Keep This In Mind: Make Your Material Memorable

8_23_15 geometry

“Can I ask a question?” said my classmate Gabriel, raising his hand. My geometry teacher stopped drawing and spun around. It was a typical morning in sophomore year and, as usual, I was struggling to keep my eyes open for an hour of math at 7:30 a.m.

“You can ask your question,” said Mr. Johnson, thrusting the chalk at Gabriel, as he always did when making a point to a student. “But before you do, remember: There are no stupid questions, only stupid people.”

Half of the class tittered, and the other half sucked in their teeth. I put down my pencil in surprise, uncertain what would happen and now completely awake.

Gabriel sat silently for ten seconds, slowly turning red, and said nothing. So Mr. Johnson turned back to the board and resumed his lesson. I exchanged glances with my neighbors; no one else raised his hand that day.

Why am I telling this story about a sarcastic (and sadistic) high school math teacher? Because what he said that day was unforgettable. It wasn’t one of life’s special moments. It was just a class like any other, only one made unique by an unexpected event.

I can’t recall a single thing I learned in geometry, but I do remember this small episode like it was yesterday. And though you don’t want to insult your customers and prospects, you do want to find a way to make your content memorable – to make it a standout part of an otherwise normal day.

Remember me

Making your content memorable is absolutely critical. Your target audience reads dozens of blog posts, news articles, Facebook statuses, and emails every day – how many of them will she recall in detail 24 hours later? Think about all the of the information you encountered yesterday. How much do you remember? How much did you ignore?

So how often is your white paper, or email marketing campaign, or other message being recalled?

Tricks of memory

At the most basic level, your content will probably be memorable it meets the rest of the MEDICAL standard, and cannot be memorable if it does not follow the other six rules for writing great content. There are also specific ways you can boost your memorability.

  • Use a hook to bring in your audience, like the above story about Mr. Johnson’s class. The reader is more likely to remember it, and everything else that follows.
  • Reveal information that will absolutely astound and impress your prospects. This could be a huge ROI from using your service, the percentage of companies in your target industry that suffer a common problem, or another important fact. The use of interesting data is probably the most common way marketers make their advertising and long-form writing memorable.
  • If appropriate, make your language bold, brash – even lurid. Many do not like the racy Super Bowl spots GoDaddy uses to draw attention, yet the company’s ads are certain memorable. Be cautious if you choose to go this route.
  • Paint a picture: Illustrate what your prospect’s life will be like if she uses your product or service. This can be the most successful way to be remembered, but might also be the hardest. Writing a truly compelling day-in-the-life is tough to do, especially within the confines of professional communication.
  • Or you can paint a picture literally (and if a picture is worth 1,000 words, how much is a video worth?) Good visuals will do more than draw the eye – they can also make the written material more engaging.
  • Above all, make sure your content talks about the benefits to your prospect, and does not simply list features. Very few people will read or recall a list of features, so you must explain how their jobs and lives will improve with your product. This is a cardinal rule of writing memorable content! There is, however, a partial exception for technical products aimed at a technical audience; in this case, your prospect will interpret the description of a feature in terms of its benefit.

This is only a partial list of the ways you can write memorable content.

Total recall

So how do you know if you’ve met the memorability standard?

If your work is memorable, your audience will be able to tell you what they read and what it meant, even well after reading it. Test it out on your business partners, family members, friends – anyone who will do you a small favor and be honest with you. Send them your draft copy and ask them to read it right away. Then, 2-3 days later, follow up and ask what they remember. Did they recall the main points you wanted your audience to know? If they did not, your content may be forgettable. Of course this rough method may not be feasible, and isn’t a substitute for data.

It’s best if you can conduct A/B testing comparing some old content against your new message. As you follow up with your prospects, ask a question that refers back to a key point you wanted them to remember (e.g., “I am calling because you downloaded our white paper about enterprise security and asked us to follow up with you. Do you recall from our paper what percentage of companies had a computer breach in the last 12 months?” If your latest material is memorable, more readers will remember your key takeaways. This tactic has the drawback of potentially distracting you during precious moments with your customer, and only works if you have old material to update.

