"Why are you more expensive than X? How does the free trial work? What other websites and tools do you integrate with?"
To help you and your customer save time, it's standard practice to bundle such common questions about our products and services into an FAQ page.
However, FAQ copywriting should be looked at as a marketing opportunity, not simply "another task on our infinite business to-do list."
A well-thought-out FAQ section shows that you understand the customer's needs and that you speak their language. On the other hand, a poorly written FAQ section will turn off potential customers with questions and answers they don't find relevant or helpful.
So how do you do the former and not the latter?
#1: Talk to customers frequently and often.
Here's a short story that other entrepreneurs might be able to relate to. When I started writing the copy for Saber Blast, I made a set of assumptions related to what the customer might have questions about. I looked at BasecampHQ.com and a few other sites. These questions looked good, I thought, so I'll just model mine after them.
As it turns out, those questions would probably work perfectly if I was selling project management software (some of them I've kept over time). But the majority of them needed to be overhauled or replaced with more relevant questions.
You see, the more I spoke to my customers, to more I learn what they really cared about. Each time I did this I would pay close attention every question they would ask, even if the answer seemed obvious to me. I would write down those questions, and if I kept hearing the same question multiple times, I would add it to my list of FAQs.
So, don't forget: The first key step to writing a great FAQ section is first understanding what real-world customers have questions about.
#2: Keep a call to action close by.
If you're not doing this already, shame on you! Just kidding. But seriously, you need calls to action laced throughout your website copy, and not only near the FAQ section.
Think about it like this. You own a store that sells bicycles. A customer walks in and appears very interested in a specific bike you're offering. You walk over to him and he proceeds to ask you a few questions about it, like: do you have a version of the same bike, but smaller, like for a twelve year old? Does it come in blue? Do you have two in stock?
These questions show that he is interested in making a purchase. So, at the end of the line of questions, is it better to walk back to your cash register and tell him to browse around a bit more? Or are you going to put the decision to him right there by saying something smart like, "So you want me to ring it up for you, in the color blue, was it?"
The FAQ section on your website works the same way. If you do a great job of answering your customer's objections, you should keep a "Get Started" or "Sign Up" button close by so that checkout is only a click away.
#3: Nest valuable social proof next to or, even better, within the FAQs.
Beanstalk provides us a great example of this.
Remember, writing an FAQ section is NOT a chore -- it's a marketing opportunity. If you have social-proof-bling-bling, you want to flaunt it. People like to buy from companies who have people or brands as customers that they respect or admire.
Therefore, by using your social proof near your FAQs, you accomplish two objectives. First, you will answer a common question of new customers: who else is buying from you that I might care about? Second, you create a Jones Effect.
#4: Make it easy for visitors to find their question with a simple layout.
Check out Wufoo.com -- their FAQ page is killer because when you look at it, it's easy for your to skim and scan it for information. You don't feel like you reading a book. Rather, the spacing and the bullet points give the impression that if I have a pre-purchase question, I can quickly find it on this page or on a sub-page linked to from this page.
Unlike you, customers don't wake up thinking about your business. People are busy, busy, busy. So make it quick and easy for them to find the information they're searching for using this tactic.
#5: Make the questions and answers personable.
Do you see how I'm writing this article? I'm writing it in the first person, because, well, it feels more natural and authentic. Second, I'm writing in my own voice. If you do this in writing your FAQs it will be noticeable and maybe even memorable (that's a good thing), but consider your branding goals before you do this. For instance, if you use slang, but you're selling to 50+ year-old male doctors, it's probably not a good fit in that context. You'd want to write in a more formal voice to convey respect. So, it all depends.
Check out the wording I used in my Saber Blast FAQ section. Although I used "we" in the answer, I begin my answer to the question with the informal word "Sure." In addition, I'm not too worried about being "100% correct" with my English as you can see from my capitalization of the word "you."
Last, how I worded the question is worth noticing: "Why do I need you? Can't I do this on my own?" This purposefully sounds informal. In fact, I took it almost word-for-word from what two different customers asked me:
#6: Place the FAQ on your pricing page.
Think of the situation I posed in tip #2, where a salesman in a bicycle store asks for the sale after answering the customer's questions. It only makes practical sense to put the FAQ on your pricing page rather than keeping it separate since that way you can keep the customer focused on making a purchase decision (i.e., trading dollars for the value you promise to provide).
#7: Choose your questions wisely.
Just because something is obvious to you, does not mean that it is obvious and easily understood by your customer. As I alluded to in tip #1, if you talk to customers often, you'll frequently find yourself giving the same "obvious" answer. So make sure those apparently non-obvious answers are included in your FAQ list.
For instance, ScheduleOnce.com, an online scheduling app, includes a question about what happens when a customer wants to go higher than the advertised account limits ("I need more MeetMe pages or services, what shall I do?").
Now, the obvious answer is to contact them and ask, but for Schedule Once, they've gotten this question often enough that it was worthy of being posted on their pricing and FAQ page to save everyone a bit of time -- while giving their customers peace of mind.
#8: Get creative.
Finally, it helps to get creative with your FAQ section. Don't be afraid to shake things up a bit and experiment with completely new layouts, visual ques, or doing something completely unexpected with your page's design. Highrise provides us a smart and stellar example of this.
Remember, in general, your FAQ section is a marketing and sales opportunity. So make sure to talk to your customers to find the best questions, ask for the sale with clear calls to action, give the page an easily skim-able layout, answer questions that are non-obvious to your customers, and finally, don't be afraid to think outside the box.
What are some other tips for writing an excellent FAQ page that can help us to grow our businesses?
This post originally appeared on the author's blog.
Matt Ackerson is the founder of PetoVera, a creative process development firm headquartered in New York City. The company's flagship product is SaberBlast.com, an alliance marketing tool built for entrepreneurs & marketing professionals. The company’s mission is to accelerate and automate creativity.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.