One of the questions I get asked about all the time is writing product descriptions. When I had to start writing product descriptions for my own business, I practically needed therapy to get through it. Over time, however, I found that by following a formula of sorts, I actually had a knack for writing them.
I’m not gonna lie: whenever I think about product descriptions, two names instantly come to mind: Seinfeld and J. Peterman.
Any old-school Seinfeld fan (or re-run worshipper) instantly knows what I’m talking about.
Elaine Benes worked for the retailer known for its wildly descriptive catalog product listings…and the show even created a larger-than-life faux version of its founder along with a truly fantastic storyline built around him.
While the real J. Peterman lacks some of the panache of his on-screen doppelganger, the fact is that he and his company are still around.
(In fact, they actually produced Elaine’s “Urban Sombrero”!)
Now when I first started writing product descriptions, I was TERRIFIED. I’d been told I was a bad writer who needed to consider dropping out of college (thanks, right?)
But I realized that the same kind of rules that made J. Peterman's product descriptions work actually worked for me too.
Here’s the thing: J. Peterman catalog descriptions are still amazing to read. Here’s a couple of them that are on their site as I write this post:
For their men’s classic turtleneck:
“There’s a sophisticated sort of turtleneck, it’s true, favored by secret agents and Audrey Hepburn, and it’s a fine thing.
But this is the kind of turtleneck that All-Americans reached for.
Classic Turtleneck (No. 1729). Pure lambs wool. 3-1/2” high neck (folded down) and 3” cuffs and hem, deeply-ribbed. Raglan sleeves. No fancy stitches, no doodads. In the game for the long haul. Imported.”
Or this description for a basic black skirt (they’ve renamed it the Dinner Party Skirt):
Some outfits can’t wait to get out of the house: to hip-hop, to salsa, to funk, to flirt. It’s exhausting. In Rome they stay home to do it. Much easier. You control the collisions. Put him and her together (she’s a former Hollywood madam, he’s with the IRS). Better conversations, better invitations. You’re “penciled in” at a dozen, already.
The hostess (you) barely lifts a finger. These days, even spectacular restaurants bring dinners for two or 12. Just look relaxed and pour the Moët.
Wool Blend Skirt (No. 2520). Twelve gauge knit skirt. Mid-calf length. A gracefully moving straight silhouette known to make a person look slim and rich. (The drawback being that once you put it on you can never take it off.) Fully lined to prevent those pesky ride-ups. Imported.
The 5 Parts of a Perfect Product Description
To say that J. Peterman knows the right way to write product descriptions that sell is an understatement.
These descriptions don’t just give size and color details—although all the must-know details are there.
- Create a mood.
- Make a connection.
- Are themselves an experience.
- As you read them you can picture yourself in whatever product they’re describing.
And suddenly the price tag doesn’t matter. The fact that maybe you don’t actually need a wool skirt? Nope. You’ve got to have it.
Here's what I've found are the 5 Parts to Write Perfect Product Descriptions. Check them out:
A great product description generates curiosity. Instead of just saying you have an item to sell, like a pillow, start with a headline that’s more along the lines of “Get better sleep than you ever have before.” Or if it’s an item of clothing, “Wear the dress shirt that’s comfortable enough to sleep in.” Draft something that will make people who would otherwise pass right by stop and take a gander at your product.
Connect with a Story
Yep—you can put a story in your product description. That J. Peterman Dinner Party Skirt up above is a perfect example. The reader is instantly captured in how it can be used. In one of my product descriptions, I talked about how you could hide toys in it just before company came over.
Talk About the Material
Even though customers may not thoroughly read your product description, put the details in there anyway. This is true for all products, but most especially clothing. Is it cotton? A poly/cotton blend? Does it have spandex in it? Is it 100% Rayon? Including specifics about the material can drive sales and help to avoid unhappy customers.
Include a Call to Action
Now that you’ve told people all about the product, it’s time to tell them to act. If you have a limited quantity, put that in the description. If it’s on sale for a short time, let your customers know that they can only get it for 48 hours.
Show Some Love
People want to feel good about what they’re buying (or what they just bought.) Tell them about the guarantee you offer. Show them product reviews of others who purchased the product. It gives them a bolt of confidence in what they’re buying and who they’re choosing to buy it from.
So when you’re getting ready to write product descriptions for your online business, make sure you include the 5 things I’ve included in my video above. But really awesome news? If you want to download a list of them lickety-split, just click here: 5 Parts to Write Perfect Product Descriptions. They'll arrive as a pdf in your Messenger inbox!
And of course, feel free to check out J. Peterman for an adventure-filled dose of inspiration.