Why generalists make the best content writers

You are an expert in your field, or close to it. You know your business inside and out. What makes your business stand out, your edge over the competition, the nitty-gritty specs for your product — you’ve got it all down cold.

Your customers, on the other hand…

And now you need to produce content to get those customers to understand why you’re the best of the best.

Your first instinct is probably to just flat out tell them you’re the best. Direct, but ineffective.

Then you think again and decide, no, let’s show them with all the technical specifications and minutiae differentiating you from your competitors. Way too effective.

Think a third time!

Your customers don’t care about all that. I mean, they do, but they don’t actually know that. They don’t care about the granular details of your business. They want just enough information to push your product ahead of your competitors, and not a speck more.

A good content writer will be able to walk that line. And the truth is that a generalist — or at least a non-specialist in your field — can do it more easily than an expert.

Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

Hire a generalist because…

They won’t give too much information

Last week, I went mattress shopping.

All I know about mattresses is that I have a queen and it needs to be replaced. After that, all I care about is how comfortable it is and whether or not I can afford it.

The salesperson at the mattress store (let’s call him Matt) spoke at length about the chemical composition of the latex topper, the exact force of the springs, the source of the organic bamboo quilt, and the geographical distance between the spring manufacturer and the assembly facility.

Those things are really important… to the mattress company. Not me. I’m just a sleepy person who needs a bed.

Matt clearly knew what he was talking about and I had a lot of respect for his industry expertise, but it was an unhelpful waste of time. You definitely don’t want your site to be an unhelpful waste of time.

If your writer doesn’t even know the nitty-gritty, they can’t get bogged down by it.

They know the right questions to ask

If I’m going to drop a grand on a mattress, I don’t want to be blinded with teeny tiny details. Don’t use excess details to confuse me into parting with my money — tell me what I want to know and nothing more.

Did I ask about spring coil density? Did I somehow imply that I cared whether the topper was organic bamboo and that this would be my deciding factor? Noooope.

I just wanted to know if it was going to be comfortable, stay comfortable, and whether or not I’d wake up with a backache.

Matt was so busy telling me about the gauge of steel used that he forgot to use that information to actually answer that question. I went home and googled what I needed to know and guess what? His direct competitor had my answer. Yikes, right?

It did involve the coils, but I wasn’t asking about steel gauge, I was asking about what makes a mattress good quality. He was so close, but misinterpreted the question I was asking. Matt lost my interest when he went off on a tangent.

A generalist content writer is curious in the same way your customers are.

They also speak to computers

Don’t forget about SEO! Lord knows content writers can’t…

Generalist content writers’ greatest asset is SEO. Instead of deep industry knowledge, they rely on their ability to speak to search engines to make your content pop and rise to the top. They know that with the right phrasing and correct keywords, a solid article can put your product page in front of more eyeballs.

The trick to this?

It’s the last 2 bullet points.

But don’t hire a generalist if…

Your clients are also experts

If you’re a mattress spring salesperson, you don’t want a generalist telling mattress factories that springs are part of mattresses. They know that. These are the people who actually care about spring force. They care about the steel gauge and the diameter of the coils.

If you’re not telling your customers what they want to know, they’re going to bounce.

And if you‘re confident that your customers are as knowledgeable as you are, lean in. Impart your expert wisdom. We’re right back to where we started — answer the right questions and give the correct level of detail.

Accuracy means life or death

Latex toppers are, I guess, part of mattresses. If your chemical company relies on perfect precision or else the whole factory is going to explode, then, um, make sure whoever you’re educating about chemistry doesn’t misinform.

Don’t be vague or else you’ll explode!

Okay, so it’s probably not as dramatic as all that — perhaps you’re writing a user’s manual for some specialized spring-making equipment. For this, you need an expert. Someone who really knows the tiny details and spares none of them.

Sometimes you need perfect accuracy more than you need enjoyable content. So it goes.

So get out there and sell those mattresses!

The tl;dr is this: don’t get fancy.

Know your audience. Speak to them. Ask the right questions and give pertinent answers. Give just enough information to give you an edge and no more.

Sounds easy, but sometimes when you know too much, you forget what people are really asking.

So leave the legwork up to that generalist and go take a nap. You know which mattress will give you the best snooze.

Previously published on Medium

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s