How to Increase Sales on Your Website by Selling the Hole… Not the Drill

You have invested in an e-commerce site that looks professional, with great photos of your product. You’ve created an amazing sales funnel. You’ve optimised your SEO so much that you’ve hit the holy grail- the first page of Google search results (insert heavenly choir music here). You’ve advertised on Facebook and your website hits increased astronomically. But your sales aren’t converting.


A 2001 study showed that descriptive titles on menus could increase sales by 27%. That use of emotive language saw M&S chocolate pudding sales increase by 3,500% when they changed the wording on their advertising. Imagine what an increase of 3,500% on your sales could do to your business! So here’s how to increase sales on your website…

Sell the hole… not the drill

A friend of mine often helps me to put things into perspective. ‘Paula’, he says, ‘people want to buy a hole, not a drill. Sell the hole, not the drill’. And he’s right. You can list every technical piece of information about the drill but until you sell them what they actually want? They’re not going to buy it.

One of my first copywriting roles was writing sales descriptions for luxury products. Now, saying that this is a Louis Vuitton ‘Alma’ handbag that has two rolled leather handles and is 32cm long- that’s actually of secondary importance. What’s important is how this handbag makes the person feel. If someone is buying a luxury Louis Vuitton handbag, arguably they are concerned about their appearance. The cynical part of me knows that highlighting the ‘iconic’ Louis Vuitton print that is ‘instantly recognisable’ plays to this- everyone who sees this handbag on your arm knows you spent a lot of money buying it.

Explaining that this handbag will ‘accentuate and complete any outfit, making you the star of the show’ once again appeals to someone’s ego… not selling the drill- selling the hole.  Most importantly, it works. Appealing to your customers’ needs makes them more likely to buy your product.

Tell your customers what they want to hear

When I’m asked to write copy, I first think about what the customer needs to know. In EBay, for instance, I look over the existing product and see the questions that customers regularly ask. These facts should be answered in the copy. This is often selling the drill so it’s actually less important and can be further down the copy.

Then, I look into the feedback on the product, and of the competitors’ products. Who is buying this product? What do they like about it? For instance, for one customer I found the main buyer of their mini-gummi bear trays were mothers. Making little gummy bears at home is apparently a way to make your child eat things they may otherwise not. So, straight into the copy to extol the virtues of mini gummi bears moulds for mothers. You can even use their words- ‘the perfect size for little hands to hold’, and ‘so easy to clean, just pop it in your dishwasher’.

Use the ‘right’ words

If you do a quick Google search, you’ll be rewarded with lists of words that will increase your sales. All these words make people feel something. It makes your product better than everyone elses. Your product is exclusive, it’s scarce and highly sought after, it makes people perceive your product a certain way. A study from Missouri University showed that emotive words produced ‘more positive shopping outcomes’.

What’s the hole for your customer?

If you own a clothing boutique online, your customer is usually looking for something specific. So, instead of ‘size 12, multi-print, in 100% cotton’, you want to sell them what they are looking for.

‘This dress will be PERFECT for those summer BBQ’s and it looks great to layer with a cardigan on chilly nights. In light, breezy cotton in a unique print, you will love how wearable this dress is.’

You’ve just told your customer they are special (unique print), you’ve told them it solves the problem of what to wear at a BBQ (and that a cardigan looks great with it too), and that it will be wearable across a number of occasions.

What are you waiting for? Get writing!

So if your site is getting plenty of hits but low sales conversions, consider looking at your product descriptions. How to increase sales on your website will differ from site to site, but think about your intended customer and what they are wanting. What is their hole? What results do they want? What problem does your product solve for them?

p.s. there’s a whole bunch of magical SEO tricks you can incorporate too- I will address these in another post, soon!

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