Monday, February 19, 2007

Specific Beats General--Always

I'm in a networking group called PowerCore, led by Wendy Kinney. Wendy, the diva of Referral Marketing, teaches a terrific seminar on how to educate people to give you referrals in one minute. One of the most valuable things I learned from her is: specific beats general--always.

She instructs us not to say, "If you know anybody who needs a white paper or a blog for their business, please let me know."

Instead, she would have us say something like this: "I would love to meet your brother-in-law Bob, the VP of a scientific company that just got a big contract and is hiring. Bob's company is in growth mode, so they probably need updates to their web site, and a white paper to describe the new services they are offering."

My listener, Fred, understands that Bob is just an example. It is not important that Fred does not really have a brother-in-law, let alone one named Bob. The important thing is that by picturing Bob in his mind, Fred can think laterally to his college friend, Sue, who is the HR director of a financial software company, and recently mentioned that she is in high-gear recruitment mode because the company just launched a very successful new product.

See how this works?

The "Specific Beats General" rule especially applies to the web. The copy in too many web sites is too general. Writers fear alienating somebody--anybody. As a result, they put everybody to sleep. Web copy sizzles when it is specific, and targeted to a specific individual--as if the writer, Tom, were having a conversation with a fictional target customer named Bridget.

A recent post on the GrokDotCom blog, 2 Simple Steps to Finding Your Website's Voice, reminded me of the "Specific Beats General" rule. Holly Buchanan asks: "If your company/brand were a person, who would it be?"

If we think of our voices, as well as our audiences, as actual people--even fictional people, like Bob, Fred, and Sue--then we have a conversation instead of pontificating to the masses. And then we really sell.

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