Why Your Writing Gets No Traction

Like you, I secretly suspect that all the “shortcut buttons” on my microwave do exactly the same thing.

We’ve got, Reheat, Defrost, Beverage, Popcorn, Vegetable and Potato (which, according to General Electric, is apparently not a vegetable).

And while I use the appropriate button as the opportunity arises, I have to say, I’m not convinced it makes any difference.

But you know what I’ve realized? It doesn’t matter.

Putting the specific buttons there for each item or situation in question makes the microwave seem more versatile … more fine-tuned … more expert and, maybe most important, more targeted to me.

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They’ve chosen six common uses and I have to admit that when I bought the thing, it felt good to know that all of them line up with my (exciting) culinary lifestyle.

And that’s important. Not necessarily from a functional standpoint – like I said, I can’t even tell the difference in terms of how the microwave operates.

I mean from a marketing standpoint – speak to me directly about things that matter (to me) and I’m more likely to both listen and buy.

You know what? The writing you do in the name of promoting your solo professional business works the same way.

Consider the following paragraph regarding proper dress when exercising in winter:

“When the temperature drops below freezing, and when running outdoors, it’s essential to keep your head well covered. Because while gloves, warm socks and other outerwear are important for comfort, failing to keep one’s head warm is the number one cause of hypothermia among distance runners.”

Seems pretty reasonable (and, given that I literally made that up while typing it, all the more impressive).

But it’s generic. It’s not written for anyone in particular; it applies, across the board, to humans.

What if though, and again, just to make something up, I told you that my business niche is “Personal Training for Bald Men Over 50.”

Now, my paragraph might read something like this:

“When the temperature drops below freezing, and when running outdoors, it’s essential to keep your head well covered. Because while gloves, warm socks and other outerwear are important for comfort, bald men over 50 are particularly susceptible to hypothermia while running in the cold.”

Pretty much the same from an information standpoint, right?

And yet, I think you’d agree that the second feels more direct. Wouldn’t you, as a bald man over 50 (don’t worry, it’s not so bad) be more interested, more connected, more captivated by this example?

And – here’s the million dollar question – if you wanted a personal trainer, wouldn’t you be more likely to call the guy who wrote the second paragraph than a trainer who worked with people in general?

Here’s the bottom line. I know it’s scary to focus on a niche, whether that’s a target group, a particular thing you do, a geographic location or something else of extreme specificity; it feels like you’re limiting your options. But what you’re actually doing is eliminating your one-size-fits-all competition.

So pick a niche and then commit to serving it. Just a few small changes in how you speak and write can have a tremendous impact on what prospective clients hear, remember and buy.

Wait, sorry, I meant to say: As a solo professional, just a few small changes in how you speak and write can have a tremendous impact on what prospective clients hear, remember and buy.

Discussion Questions:
1. Do you like bald men over 50? Me neither.
2. What do the buttons on your microwave say?
3. How do you adjust your writing to reach your niche?

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28 thoughts on “Why Your Writing Gets No Traction

  1. Michelle Morris

    1. I will soon be married to a bald man over 50, so yes. (Meaning I am married now, to a man who is bald, who will soon be 50…..).

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I appreciate the clarification, Michelle. It’s very common for women to *hope* they will someday find an over 50 bald man (we are in short supply), so you are lucky to already have one of our species!

  2. Wes Wilson

    As a “shaved-head enthusiast” in my mid-30s, I completely agree. Small word changes can make a tremendous difference. Thanks Michael!

  3. RickS

    I noticed recently three identical pain relief products next to each other on the supermarket shelf. They were priced differently, but they had the exact same contents. One was labelled Migraine Relief, one was Period Pain Relief, and one was Back Pain Relief. Needless to say I went for the cheapest, even though I am male…..

    But I suspect a good percentage of the population would have bought the one that most closely corresponded to their pain. And that is another good way to look at your market – what is their pain? Really, really specifically – WHERE are they hurting? You need to have your target market closely defined in order to offer them prescriptions that are effective.

    For more juicy brain nutrition on the subject of how laser [=narrow, concentrated] focus can help your life in surprising ways go here: http://www.wingstosuccess.com/the-terrifying-power-of-owning-one-word/

    Thanks Michael for another great post.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hello Rick!
      That’s a great, helpful way to look at shaping our respective services. I love how it’s focused on the client as opposed to ourselves, something which matters a lot if people are going to hire us. Hope your pain is all gone now too!

  4. Susan Rivera

    “When the temperature drops below freezing, and when running outdoors, it’s essential for YOU – the TRULY INTELLIGENT bald man over 50 – to keep your head well covered. Because while gloves, warm socks and other outerwear are important for comfort, bald men over 50 LOOK SO MUCH SEXIER TO WOMEN when they are not curled into a shivering lump, suffering from hypothermia….” 🙂

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Well put, Susan. I agree, the “shivering, hypothermic lump” approach to attracting members of the opposite sex does not work well!

