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April 26, 2010

Content Boot Camp: Your Company Is Great So What?

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What has two thumbs and thinks your company is as great as you do? Not this person. Why? Because even though you’ve told me how awesome your company is, I just don’t see it. In fact, that other company, your competitor, had me at “Hello.”

Put Your Competition in a Sleeper Hold
Put Your Competition in a Sleeper Hold
CC BY 2.0

How does someone choose Company/Product/Service A over Company/Product/Service B when they’re both very similar? It starts with discovering your unique selling proposition (USP) and clearly communicating it.

Let’s say you own a cookware company and your website raves about just how much your pots and pans rule. (P.S. Not writing “Web site” just now per updated AP guidelines: very hard.) Page after page, through thousands of words of copy, your site talks about how great the cookware is without ever actually illustrating why it’s so great.

The solution is to ask yourself why your cookware is superior and what about the cookware solves problems for your consumers. What are the main reasons people would want to choose your pots over some other company’s pots? Don’t know the USP? Try the following exercise.

First, list all the features of the product, service or organization you’re writing about. Let’s take the cookware example. One feature for a line of pots could be a detachable handle. Saying you sell cooking pots with “sweet detachable handles” still doesn’t make the problem-solving connection obvious enough to your audience (always assume the reader doesn’t make the connection, so your writing will make the point concisely).

This is where the benefits of the feature come into play. So you have a detachable handle, so what? And, “So what?” is exactly what you need to ask yourself for every single feature until you drill down into all the potential benefits.

In this case, the “so what” is that detachable handles benefit people with less kitchen storage because it takes up less space, or maybe busy moms could cook more entrées on their stovetop because it makes the cookware more compact. Voilà! A problem is solved.

Another way to discover and communicate the competitive advantage of the product, service or company you’re writing about is to study other companies in the same space. Figure out which competitors pose the greatest threat and list their strengths and weaknesses. This can help flesh out where your brand is different and even better than the competition.

Pump Up Your Interview Questionnaire

If you missed last week’s Content Boot Camp, I discussed “Performing for Your Audience,” and defining the questions that need to be asked in order to ID your target audience. The following are some questions you can add to your “standard” questionnaire to help define your USP. (Interview questionnaires are discussed in “Tackle SEO Web Content Writing with Ease” featured in April’s SEO Newsletter.)

• List all the features of the product, service or company. For each feature, list at least one benefit.
• Of these features and benefits, which distinguish you from the competition?
• How does your product, service or company solve a problem for your target audience(s)?
• List all your competitors. Who are your brick-and-mortar competitors and why are they considered competition (e.g., Is it brand recognition, location or market share)? Who are your online competitors? The latter question warrants some online analytics.
• List the strengths and weaknesses for each competitor. Also list what you like and don’t like about each.
• Why should your target audience choose you over your competition?
• Why wouldn’t they choose you over your competition? This question often reveals some great info you can use to your advantage for messaging purposes.

For next week’s Content Boot Camp, I’ll drop and give you one … one key point to remember when crafting Web copy, that is: Messaging.

Content Boot Camp Series

Part 1: Performing For Your Audience
Part 2: Your Company Is Great … So What?
Part 3: Send the Right Messages
Part 4: Run a Mile in Your Reader’s Shoes

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4 responses to “Content Boot Camp: Your Company Is Great So What?”

  1. SEO Reseller writes:

    While it is a great concept, the so called USP is forgotten once a company has launched a revolutionary product. They’d be too lazy to ask themselves “so what?” and be even lazier in answering that question, which then result in them to never shy away from that so called “revolutionary product” they’ve created before and just end up upgrading it. This signals the death of innovation and ingeniuity. But nonetheless, this is a very great and insightful article. I do hope business leaders will be able to read and comprehend what you are trying to get through to them, because they really need to.

  2. Jessica writes:

    Thanks for your comment. It is unfortunate people don’t take the time to do stuff like this because it can be so useful in their marketing and content-development efforts.

  3. SEO Reseller writes:

    Seriously guys? No offense, but this stuffs seems like 101. Why are we better than the competition? Target our audience and tell them that? Certainly.

    Every marketing person I know is already running around trying to do this. The problem is getting people to really listen, and then in the rare cases when they listen, believe.

    I think the task is altogether more subtle than you guys are discussing here. IMHO

  4. Jessica Lee writes:

    Thanks for weighing in. It definitely can be the “basics” to some people, but not everyone approaches writing content in this way. The Content Boot Camp series is meant to help non-writers add relevant content to their sites, and can also help writers by profession to fine tune their copy with some marketing savvy. I know it’s helped me in the past!



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