Claude Hopkins wrote a whole chapter on ‘Being Specific’ in Scientific Advertising.

He was right in 1923 and he’ll be right in 2023.

“The weight of an argument may often be multiplied by making it specific. Say that a tungsten lamp gives more light than a carbon lamp and you leave some doubt. Say it gives three and one-third times the light and people realize that you have made tests and comparisons”. Claude Hopkins

I recently experienced a timely reminder of the importance of the iron-clad principle of ‘Being Specific’.

Looking at a content programme report I was intrigued by a particular set of performance metrics. One particular content piece was getting triple the CTRs of any other asset.

The reason?

It had a stat in the headline.

A simple stat that revealed 6% of companies in this particular segment have been impacted by a very specific threat. Not a vague generality but a specific number.

But we know specifics outperform generalities every time. And not just in the marketing world.

Be honest, which one of these road signs is more likely to lift your foot off the accelerator?









But can a ‘Being Specific’ mind set go beyond headlines and punchy content titles? Do we need to be really specific, and indeed brave, about the content topics we go for?

Brave because there is always a fear that some topics are too narrow and will be ignored by the majority in the target audience.

The right long tail can attract the short tail audiences

Vague content themes linked to generic value propositions = vague results.

Every value proposition and appending content theme ultimately boils down to the same narrative:

Reduce cost
Increase revenue
Reduce complexity
Reduce risk etc.

But adding a speck of specificity can make all the difference.

‘Discover how to enhance your revenue stream’ packs a lighter punch than ‘How to locate three new revenue streams hidden in your CRM in under 15 minutes’.

Focusing on a long tail subject matter doesn’t necessarily rule out the masses you want to reach in the short tail. People are naturally curious about answers to related problems. Ideas on one specific topic can be applied to other more personally relevant topics.

Stephenie Meyer wrote the Twilight series specifically for teenage girls. You could argue for a long tail of ‘angst-ridden teenage girls’. But it didn’t stop the mothers of the teenage girls buying the books in their millions too.

You can narrow the focus to broaden the appeal.

Why not experiment with providing a specific pill for the few, rather than the full instruction manual for the many?

Take a hard look at the macro themes that run across your content calendar and locate the small specific victories you could provide for your audiences. Your problem solving abilities to provide the bigger picture solutions will be implicit.

A balanced portfolio

Having an arsenal of content built around tight micro themes is a great way to test market response quickly. From a lead generation and data capture perspective ‘specific pills’ often outperform the wider themed pieces.

But balance is the key. There is a real role for those broader manifesto pieces.

Broader content pieces enable you to paint a picture of the future or offer a different perspective on the present. These pieces are where the real bonds of trust and authority are built.

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