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Tips for writing product evaluation guides“List” stories are a staple in journalism and in marketing copy. Think “Five Things You Should Consider When Buying an SDD” (solid state drive,) “Five Things to Know about HIPAA-compliant Cloud Storage” and this five-step list from Dell Inc. on how to secure the Internet of Things.

Such “list” stories work well, if they’re done right, because they’re easy to read, deliver useful information and build your reputation as an industry expert. Done wrong, they’re clueless marketing fluff that hurts your brand.

What Not to Do

Try this list of five things to look for in a marketing writer:

  1. A decade or more in the IT trade press, which gives them in-depth knowledge of all types of technology.
  2. Extensive reporting experience, which helps them ask the right questions to understand your marketing message.
  3. Recent in-depth experience writing about the cloud, storage, security and global services.
  4. A short beard which shows maturity, yet coolness.
  5. A hard-to-spell last name, which taught them from an early age how to be accurate and double-check what they write.

So what might a “what to look for” list look like that is generic enough to be useful, but hits enough of the vendor’s strong points to ring the sales bell?

What To Do

  1. Be honest about real-world pros and cons. For example, the SSD piece pointed out that, for maximum performance, you need to keep 20-30 percent of the SSD empty. Built trust by telling the reader inconvenient truths like this before they learn them elsewhere.
  2. Show you understand your audience by focusing your advice on them. If it’s SMBs, your list might include ease of use and low cost. If it is enterprises, it might include ease of integration and scalability.
  3. Talk about human and cultural, not just technical, features. Dell’s IoT security advice, for example, includes the need to educate users on security. I doubt Dell even sells security training, but it shows their real-world experience. An added benefit: If you don’t sell training or consulting, cultural issues are the customer’s problem, not yours.
  4. Don’t make your “advice” so feature-specific it’s clear you’re describing yourself as the answer to everyone’s needs. (See my list, above.)
  5. And avoid “superlative” adjectives such as “strongest,” “fastest,” “broadest,” “most scalable,” in describing what to look for. That’s how vendors talk, not customers, who realize different products have different strengths in different areas.

Now, a question for you.  Should you include your own, or your client’s, products as examples of what to look for in such “list” stories or do they destroy credibility? Give me your best advice and it may make it into a future blog post.

(Check out these other tips for fine-tuning list stories inspired by a survey of customers done by the folks at marketing/IT support site Spiceworks.)

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

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Filed under: Content Marketing For IT VendorsCopywriting Tips

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