Because if you think the industry you’re writing for is boring, you’re either talking to the wrong audience or don’t understand the first thing about what makes your customers tick.
I know what you’re thinking: There are some things that are objectively boring — except to total nerds who live in their parents’ basements and never wear pants.
I call BS.
Let’s say you manufacture and sell the little plastic bags that retailers put customers’ purchases in. How much is there to say about plastic bags? Wrong question. The question isn’t what to say about the bags themselves; the question is what to say about how they can make the target audience’s life better or worse. That could include:
- How much it costs when you lose a customer because your flimsy bags broke in parking lot and the customer had to gather everything up in a downpour, all while making sure their two toddlers didn’t get hit by a car.
- How bags that are hard to open lengthen check-out time, irritating customers and affecting cashier productivity.
- Horror stories about retailers who ran out of bags because their low-cost provider dropped the ball.
See what I mean? It’s not that the bags themselves are so fascinating. It’s the real people on the other side of those bags and all the ways in which choosing the wrong bag vendor could be costing them sleep (or driving their blood pressure through the roof). Except for (presumably) a lack of things to talk about at parties, the people who depend on that boring industry for their livelihoods are just like you and me: They have mortgages to pay and kids to send to college. They care about their customers and don’t want to let them down. They want to increase their profit margin and cut costs without negatively affecting the customer experience (and ultimately losing business). They want to impress the boss, if they have one (not to mention their friends and neighbors).
In other words, while they may not be all that fascinated by the ins and outs of sourcing plastic bags, they’re deeply interested in the things their bag-sourcing decisions affect. They’re people…and that’s the level on which you have to engage them.
As an example from my own world, let’s say I’m working with a client who’s in retail operations. I doubt there’s anything I could write that would make him give a flip about the Oxford comma. But if the presence — or lack thereof — of an Oxford comma caused people to misinterpret his return policy, he’d sure as heck care about that. Here are a few more:
Boring: Baby diapers
Not boring: Your kid springing a leak in the middle of a fancy restaurant, or keeping you up all night because her nether regions are raw.
Boring: Industrial water pumps
Not boring: Ruining a multi-million dollar piece of machinery because the pump wasn’t properly maintained (plus all the business that’s lost while you wait for a replacement).
Boring: Commercial roofing
Not boring: Getting sued because your roof collapsed and injured employees or customers (not to mention bringing business to a halt). Costing yourself a bunch of money because you didn’t know that installing things on the rooftop without consulting your vendor would void the roof’s warranty. Impressing your boss by showing him how a reflective coating can reduce energy usage. And so on…
Boring: Data center cabling
Not boring: Having to reinvent the wheel because you never documented your cabling — and all the people who might remember how it was done have left the company.
Boring: The sensors used to monitor the temperature inside refrigerated trucks
Not boring: Having to take a loss on an entire truckload of food or pharmaceuticals because you can’t prove it was kept at a safe temperature the whole time it was in your possession.
Even if there aren’t that many people (except for the aforementioned basement-dwellers) who are truly interested in the mechanics of your industry for its own sake, those mechanics affect the lives of real people. It’s not the technical details that make your industry interesting to them. It’s how that industry keeps them up at night worrying, or has them cracking open a bottle of champagne in celebration.
So step back from the boring details and focus on the human aspect. Don’t think, “How can I make the manufacturing process of Chemical X interesting?” Ask yourself how Chemical X affects peoples’ lives on a human level. Ask yourself what can go right, what can go wrong, and what that means for the real people on the receiving end. Those are the things to write about — the intimately human impacts that make up the hopes and fears of just about every person on the planet. And what could be less boring than that?
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