Preparing 1000 product descriptions in a month — 7 key steps
Creating or changing thousands of words worth of product descriptions can seem like a daunting task. As the deadline for a site upgrade approaches, it"s all hands on deck to accommodate a huge workload within a few months. Even a copywriting superhero wouldn"t be able to complete this work fast enough without compromising quality.
We came up with a step-by-step guide to help grease the wheels on your product descriptions and successfully finalise what can be a complicated project.
1. Decide who will read the new descriptions
In order to make sure that all product descriptions maintain the same tone and reflect your brand"s voice, they should be drafted in one cohesive style. Before starting to develop your unique style, you need to understand who the target audience is. For this, you need to define a buyer persona. This paints a portrait of your client based on your market research, aiming to help you understand who you are working for and the extent to which client expectation differs from reality. A buyer persona helps you to prepare more direct product descriptions by answering the questions that are being most keenly asked and letting you match your products and descriptions to your customers" anticipations.
A buyer persona is a vital tool to help classify your customers, understand their characteristics, and eventually target specific information at them. You might not even choose to change your descriptions based on what you find, but it"s important to know which customers will be the most profitable and attractive for your business in the long run.
You can use your own company"s resources for this task — buyer persona can be prepared by the sales department, or you can hire an agency.
2. Define the style of future descriptions
Transform your product descriptions into hooks to catch customers and reel them in. Since different product categories target different customers, the creation of the buyer persona is a steady starting point for choosing the appropriate style of your product descriptions.
The style is the suit of a text; the way it is presented to readers. The style is expressed in the vocabulary you use, from industry jargon to high frequency, more simple words. It is also the way it is structured and presented from concise and straight to the point, to more eloquent and emotional with lots of synonyms and thought-provoking language.
It depends on what and who you are selling to. For example, the appropriate style used for an internet shop selling fishing equipment won't be the same one you use for a bed linen shop. If you are selling different kinds of products, you probably need to find different styles to accommodate those different products.
Here is an example — this company used a more everyday, high-frequency word style for buyers of household chemicals.
Prepare several descriptions yourself; use different styles and test them with the help of paid promotion or in any other way. You can use the one which generated the most sales as a template going forward.
It"s important to define the length of descriptions in order to standardise all texts. Set a minimum number of characters as a benchmark for descriptions, as well as the relevant number of characters. First of all, websites can have technical limitations which you have to identify from the very beginning in order to not have to painstakingly rewrite hundreds of texts afterwards. Saying that, it might be difficult to write a good description for some products using only 1000 characters, so use the minimum viable length for these products. Finally, if you have a website in several languages, it"s better to translate your texts from the very beginning in order to understand the average description length in different languages.
3. Develop a style guide
Of course, such comprehensive work like even a partial update of your product descriptions can"t be done alone, it needs to be done with a crack team of several people. With so many cogs turning, it"s important that there is a certain level of cohesion in your texts. In order to make sure they use the same tone and are all working towards the same golden objectives of inspiring customers and selling products, it"s important to compile a set of rules defining how texts should look like, especially if you apply storytelling in your descriptions. Moreover, product descriptions without storytelling are useless, since customers" habits are permanently evolving and they expect emotional feedback to help them make a choice.
The style guide is the main reference point for authors, editors, and native-speaking proofreaders. It explains how new product descriptions should look like and why. A good style guide contains information about the company, its customers and topics relevant to them, recommendations on how descriptions should and shouldn"t look like, where to find information about products, as well as examples for reference. The style guide is a big, wordy document. It's worth spending time on its creation, since it's one of the core components to ensure a high, standardised quality of work. If your colleagues find it easier, you can also draft a briefer, easier-to-use version.
Below is an example of the brief version of a real style guide which we use for one of our client (download full version here).
Also, take note that the format, approach, and length can change after the preparation of the style guide.
4. When you have a style guide, start to create a team of authors
Define which people you need. Depending on the structure of your business, you might assemble your team during the style development stage of the process. Nonetheless, our experience shows that the team should consist of a product manager, an editor, authors of product descriptions, and native-speaking proofreaders (should your descriptions be written in another language).
The manager will, obviously, manage the project, coordinate team, and find solutions to issues which can"t be solved by other team members. An editor is responsible for the final version of the text; they evaluate the content prepared by authors, ensure that the texts comply with the style guide, take key decisions on publication, send texts to authors for correction or to native speakers for proofreading, and make minor edits. The native speaker brings texts closer to perfection.
Of course, assembling your team in this way is not the only possible solution and you can put your squad together depending on individual talents and preferences. For example, your editor could also be your project manager; or maybe you don"t need any native speakers. In any case, you can use our suggested format as the basis.
Creating a good team is one of the major challenges that you will face during the preparation of new product descriptions. Thus, it might be necessary to outsource this task to an agency who have all the relevant specialists and can draft professional content for you.
Regardless of your decision — whether you prepare product descriptions in-house or opt for an agency — you should be prepared that texts can differ slightly. This is part of the creative process and completely normal. They will have the same style and structure, but every author has a unique approach which can"t be completely neutralised by an editor.
5. Start with a trial period
So, you have a tested and approved a style, detailed the guidelines and put together a team of professionals. Everything is ready for the full launch of the project and your team is busy preparing some dazzling descriptions. Deadlines are looming just around the corner.
Stop, take a step back and gather your thoughts. Even if you have pressing deadlines, you might even need to postpone them. It might seem difficult, but it"s important not to rush at this crucial part of the process. You probably need a couple of months to teach your authors how to write texts in accordance with the style guide; to get all the cogs turning in unison.
A trial period is absolutely vital in setting up and testing the cooperation amongst the members of the team and tweaking the way they interact between themselves.
6. And then you can go full steam ahead
As a rule, one author can write between 7 and 10 product descriptions per day with around 1200 characters in each. We identified this number based on our own experience, but this is just an average indicator and every author has their own set of skills. Naturally, some authors can write more, others can write less. You have to take it easy and remind them to stick to the recommended figure as often as possible.
Taking this into the account and depending on the number of product descriptions that need updating, active work with texts for a small internet-shop can take up to one month. Bearing in mind the time required to find people and to complete a trial period, the whole process may take up to 2 or 3 months. A bigger project can take up to half a year or more.
7. Refer to experts who will take the lead
If you refer to a content-agency to provide such services, the overall speed of the process can increase ten-fold. Top Lead is a content marketing agency that provides such services. This is not some kind of long-winded sell, but from our experience we can tell you that hiring an agency has several advantages:
- an agency bears legal responsibility for the result;
- employees of an agency are generally more motivated because they receive bonuses for outperforming planned deliverables;
- an agency has well-trained staff who conduct this kind of work on a regular basis, thus having a proper understanding of how to correctly organise the process of product description preparation;
- an agency uses technology for effective management of preparation of the large volume of content.
It"s your decision whether to prepare new product descriptions yourself or outsource this task to an expert agency. In any case, now you know how to go about updating the lame, uninspiring product descriptions for your e-commerce website.