As some of you know, I write articles for The Productivity Institute’s monthly newsletter. I was speaking with Bruce Newman, the Vice President of the company about some of the results the newsletter has gotten him and the people he features.

In last month’s issue, he noticed how one title attracted more attention than any other and he wanted to know why—so he asked! What a novel concept! Here are all of the article titles that were in the newsletter:

  • Why Even Good Marketing Fails – And How To Fix It
  • The Problem Of Self Examination
  • Knowledge Management Systems: It’s Not What You Know…
  • It’s All In The Details
  • People Drive ERP Systems’ Performance
  • Defining A Company’s Identity
  • A Violinist in the Metro – Washington, D.C.

Would you like to guess which one got the most attention? It was the last one “A Violinist in the Metro—Washington, D.C.” The comments he received are right in-line with what I recommend to companies—generic generated information may get you a small sale, but it will not get you the big and long sale.

Realistically, one article is not going to fix your problem, so telling someone in the title that you can fix it is a lie. Are you going to do business with someone who lies to you? I certainly wouldn’t. Yes, telling the reader up front what they are going to read about is direct and sets the expectation up front. It also takes an air of mystery out of it and makes reading your article an obligation. It will also disappoint your reader when you do not solve their problem. People do not want to feel like they have to do anything, they want to enjoy what they do and they want to want to do their job—so let them!

One of the comments Bruce received states this beautifully, “I instinctively gravitate toward articles that promise to engage me, especially if there’s a human element involved. The headline “A Violinist in the Metro…” does just that. It suggests a story with a twist. I would turn to it first. The other headlines are more generic. They don’t leap off the page at me.”

So a simple thing to keep in mind, if there is an online generator for it or you are promoting your company as a guaranteed [insert number] step solution to solve your customer’s problem; you are turning your product or service into a commodity. Once you become a commodity, you can’t customize!

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