Be specific, it’s more interesting

Keeping your options open is a good thing in life. In marketing writing, however, it can be killer. If you try to make sure you communicate everything (oh, and we also do this!) you can losing the reader’s attention before you earn it.

It’s better make a strong specific claim – even if you’re neglecting the whole story – than to try to cover everything. Yet it’s surprisingly difficult to do. Product managers have a deep attachment to the full range of features in their products. CEOs want analysts to things that they really are yet. Everyone wants to make sure that their favorite feature, or market, is represented. I’ve felt that pull myself – “We don’t want people to think that we only do thing A…”

This came up the other day with a client, when writing about mobile apps. I wanted the title of a white paper to say “Apple iOS and Android applications.” The client rightly pointed out that the solution worked for any mobile app – including WebOS, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, etc. We could just as easily say ‘mobile apps’ in the title.

For the title, I think it’s better to remain specific. Honestly, most mobile app developers are probably focusing on iOS and Android apps right now. If we can get their attention, then we can afford to lose the few exclusively focused on other platforms. The white paper text can then point out the whole range of mobile devices supported.

Our minds simply react more quickly to something that specifically matches our concerns (iPhone applications) than to a generalized or abstracted term (mobile applications). So particularly in the places where you want to get a reader’s attention, you should be as specific as possible.

Technology marketers are constantly walking this tightrope between the specific and the general, or the niche/vertical and broader market. And successful companies come up with strategies for striking a balance, which include

  • Running separate campaigns and landing pages for specific topics or markets – especially if they are smaller or distinct from the main offering.
  • Using keyword research to back up the importance of the specific claims to prospects.
  • Using the “about us” and corporate pages to talk about the broader scope of what the business does.

3 Comments on “Be specific, it’s more interesting

  1. This shows how important it is to have a writer/strategist like you who really understands positioning. Trying to position yourself in too many markets at once is the same as having no position at all. Everything about our changing economy and our communications technologies are telling us to focus, to target, and to get to the point faster.

  2. Ah, what’s a noun/verb disagreement between friends – especially on a good comment like this one! It’s important to focus, but surprisingly painful to do so, isn’t it? It can feel like you’re leaving something behind.

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