We're excited to present this guest post by Tom Pick, who has been named one of the 50 most influential B2B marketing thought leaders, a Twin Cities Top 10 Titan in Social Media, and a B2B Marketer to Watch by the American Marketing Association. Read on for his thoughts on the power of using numbers in your writing.
A common theme in marketing commentary lately is the shortening of attention spans. Young people are turning away from blogs, magazines (do they still print those?), newspapers, and heaven forbid—books! We all want our news and information now in bite-size chunks, so we scan headlines on aggregation websites and check for quick status updates on Twitter and Facebook.
While that story line is exaggerated, the pace of life has accelerated in the decade and a half since the Internet became a practical, publicly available tool. We are bombarded with more information than ever before. Effective writing for the web must be concise and to the point. The careful use of numbers is one valuable method for maximizing communication while conserving space. Here are four ways numbers can help your writing.
1. Numbers get attention. Look at any compilation of “best of” or most-popular blog posts and articles and you’ll see lots of them with numbers in the title: “Top 10 Tactics for…”, “7 Ways to…,” “101 Ideas for…,” etc. We love lists. We crave the quantification of knowledge. Our brains are naturally attracted to headlines that use definite figures (such as “4 Reasons to Use More Numbers in Your Writing”).
Five of the ten most-visited posts on the Webbiquity blog over the last 30 days included numbers in the title, chief among them 55 (of the) Best Social Media Tips, Tactics and Tools of 2010.
2. Numbers add precision. Words like “some,” “many,” “most” and “few” give us only a vague sense of quantity. A prime example is the word “majority,” as in: the majority of grandmas on Twitter like this post. What is that “majority”—51%? 67%? 99%? It makes a difference.
3. Numbers are shorthand. Numbers can convey a great deal of information with minimal verbiage. For example: “The U.S. federal deficit was $1.5 trillion in 2010, equivalent to 1/9th of GDP.” Try to communicate that magnitude in a sentence without using any numbers. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Not easy, is it?
4. Numbers are compelling. The precision of numbers adds weight to an argument or claim. For example, suppose someone is trying to sell you SEO services. Which of the following is more likely to win your business?
“Significantly increased overall organic search traffic for client A, and grew non-branded search traffic substantially year over year.”
“Increased overall organic search traffic by 36% for client A, and grew non-branded search traffic by 64% year over year.”
Though both sentences say essentially the same thing, the use of exact quantities makes the second statement seem more real and convincing.
In short, using more numbers in your writing can help you attract more readers, deliver more value to those readers, and more effectively compel them to take action.
About the Author: Tom Pick is an online marketing executive with KC Associates, a Minneapolis-based marketing and PR firm focused on B2B technology clients. He's also the award-winning writer of the Webbiquity blog, which focuses on B2B lead generation and Web presence optimization.