“This article is brand-new and very high quality — it’s the best.” Does this nondescript description compel you to keep reading? If not, try re-reading that sentence in a Donald Trump voice.
While a lack of specificity hasn’t harmed the Trump campaign, the same cannot be said for many B2B marketing campaigns. Specificity is the foundation of good B2B content. Unlike day-to-day consumer buying decisions, businesses have a much longer buying cycle and evaluate purchases with a much more critical eye — after all, these decisions impact the livelihood of a business. That’s why meaningless fluff should play no part in B2B marketing.
Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly used and least effective marketing descriptors, as well as a few tips for replacing them with more compelling information.
The common offenders
So often, the terms used to describe a company’s product or service are so bold, so unbelievable and used so often that they have lost all meaning. Here are two quick examples.
• “World-class” – This indicates that whatever you’re describing is the best in the world. That’s a bold claim. If you have information to support that claim — just skip the fluff and get to the point.
• “Maximized” – This is commonly used to describe how a product can benefit you — maximized productivity, maximized cost savings, etc. First off, the term “maximize” indicates there’s a ceiling, which has been met and cannot be surpassed. This is probably not a correct descriptor in most contexts. Secondly, if an improvement to productivity or profit can be realized by using this product, get to the point — quantify it.
High-quality, optimized, new-and-improved, advanced, cutting-edge, game-changing, revolutionary, industry-leading — the list goes on. When you’re considering using one of these terms, a good way to judge its effectiveness with the audience is to imagine using it in a sales context.
Would any of those descriptors — alone, with no specific information to support the claim — help close a sale? If not, you shouldn’t expect it to be a compelling message in your marketing materials. Here’s an example.
• Salesperson: “We’re high quality.”
• Prospect: “Specifically, how are you higher quality than the competition? How will that benefit me?”
If the salesperson has no specific answer to this — likely, the prospect would be done listening, as would someone reading nonspecific marketing content.
• Salesperson: “We use higher tensile strength steel on Component X than most competitors, which allows us to have a three-year warranty versus most of our competitors, who only offer a two-year. This will lower your maintenance costs and increase the life of your equipment.”
While this is a step in the right direction, it still isn’t likely the tipping point for a sale. There’s an opportunity to be more specific. Let’s close this sale.
• Prospect: “Prove it. I want numbers.”
• Salesperson: “The average service interval for Component X is six months. Our warranty will eliminate the cost associated with two of those service intervals, which will save you $4,000 compared to our competitors. In the event of a major repair or replacement in the third year of ownership, our warranty could save you an additional $12,000. As for the life span, here’s a case study showing how many of our customers are getting 20 percent longer life out of this machine compared to their previous machines. That equates to a 10 percent lower lifetime cost of ownership — an additional $14,000 cost reduction. In total, you could reduce costs by $30,000 over the next five years with Component X.
There’s your headline: Reduce costs by up to $30,000 with Component X. Sounds easy, right? Not always. There are often barriers to being so specific. Luckily, they can usually be overcome.
Overcoming 3 common barriers to specificity
1. Your writer is too far removed – Most PR people and copywriters have never been present during a sales negotiation of the product they’re writing about. They could benefit greatly not only from running through common scenarios with the top sales people (and their customers), but also by being given access to any available testing data, competitive research and training materials that are otherwise labeled “internal” or “confidential.”
2. You can’t quantify it / can’t prove it – If you don’t have testing results or aren’t comfortable — legally — attaching a number to your claims (e.g., 10 percent higher productivity), then simply have someone else say it for you. Find a customer who can quantify the benefit of using your product versus the alternative.
3. You don’t have competitor information to compare to – Then go undercover. Rent a competitive model and conduct testing. Or simply turn to a customer who has experience with that competitor and can speak to the advantage of your product. If it goes against brand voice to specifically call out a competitor, refer to them in a generic manner — (e.g., 10 percent higher productivity than a leading competitor).
Grant us transparency and we’ll make an impact
Give us your 100-page field reports and technical training materials; connect us with your engineers, sales team and most loyal customers; give us your internal competitive analysis documents — no information is too in-depth for a competent marketing partner. At Two Rivers Marketing, we’re used to doing the legwork necessary to investigate the bold claims, back them up with quantifiable examples, communicate them with a level of specificity that makes an impact on the audience — and doing it all with a level of care that makes all stakeholders comfortable with promoting it.
Simply put, we don’t settle for fluff — and you shouldn’t either.