Ultimately you will have to gut check yourself. Think back to the best two or three pieces of content in your industry that you didn’t produce. Why do you remember them? What did those authors do that you could do in your writing – without copying exactly what they said?

Whatever you do, make sure your writing is more memorable than the geometry you were taught in high school.

What are some ways that you have made your content more memorable? Tell us in the comments below.

The One Thing You Need to Remember to Write Great Content

8_21_15 robot arm

I was developing pitch materials for an industrial robotics part when I first began to think about what good content marketing meant.

I wondered how I could evaluate my work to decide if the right people would respond to it. Probably 99 people of 100 see the words “industrial robotics” and stop reading to fling some birds on their iPhone. But that 100th person! He might be interested in my client’s machinery. How could I tell if was writing something good?

Writing marketing content is hard. Whatever format you are working in, you have a limited amount of space and a large number of key words, brand concepts, and proof points to fit in. At the same time you are trying to align your language with the four Ps of marketing for your product (or is it seven Ps? Or 10? Or 44?).

The result can feel forced and unnatural. So many Ps! How can you tell if it’s any good?

I did some research to see what the marketing gurus had to say about writing great content, and began writing down the elements of an effective, targeted message. I realized that a great message could be boiled down into seven elements, and that a simple device could be used to remember them all.

I call it the MEDICAL method for writing and evaluating great content.

8_21_15 MEDICAL

MEDICAL stands for the seven elements of effective content:

Memorable: Great content must be memorable. Will readers still recall your main points an hour, a day, or a week later? If so, the writing meets this standard.

Exciting: Really good material is exciting. This can mean different things to different audiences, and ultimately is seen in how eager your readers are to promote it. Are you getting liked, retweeted, and shared? If you are, your content probably does the job.

Differentiated: Your content must be differentiated. The audience has to be able to tell you apart from your competitors. This can be accomplished lots of ways. If your readers can associate your key claims and phrases with your brand, then your content is differentiated.

Informative: At the most basic level, quality material must inform the reader. Your material must include all the information you want to the reader to know. If you’ve done this, you have an informative piece of work.

Consistent: Good writing is consistent. To meet this standard, your content not only has to be technically correct, it also must have a single voice across all your messaging. If you reader knows it’s your content from the language and the tone, then it is consistent.

Actionable: The most effective content contains a clear call-to-action. After reading, your audience should know what to do next: click a link, sign up for more information, pick up the phone, etc. If your writing causes your audience to take a specific follow-up step, then it has achieved this requirement.

Localized: Lastly, your material must be targeted to the correct audience. The words used must make clear to the reader that she is the intended user of your information. If the correct people are acting on your writing, then it is properly localized.

MEDICAL does not list the concepts in order of importance: they are all important. It’s just an easy way to remember the seven things that any great content will do.

Now when I evaluate or write content, I apply the MEDICAL test to see if it is doing everything it should. If one of these elements is missing, the content could be improved. It works for me, and hopefully you will also find it helpful. I focus on the written word, but I believe that MEDICAL can also be applied to other types of content.

In future posts, I’ll talk more about each of the seven elements of MEDICAL and apply them to some of the ideas I encounter in B2B marketing.

Breaking Through the Clutter


Hello! Thanks for stopping by

I’ve done a lot of writing in my time: reports, white papers, newspaper articles, technical documents, correspondence, even a little (lousy) poetry. I think I’m a pretty good writer, but even so, most of my intended audience probably never read what I wrote.

Let’s face it: We’re bombarded by written words every day. Thousands and thousands of them, vying for our limited attention. And a lot of them are pretty terrible.

It’s not that the writers do a bad job. It’s just that they can’t break through the clutter of everyone else’s messages.

The more time I spend writing, the more I’ve thought about how to get noticed. How can you get your audience to read your message? How can you get your audience to understand, remember, and act on your message?

In this blog, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on crafting compelling language, words that people will read and will use. I hope to hear your reactions and your ideas too – the best kind of language, after all, is a dialogue!