Little kids with small, new vocabularies can get very frustrated when people don’t understand what they want. Listeners on the other end of these “conversations” can get stressed, too, trying to achieve understanding with imprecise information. If you use words in your content marketing (and who doesn’t?), ask yourself this: Are the words I’m using precise enough to help customers get a real picture of things?
Writers for a company’s website or other marketing text are kind of like these little kids – they can only use the words they know. In this case it’s not about dictionary-type vocabulary, of course. It’s about the factual details that underpin and inspire the words. Whether doing your own writing, or working with an agency like EVG, the wordsmithing must start with good raw material.
That raw material is details. Very specific details. Insider information. You-mean-that’s-important? facts. This heap of nitty-gritty input is what good writers sift through for the intriguing nuggets that create compelling text. While the Internet is an extremely visual medium, words will always play a role. And as with any actor, the more detail you feed him, the more convincing his performance.
As an illustration, which real-life example do you think paints a fuller picture?
- The restaurant’s vibrant, welcoming atmosphere complements a fresh, versatile menu.
- The restaurant emphasizes northern Michigan ingredients. One appetizer allows diners to cook steak or tuna at their table on a 500-degree rock from the local Betsie River.
The first description isn’t a bad one. Its adjectives (vibrant, welcoming, fresh, versatile) are probably less cliché than the norm. But the first example could describe any restaurant – and in a space as competitive as the Internet, that’s no good. You want to capture, captivate and stimulate attention. People respond more strongly when the message isn’t generic, when they hear that the hotel room has “heated bathroom floors” or “a mini bar stocked with the favorite local brew” rather than simply “upscale amenities.” Logical or not, most of us feel like the unique features of something we buy rub off and make us more special, too.
So where can you uncover the details that really move people? Ask questions – of yourself, of your client, of people who know the product intimately.
- What does it look (sound, taste, etc.) like?
Start with the obvious, just don’t assume that it’s obvious: color, size, material, origin, age, design, style, ingredients, temperature, duration…keep going.
- What’s its background?
Who started it? Why? What building served as the first office? What was the first sale? What strokes of luck have fallen, good and bad? How is it different now than when it was first conceived?
- Who makes it?
Everybody has a story, and this includes a company’s employees. Who’s been there the longest? Why did they stay? Who provides a trademark service? Who has family in the business, too? Who has worked their way up from the mailroom?
- Who buys it?
And never, ever forget the details of the people who interact with the product. Who used it to avert a crisis? Who gave it to someone as a gift? Who saved up a long time for it? Who switched a long-favored brand to embrace yours? Who had an issue but sings your praises for resolving it?
The answers to questions like these (and a thousand others) are the source of the rich, nuanced, precise, concrete, intriguing words that good writers use to capture precious attention. If you’re the writer, ask them. If you’re the company – answer.
Emily Smith – Editor