That popular marketing maxim—“Content is King”—may still be true…
…but for how much longer?
Because, as we’re both aware, there’ a disturbing—and escalating–problem facing us…
There’s too damn much content out there.
Just look at your e-mail inbox. Or try this. Tweet something. Then click the Twitter “Home” button. More than likely when you get there, three to four other posts have already replaced yours at the top.
The situation for print is no better. Just check out a local magazine rack—it’s a cornucopia of content. You’ll find material for diverse markets and niches, both the expected and the mind-bonking.
So it’s obvious. Creating one-of-a-kind content is more critical than ever. But how does the clever content writer do that?
Kick crap copy in the crotch—with the aid of this old friend…
Maybe not so surprisingly, the answer lies in a battle-tested tactic found in the copywriter’s tool box.
It’s called the Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
Created by advertising heavyweight Rosser Reeves, a USP has three precise requirements:
1. Each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer. Each advertisement must say to each reader: “Buy this product, and you will getthis specific benefit.”
Apply this aim—“read this X, and you’ll get Y”–not only to your articles, blogs, emails, but also to your brochures, specials reports and other content.
2. The proposition must be one that the competition either cannot, or does not, offer. It must he unique—either a uniqueness of the brand or a claim not otherwise made in that particular field….
Here, substitute approach for proposition.
3. The proposition must be so strong that it can move the mass millions, i.e., pull new customers to your product.(1)
Or in our case, impel your reader to want to consume all of your content.
One problem though…
As any copywriter can tell you, USPs don’t grow on trees. Serious thinking is needed.
But if you want your target audience’s attention, your content needs to stick out like a Louisville Slugger among broomsticks.
And below, you’ll find 10 methods that use the USP concept to help you do that…
Work the quirk
Accent a strange or even bizarre element in your content (Successful public speaker curses like a sailor when not on the podium). Readers are jaded—so delight them with the unexpected.(2)
Offer a contrarian solution
Opposites attract…readers? Yes, for the same reason mentioned above. So first, brainstorm. Then write down the usual approach, and across from that, put down conflicting methods. Pick one or more that fit your aim.(2)
Slaughter a sacred cow
Similar to the above, except here you aim your attack at an established rule, belief, or way of thinking.(3)
For example, for several years, many workout experts have claimed that High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is unrivaled as a method of exercise.
You assault this with, “Not so fast. HIIT damages joints long-term and only works for a short period.”
Combine ideas, things, or trends
Try joining two or three related concepts (i.e. the persuasion sciences and landing page conversion). Or, link unrelated ones (i.e. chess strategy, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War,and business growth). Brainstorm to see what works.(2)
Apply a “What if” question to your main idea
This question can push the limits of your imagination and help dramatically expand your creativity.(3)
For instance, ask “What if certain super-fruits could not only extend life but also increase the number of decades both men and women remain fertile?”
Dig beneath the surface
Don’t stop with your first decent idea.(3) Dig deeper—for sharper, even more profound ones.
Brainstorm. Use Google. Check with others. Make a mind map (Main idea in the middle of the page, build off that.).
Beware the unplanned consequences
Say you have your basic claim, promise or proposal decided. Ask “What are the ultimate unintended effects—good and bad—of these ideas.(3)
Suppose your pushing the thesis that customer service managers should place espresso machines that offer free coffee in their break rooms. You claim that reps will be sharper, more personal, more involved with customers.
You experiment at the office and find: It works, but the combination of stress and high amounts of caffeine causes several employees to respond rudely to problem customers.
Now you have an intriguing kink to study.
Atypical Point-of-View (POV)
Provide your info or tell your story from a non-human POV. And I don’t mean the usual fly-on-the-wall viewpoint.
Get creative. Writing about lawn care? What would a gopher or mole not want a homeowner to do?
Writing an article about the value of personal hygiene? How and why would a zombie disagree?
Choose a topic and then pick a theme that helps present your content in a unique but fun—and suitable—way.
My preferred theme source is Selma Glasser’s “The Analogy Book of Related Words”(1990). It contains 205 concepts ranging from anatomy and agriculture to medical and military to writing and the zodiac.
Of course you can use other sources—Google, Bing and so on—or brainstorm to craft the right theme for you content.
Reframe the context
Pick an event, belief or trend then reframe–or transform–the context.(4)
Your readers are tired of the bland swill too many writers are serving. They want to savor content that offers a fresh or even unfamiliar perspective.
For example, here’s a splendid example of a reframe by noted psychiatrist/psychologist Milton Erickson. When challenged about client failures, for example in hypnotherapy sessions, he replied: “There is no failure, only feedback.”(4)
Content readers are drowning in a sea of same-old, same-old…
So be their lifeguard. Only your job is to rescue people from the mind-marmalizing effect of consuming humdrum, and often cannibalized, content.
And if you keep this USP concept and these 10 methods in mind, you’re all set to step into that role today.
1) Reality in Advertising, Rosser Reeves, 1961
2) Creativity Now, Jurgen Wolff, 2012
3) Creative Whack PackTM , Roger von Oech, 2003
4) NLP Practitioner Manual, Dr. Steven G. Jones, M. Ed., 2010
About the author: Dale L. Sims
Dale L. Sims is a stealth sales strategist based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Also, from May 2010 to Jan. 2014, he served as marketing coordinator and health consultant for Healthy Design, a supplement and fitness product distributor in Cadillac, Michigan.
Plus, he is a former reporter, editor, and radio advertising salesman. (if needed–rep, person etc.)