  5. Kim

    Great article for someone like me who has changed her niche again and while I may be working on finding my specific voice for them, it’s getting a lot easier. Why? Because once I realized that I love change and my focus is working with teams in transition, it feels real and super important to me. I appreciate the subtle change you made in the above “fantasy blog” that made it more specific to the niche. I still get a little caught up when writing that perhaps anyone from my mom to my English teacher to my clients and neighbors could be reading. That tends to make for something that’s trying to appeal to everyone so by extension may appeal to no one. It’s a work in progress for sure.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hello Kim!
      I agree, definitely a fine-tuning (and never ending) process. I find in writing that’s it’s particularly helpful (for the reasons you mention and others) to write to A Specific person. It clears away those voices in our heads about who may not like it, etc. and lets us focus on delivering a clear message.
      And that’s an interesting microwave option! I wonder if microwave shortcut buttons vary considerably by culture in which they are sold, depending on common food preferences? Probably the source of much debate in the bowels of the General Electric marketing department!

  6. Stacy Williams

    I, too, like bald men over 50, particularly those who are fit enough to run outside when it’s that cold!

    I had smarter people than me tell me to narrow my niche for years, and I finally listened to them. We now only provide our services (search engine marketing & conversion optimization) to B2B Technology companies. That’s pretty darn narrow, and I have turned some prospects away.

    But, wow – is it ever easier to sell! It’s easier to identify my target audience, it’s easier to really understand their pain and speak directly to them, it’s easier to close sales…and I’ve effectively cut out all my competition because no one else specializes in this industry. A win-win!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I LOVE hearing that Stacy (the niche part I mean, although I’m glad about the over 50 man thing too)! I’ve seen the same happen with many people (myself included). It’s a bit counterintuitive, but so effective.

      I’m glad your business is doing so well,

  7. Jeremy Bromberg

    I think you’re en fuego today, Michael. Nice.

    I like bald men over 50 as much as I like any other man. Not at all.

    The buttons on our microwave don’t say anything.

    I don’t adjust my writing; my audience makes the adjustment. Seriously, the ease with which we can scattershot via Al Gore’s interweb, coupled with a fear of being wrong and therefore missing the market, are substantial contributors to the practice of not targeting.

    A book on networking makes the point that we tend to ask for referrals to “anybody” or “somebody,” yet close to no one is actually so named.

    It’s a hard lesson to learn and internalize, this targeting thing, but early experience shows that taking this tack often leads to more active and actionable response from others.

    Have a great weekend

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Very well put, my friend. And I agree, the ease of “broadcasting” leads to a lot of nothing in particular.

      And no buttons on the microwave?? Are you sure you’re not driving a toaster-oven over there?

  8. Jim Schaffer

    Another great newsletter Michael, and very consistent with what I’ve heard you say for fifteen years or more (along with “Would you quit your job, already?!”)
    As you know, I am not bald and over sixty, so I almost didn’t read your newsletter.
    Now that I have, I’m bummed that my microwave doesn’t have a “frozen Rosenfeld’s sesame bagel” button.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hello Jim!
      My toaster has both a bagel option (only toasts on the “inside”) and “frozen toast” option which, while seemingly an oxymoron, apparently defrosts the bread before toasting it. Trying to get it to interface with my iphone now but i may have to read the manual.
      P.S. I think it’s time for you to buy me dinner soon; I will email you….

  9. Charles

    1. Been part of the club for 17 years.
    2. My microwave doesn’t say much, but I swear the deep fryer is taunting me.
    3. I write usually write about a personal story or pop culture, then relate it to business. For example, I recently wrote about business lessons learned from my favorite horror movies.
    Leatherface was quite entrepreneurial.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hello Charles!
      I think you get full credit for all three answers! And I’m a big fan as well of your #3 approach – relating the personal to the business insight.

  10. Mark Henderson

    From one “chrome dome” to another (and we never need polishing), thanks for taking a stand for lonely niches everywhere in need of specialists to own. Rock On…

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Right back at you Mark!

      P.S. I’m thinking of starting a chrome dome business networking group. It would make for some great group photos if nothing else. Your invitation is in the mail…

  11. Sunni

    Lol the microwave is a great example. Well written as usual, Michael. You da man — and all da more man for being bald over 50. Now go cover up. 😉

  12. Strategic

    The microwave example was effective and I could really see the difference between the two paragraphs. It is also important to choose a niche you feel comfortable in because it shows.


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