Business Writing: The WIIFM Principle

WIIFM, What's In It For Me, are without a doubt, the most important five letters in your business writing, your Web site, maybe even in your business success. Always tell people what's in it for them when they do business with you. Never tell people what you do. To say that we do this, we do that, we, we, we is what marketing consultant Mac McIntosh,  calls, "we-we-weing all over yourself." One thing is for sure, when your Web site does not tell people what you can do for them, and the competition does, you are at a competitive disadvantage. Never require the reader to figure out your message. 


Here's an example, you meet a man who tells you that he's a carpenter. What does that mean to you? Had he told you that he can build you a house, redecorate your kitchen, rebuild your bathroom, or build a garage, you would have known right away what he can do for you. Best of all, telling you what he can do causes you to wonder, "If he can do that, maybe he can do ________ ." Fill in the blank. Now you ask him that question, and the resulting conversation may lead to you hiring him to add a deck to your home. Yet, he never mentioned building decks, although he's built plenty of them. All because he told you what he could do for you. 


As you can see, creating questions in the mind of potential clients is a powerful technique because we don't like unanswered questions. Using questions to garner potential client interest is a tried and true copywriting technique. It's in your best interest to construct your writing, or Web site, so that it does not attempt to answer every possible question, but does generate questions in your reader's head because this grants you access to his or her mind. Now you can see the power of the correct use of questions when you are selling, doing, or informing. 


Your Web site cannot make money. It's not a printing press. You can sell things there, sure. That's done every day. Your Web site has the power, certainly the potential, to be an around-the-clock marketing and sales machine, generate interest in your company, and induce potential clients to contact you. Customer contact is the goal of your literature, Web site, social networking, press releases, and advertising. All of this is what we refer to as your marketing pie. As in any pie, all of the ingredients are interrelated, support each other, and are designed to motivate people to contact you. Once contact takes place, your marketing pie has done its job and it's your turn to carry the ball.  


Your Web site is a big part of your marketing pie, so let's give it a quick critique:


- Look at the top of every major page on your site. Does it tell readers what you can do for them? 


- Does it tell people where you are located? 


- Are your telephone numbers and email easily found, or are they buried? 


- Does your Contact Us page contain only a form? What about your phone and fax numbers, email addresses, mailing address, city, state, country, and time zone? Do you specifically list contact information for management and customer service?


- Is there a Press Page (sometimes called a Media Page) that contains Web readable press releases? What about full and complete contact information for your media person? How about a couple succinct paragraphs about the company, its major or new products? No? How do you expect a reporter, blogger, or journalist to do a story on you? 


- Does your Directions Page contain a map that clicks into an interactive map at Mapquest or Google? Are the directions well written? Has anyone checked them for accuracy?


- Do you include navigational data for a Global Positioning System (GPS). This is essential if you're located in a new development. 


Want to determine how your Web site rates? Ask someone to answer the above questions. Choose someone you don't intimidate, or you'll learn nothing useful. 


What else can WIIFM do for your business? How about using it to exclude people you can't service. Here's an example of why this is important. Let's say you run a pizza restaurant in Hartford, Connecticut. Your business comes from Hartford and surrounding towns. You know about how far people will travel to eat at your restaurant. You want calls from Hartford, Connecticut, not from Hartford, Illinois. With cell phones, and being online, getting calls from outside your business area is a real possibility. So, your Web site needs to tell people that you're located in Hartford, Connecticut.


Here's a real example. The town government of Coventry, Connecticut used to receive email destined for Coventry, England. Their Web page now states plainly, "Town of Coventry, Connecticut, USA." The letters, USA, make it obvious that the town in question is in the United States of America. It is far better to include this information, than to waste time and money receiving email destined for another country.


It's important that your Web design guard against this sort of thing, or the Web site will actually work against your best interests. You do not want to be contacted by people that you have no possibility hope of doing business with. Construct your site so that this sort of thing is not possible, or at least highly unlikely. Should you have this sort of situation crop up, change the Web site to defeat the problem. 


The Terrible Truth
To get across WIIFM, you need to tell people what you can do for them, not what you do. Telling people we do this and we do that is not the same as telling them what you can do for them. Not the same thing at all.


About The Author: Wayne English, president of Web Content Rx LLC, is a Web content and social networking expert, published author, and writer of articles and short stories. His book, Web Content Rx, is listed in The Washington Post's Leadership books, Top 5 Business Titles. Published by Career Press and sold worldwide, it is available singly and in bulk at Read Wayne's blog at and follow WebContentRx on Twitter. If you like short dark fiction read his short story Shift World, published at and elsewhere on the net.