No More Generic Copywriting. Get Clear And Specific

by Randy Murray on March 10, 2010

Do your company and product brochures put you to sleep? Is your own web site too boring for you to even look at anymore?  When you look at the traffic logs for your web site do you see that visitors hit your first page, then very quickly leave?

Without even looking at your site I can diagnose your problem. Your copy, your writing, could be interchanged with any of your competitors with no one even noticing. It’s because everything you’ve said about your company, your service, and your products is so generalized and generic that you could probably insert any other product or service and it would still work as well. And by working as well I mean not at all.

Sorry to be so tough on you there, partner, but that’s how I see it. Your web site and marketing materials are lifeless, listless, and, lethargic.

I’ve been faced with this problem before. I cut my teeth in the business-to-business software market. And I’ve worked on materials for products that have no interest or meaning for anyone outside of a very narrow group of users. And I learned how to make the most technical materials engaging and entertaining. There’s no magic, there are no secrets or tricks. You just have to be interested yourself. If you or your writer doesn’t understand your offering or can’t get excited about it, how could they possibly write about it in a way that would interest anyone else?

Here’s my technique for finding and building interest. Don’t write a single piece to work for everyone, for some wide general market. Get a very clear definition of your audience: Grok them.  Then, thinking as that audience, write for them and only for them. Be very specific; get into the nitty gritty. Find out what their problems are. What do they find funny? What gets them excited?

You can’t write just one brochure that will work for everyone. So don’t. Write as many brochures as you need. In the electronic age, you can have a dozen different brochures where before you might have been only able to afford to print one. But you don’t have that restriction anymore, do you? And using your web site, make it clear that you know how to talk with each decision maker directly, on their own terms. Make it easy to find what they need to make their part of the decision.

Unless you’re dealing with a consumer product, an impulse purchase, there are multiple people who have to decide on most purchases. You’ll need to do the work to understand all of these decision-makers that guard the gate to your sale. Find out their needs and interests. Write materials specifically for them. Don’t try and get by with a simple, generic piece of copy to work for the person looking for a solution to a problem, the person who will end up with your product as the solution to their problem, and the financial decision maker – the one who wants to know what their bottom line benefits will be. Each of these individual readers will have very different interests. To capture and hold their attention you need to know what they want and need. And you’ll need a method to make sure each of them gets the materials targeted at them, not one of the other gatekeepers. Pick up one of the Miller Heiman sales books and think about strategic selling.

I’ve seen generic copy used by organizations that want to hide or obscure what they’re doing. They’re supplying “value to their investors”. Well, the stockholders shouldn’t put up with such crap. If you’re not not Blackwater or “Xe” or whatever they’re calling themselves today, what have you got to hide?

If you sell the exact same gizmo for the exact same price as everyone else, then you can have the same marketing materials. Just don’t expect to sell very much. But if what you offer and how you offer it are different from what your competitors are doing, then make sure you communicate that clearly and effectively. Blog about it frequently. Get excited and share that excitement with others who are excited about it, too.

And here’s your test: when you read this new copy, does it get you excited or put you to sleep? Well-rested is good, but it doesn’t create sales. Get specific, clear, and excited. To hell with generic and lifeless copy!

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March 11, 2010 at 4:30 am

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mari March 10, 2010 at 10:55 am

You grokked me, man!


2 Randy Murray March 10, 2010 at 10:57 am

Thanks for requesting the subject!

I’m always open to topic suggestions. Frankly, I sometimes find it easier to write “on assignment” than to do the tough work myself and start from a blank page!



3 Hal Brown March 10, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Sounds like an app I’ve used with Linux/UNIX. I haven’t worked with this stuff for a long time. This is a great post Randy. I love it when articles are straightforward, a sort of “Give ‘em hell Harry” approach.


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