Their goal was to first find out if adding testimonials would have any kind of effect at all, and secondly  if they worked then how much.

They tested 2 different versions for testimonials, featuring testimonials in different locations. With one test (testimonials placed at the bottom of sales page) they found no significant increase.

With the other one (testimonials in the middle of sales page)  they ended up seeing sing-ups increase by 34%.


Image source

You can see from their current site that now they’ve added photos to testimonials. Means it works better with photos. Told you.


Your customers are humans. They drink beer, fart and like cats. The have fears and insecurities. They love and want to be loved. They’re people like your friends. Talk to them like you talk to people in your real life – without jargon.

Don’t be afraid to be yourself, add a bit of character to your copy. Find your own tone – one  that suits you and is liked by your customers.  Tell stories and be authentic. It makes you a better human being and helps your sales too.

Featured image credit


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  1. Thank you for the great ideas.

    I off to create a story for my products :)

    1. I meant I “am” off to create a story for my products :)

  2. There’s so much to say about this post — very well-researched and a breeze to read. I loved it, thanks!

    Your conclusion manages to tie all the ideas up very nicely. :) I hope that the marketing world starts to hear that, before they’re lawyers, doctors, accountants or small biz owners, “your customers are humans”. So true! That thought alone could vastly improve most sites and marketing efforts.

    1. Peep Laja

      Thanks – and I agree. The corporate suit dude in a big office is a human being and doesn’t want to read B2B jargon on websites.

  3. Hi Peep,

    Excellent article! I loved the ideas on this post.

    I just had two questions for you. How can you develop a style or rapport with a first time visitor without appearing as a fake?

    How can you gather testimonials from people when you are launching your product for the first time and you don’t have have a client list?

    By the way, the the winelibrary url links to flickr.

    Yan, a new reader… :)

  4. Peep Laja

    Hey Yan

    1. You need to be consistent with your tone throughout the website.
    2. If you don’t have testimonials about your product, give it away for free in exchange for reviews

    Thanks for catching the broken URL.

  5. Hey Peep, once again a great post! I love the way how much effort obviously goes into these posts, appreciate it. Also love all the “learning points” you provided us with in your harsh but very valuable website review session last week – we worked on it already :)

    I’m also a big believer in testimonials and do agree that a random text testimonial from John Doe from Utah doesn’t cut it anymore.

    We try to add a layer of authenticity by providing video testimonials (barrier-to-entry is higher, but results very strong) or just an automated webcam capture function (real photo or linked with social identity) ; in combination with their name and the testimonial itself.

    How do you feel about this, as you seem to focus heavily on text testimonials only in this article? Any other thoughts?

    Keep up the excellent work!

    1. Peep Laja

      Thanks. Video testimonials are by far the most credible, however most people won’t watch them, so if you want to reinforce a certain message via testimonials, text is better. In the end most people won’t read any testimonials either, but they’ll feel at ease seeing that believable testimonials are there.

  6. Excellent post Peep, one of my favorite sites on the web. Jay Cutler plays for the Bears though ;)

    1. Peep Laja

      Thanks! I think the article doesn’t mention who he plays for?

  7. Peep,
    You are, for sure, the hardest working man in eCommerce. Great depth in all of your work! Thanks for the high level of expertise and generating such great conversation. CXL is the only must-read source in my RSS reader.

  8. Thanks Peeps I always enjoy your blogs and find your information very useful.

    Will be taking an RSS feed from you also to share with our followers.


  9. Peep – This is awesome! My favorite part is the email from CD baby, that is just slick and so smart; one of the stickiest order confirmation’s I’ve ever seen. Also, thank you for putting together the bits on eye-tracking and calling out Amazon as NOT the example to model after after; because your logic is sound – you are not Amazon. Thanks again man, really enjoyed this.

  10. Great advice. What tool(s) do you like for eye tracking /attention tracking?

  11. Tremendous article that I will ask my clients to read. So many are afraid to go outside the box of dry, academic writing. That doesn’t get them anywhere.

  12. Thanks for sharing all this! It’s an incredibly convincing post. I particularly enjoyed the eye tracking of original versus stock photography, I’m going to send this to my whole team, it’s a great way to explain the importance of being genuine.

    I was interested in one if your upthread responses about video testimonials, though. I’ve found them incredibly effective, based on feedback – for the same reason as original photography, I think, their ability to be genuine. Do you think there is an effective way to boost viewership?

    Thanks again, I subscribe to read more!

  13. Hello Peep!

    I particularly enjoyed this article because I completely agree with what you said. A lot of businesses associate a conversation tone with a lack of professionalism which isn’t the case. I find conversational tones comforting and friendly.

    A website that does a GREAT job at that is They speak in the EXACT same language as their target audience to the point where you just want to buy things because of how awesome they sound.

    Thanks again

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Sell More By Being Human and Building Relationships With Your Copy