Add color and credibility to your copy with numbers
Which personal finance story would draw you in? One that starts:
Are you saving enough for retirement, no matter how young you are?
Or one with this lead, from Northern Update, the marketing magazine of Northern Funds:
A 45-year-old couple making $80,000 a year today will need $4 million at retirement to live comfortably through their 80s.
The latter? Me, too.
Name names and number numbers. Draw attention to your message and prove your points with numerical detail.
1. How big is big?
Show readers size and scale with statistics and comparison.
Here’s a before example, the lead of a content marketing piece a client sent me to edit:
Some 43 hectares of sport tracks will reach nine kilometres in total in order to meet the requirements of the International Federation of Mountain Skiing (FIS). The resort has therefore been equipped with a state-of-the-art XYZ system. ABC’s value-added reseller, Whozits, was commissioned to implement the system. …
There’s a number in there, but it’s not used to build the story, set the scene or make a point. Here’s the after, this time with more statistical evidence to make a point about the client’s project:
In Russia’s Western Caucasus, some 30 km from the Black Sea, a massive mountain range soars up to 1,760 km — more than a mile — above a tiny subtropical village called Krasnaya Polyana. There, the world’s best athletes will assemble for the alpine skiing competition at the 2014 Winter Games.
But that spectacular terrain also adds up to a major event security communication nightmare. …
2. How small is small?
So how small is small? Is it the size of a thumbnail? An iPhone? A toaster? A backpack? A car?
Help readers see size and scale with comparison.
In this before, the client had included a laptop analogy, but buried it further in the story:
Temporary communications coverage is often needed to get the job done – whether that’s delivering security at a major event or completing a big engineering project on time. Whatever the need, the world’s smallest base station makes rolling out coverage easier than ever.
The XYZ base station from ABC is the smallest base station in the world, yet it packs in the same powerful features as its big brother, the XX. These include fast TK data, air-interface encryption, 123 handover and base station fallback. …
But if the whole point is size, lead with that. Here’s my rewrite:
The world’s smallest base station makes rolling out coverage easier than ever
It’s little larger than a laptop. But that’s what makes ABC’s XYZ mini base stations — the smallest base stations in the world — so powerful.
You can use them to quickly roll out temporary communications coverage. They fit into tight spaces, save energy and money and even go mobile when necessary.
Talk about small packages. …
How wet is wet?
If your point is “prone to flooding,” then make that point statistically. Here’s another before, from that same client:
Digital communications plays a major role in this flood management plan and Tianjin has an 800 MHz XYZ network comprising one switch and 15 base stations covering both the city and its suburbs. In addition, one dispatcher workstation and around 100 terminals are used. …
OK, my basement is prone to flooding, too. But how wet is wet? Here’s my rewrite, supplemented with 6 minutes of online research:
Specifically, Tianjin risks losing nearly 100,000 residents and $30 billion in assets in a deluge, according to a report by Risk Management Solutions.
As Tianjin leaders work to safeguard the sixth largest city in the People’s Republic of China from potentially devastating floods, they employ a surprising tool. In addition to channels, reservoirs and hydraulic monitoring, city officials rely on an 800 MHz XYZ network, developed by ABC. …
Add concrete detail with statistics.
Startling statistics are amongst more than 6 types of concrete material to try.
“If you want to be credible, be specific,” writes Doug Williams, a principal in Tomasini-W2K. “Heinz doesn’t have a ‘multitude’ of varieties; it has 57. Bressler’s doesn’t have a ‘whole lot’ of flavors; it has 33. There aren’t ‘many’ deadly sins; there are seven.
“Well, eight, if you count vague writing.”
How can you make your message more colorful and credible with statistics?
What questions do you have about using statistics in your message?