Now we come to it. If you’ve followed our quick and dirty method for producing your website content, you’ve committed yourself to writing the content before you begin with your web developer. You’ve come up with the questions you want your viewers to know the answers to, and produced a lot of words to answer them. You’ve heaved your heart into your mouth hoping you’ll be able to catch people with your love for what you do, and bring them to love it too.

The only problem is that right now you’re left with an unappetizing smattering of words that may be even less organized than it is appealing. The process has gotten dirty! Today we’re going to explore how to cut it into shape. I use that term on purpose: the job in front of you is to cut what you’ve written down by eighty or ninety percent. In the last post, I assured you that there was gold in your river, and that you’d dredged it up. You have, but now it’s sitting there in the midst of your slurry of words. You’ve just got to find it.

hand from above shaping an unappealing pile of mud

I hope you’ve taken some time away from what you wrote earlier, because finding the gold will be easier if you’re not still riding the high of the act of composition. Taking a few days away from what you’ve written is best, but even if you just get caught up in some other project for a few hours, that’s probably enough. What’s essential is that you come back to this with new eyes and ears.

sitting cross-legged on a chair thinking deeply

Today’s first step is to put yourself as much as you can into the frame of mind of your ideal customer. Spend a minute or two thinking about who you want to reach with your website. And I’m serious about that time frame. Get out a stopwatch if you must and force yourself to think about your customers deeply for a full minute at the very least. What do they like? What do they hate? What turns them on? What turns them off? What are their aspirations? What are their annoyances? Really get into their skin as much as you can.

Only then, once you’re looking around your room as your customers might, should you turn to your answers from before. It’s not a bad idea to print out those pages that you created so you can go at them with a red pen, but you don’t need to. You could just pull the Google Doc up on your computer and read it there. What you need to do as you read, though, is mark. In the doc, you can highlight, underline, change the text color, or annotate. You’re not marking everything; in fact, you should be pretty selective in what you mark. But you do need to mark it. Mark any phrase or even word, that you think might be gold. For these purposes, gold is anything that is surprisingly expressed. It’s anything that strikes you as fresh and attractive, particularly from your current mindset of seeing things from your customers’ eyes. You’re going to cut everything out but the gold.

Next, you need to bounce these phrases off of somebody, or several somebodies—your sounding boards. Better than laying your phrases out one by one for three minutes, is catching your sounding boards by surprise. Ask your office manager, out of the blue, “would you say our business is such-and-such?” Call your spouse in the middle of the afternoon and try another phrase out. Stop a coworker in the hall, or a neighbor in the driveway, or a parent, or a child. The response you’re looking for isn’t, “Yep, that’s an accurate description.” No. You’ll know you’ve got it right when for just a second or two your sounding board has a startled look and a far off gaze, then a sly smile and a cool “yeeaaahh!” That’s how you’ll know you’ve found gold.

man looking at the camera with a sly smile

The last step, once you’ve found your gold, is to work those golden phrases or words into cogent statements. In the end, if you can work those phrases into powerful statements, surprising statements, you just might beat the curve. You might surprise your audience enough that they don’t bail on your site after the first ten seconds. If you can supply the surprisingly authentic and fresh statements, your web developers will know how to array them best to captivate your audience. Go to your firm with your gold in hand at first and it’ll save you a dozen trips back and forth with your developer. What’s more, having gone through this process, you’ll have the skills, if your developers ask you to, to flesh out the rest of the story with golden phrases as well: go back to your Google doc, dredge up more source material through speaking, cut it back to the golden essentials, then work it into striking statements.You’ll know you’ve got something special, your web developer will thank you, and your website will glimmer with gold.