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Why would anyone want to read this?

I’ve mentioned before the technique of ruthlessly asking yourself “so what?” after you’ve finished writing something. This forces you to concentrate on the benefits of a product, rather than the features. As a reminder, when you’ve written a headline saying: “Our company launches a new blue widget”, the conversation in your head should go like this:
“So what?”
“Well, it’s interesting, because it’s faster”
“So what?”
“Well, because it’s faster, customers can reduce cycle times”
“So what?”
“Well, reduced cycle times means more output without buying a new machine”
“So… shouldn’t the headline talk about a low cost way to increase production volumes?”

There’s a variation on this which you might prefer, which can lead to similar insights. It involves asking the simple question: “Why would anyone want to read this?”

In some respects, it works even better.

The question not only focuses your attention on the reader, it gives you an idea about who you should be targeting with the piece. It really works. When you ask “Why would anyone want to read this?”, you no longer end up with a press release sent to the world, saying “We appoint a new sales rep for southern England”. Instead, by being ruthless, you end up with a piece entitled: “Your new contact at our company really understands your market” and you send it just to customers in southern England. Because when it comes to the original “We appoint a new sales rep for southern England”, the answer to our question is “There’s no reason at all why anyone would want to read this”.

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