Write spectacular content by defeating these 3 dangerous assumptions
Updated: Mar 11
"Great game last night, huh?"
Have you heard this killer icebreaker before?
If I saw "the game" in question, oh man, you've caught my attention. Carrying on about football is my love language.
The conversation-starter sounds like a great way to grab attention. But with this question, you're hoping to connect based on two assumptions: they saw the right game and they're not one of the 4 in 10 people who don't give a damn about sports.
You're making assumptions that can quickly kill the mood if it doesn't pan out. ☠️
It’s time to defeat the common copywriting assumptions that kill the effectiveness of your web content. Learn how you can kick these dangerous assumptions to the curb to finally establish a common ground with your audience.
The 3 dangerous assumptions killing your copywriting effectiveness
What are the most damaging assumptions you can make when trying to connect with your reader through written content?
Assuming the reader cares about the topic for the exact same reasons that you do
Assuming the phrases and acronyms used by people in your company or industry are commonly accepted expressions
Assuming the customer knows what you're even talking about. Simplification is not a sin!
In a monthly newsletter from the Gotham Writers Workshop, the Dean of Faculty wrote, "If your opinion is, say, the rent is too damn high, the [assumption] undergirding it is that rent should be affordable."
Let's learn how to buck these common copywriting assumptions and find fresh ways to establish a common ground with your audience. Let's dive into the three dangerous assumptions that can kill the effectiveness of your web content.
Dangerous assumption #1: Assuming your customer cares about the topic for the exact same reasons you do
The CEO of Washingtonian magazine found herself in hot water. Her piece lambasted the death of office culture, calling for the firing or demotion of anyone unwilling to return to HQ post-quarantine.
The assumption here? That "office culture" is a cherished experience worth saving.
Do people think that? Apparently not. After its publication, her staff went on strike for a day, and she became social media's punching bag of the moment.
For many people, writing customer-attracting content requires this shift in mindset: snobbery just isn't an optimal route for crafting a compelling and convincing argument.
Don't head for the 'X' button just yet; it's not a diss! Being an expert in the trenches often comes with an inherent snobbery. It's human nature, and we all do it. The more time we invest in a particular subject or industry, the more we want to bask in it and the more we want to gloat about it.
We want to share the expertise we've learned.
We want to be able to finally flex the inside-baseball jargon we've heard the "heavy hitters" toss around.
Using those specialized expressions makes us feel like we've finally earned our seat at the cool table. 💁♀️
It takes some time, and you might have to swallow a little pride, but 75% of customers don't care about that stuff. They want to know what's in it for them. They want to know:
How you're going to help them finish a task faster
The ways your product saves them money (and how much!)
How your company knocks out a problem so they can quit stressing about it
How your business satisfies a long-standing desire (like wealth, comfort, having more time, safety)
Most readers haven't studied your industry's tomes and texts. Assuming your customer cares about a list of 500 nuanced bullets detailing all the technical specs will earn more eye rolls than sales.
Dangerous assumption #2: Assuming industry jargon is commonly understood
We're all guilty of clique speak. In fact, The Atlantic refers to it as "familect," the fun phrases we invent with those we're close with. We craft it with our family members, our coworkers, and industry peers.
Calling baseball "the stick one" or a particular neighbor the "thumber" wouldn't resonate with anyone outside my household. Similarly, expressions like "APR" or "interest" might sound like no-brainers for web copy or blog content within the finance industry. After all, the terms are short, sweet, and get right to the point, right?
Wrong: The National Financial Educators Council quizzes Americans to grade their understanding of the terms underpinning how to save and grow money. Of the 60,000 test-takers, slightly over half earned a passing grade. The average grade for those aged 25-35 was a C+. Turns out, these terms, terms the industry view as "a given," might as well be Dothraki if you're trying to attract everyday banking customers. (And I'm 100% confident you know what Dothraki is.)
Dangerous assumption #3: Assuming that the reader knows what you're talking about (Simplifying your presentation is not a sin!)
Making something easy to understand is not the same as "dumbing it down," it's far from it. Even NASA, irrefutable engineering experts, put in serious legwork in the 1960s to make space knowledge accessible to media and people who don't have PhDs in rocket science.
The small PR team created Apollo Mission Analyzers. These cardboard circles presented something significantly complex—a mission to the moon—as a pocket color wheel you might remember as a kid.
Instead of rotating the blue tab into the yellow wedge to find out they make green, you could match up the day with the time to find out what the astronauts were up to. (Pro tip: If you're enamored with the space business like me, check out Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program by David Meerman Scott and Richard Jurek.)
The presentation might sound "cutesy" to an information elitist. But, they were wildly effective tools for captivating audience interest in space exploration. Check out some great ways you can engage customers with interactive content on your website.
Understand these assumptions to start writing better content!
It's time to throw ego out the window and tell your story in attractive, relatable ways that connect with your readers, not with you, your C-Suite, or top engineer, or the target market of the business next door. By defeating these three assumptions, you'll be well on your way to writing more effective web content.