Marketplace Success Tips: Be Specific, Not Generic

by: SA Author Experience


Generic works to sell breakfast cereal - it is not an effective way to sell your Marketplace service.

From your articles to your marketing to how you serve them, you need to be uber-specific about why customers should sign up for your service.

Take our "specificity sniff test" to see if you need to up your non-generic game.

By Robyn Conti, Marketplace Contributor Success Strategist

When consumers want to SAVE money, they're usually content to buy generic. From cereal to prescriptions, who doesn't like to save a dollar by buying generic vs. name-brand? However, for consumers looking to MAKE money, generic typically doesn't hold the same appeal.

Here's why: If a consumer is going to shell out their hard-earned dollars for something that, in theory, can help them create even more money, then they'd better be damn sure that they're getting real value out of it. So, if you're selling a product or service - like a subscription service on Seeking Alpha's Marketplace, for example - the last thing you want to do is be generic in your offering or the language you're using to sell it. Your value proposition - why someone should buy your service - has to be clear, specific, and obvious. Simply put, if a potential subscriber doesn't understand the value inherent in what you're offering, they're not going to buy it. All this to say, generic is not an effective sales strategy.

End-to-end, every aspect of how you market and present your service has to be as specific possible. From your marketing to your value proposition to how you service customers and your content strategy - the articles you post on the public site vs. what you post on your service - all need to have a unique flavor that resonates with your target audience. Again, being generic won't grow your following, it won't bring subscribers in the door, and it won't compel them to stay if they do decide to give your service a shot. To hammer the point home: generic isn't going to cut the mustard.

Think about well-known brands and their taglines, and what makes them stand out. Nike: Just Do it. Apple: Think Different. Bounty: The Quicker Picker Upper. Dunkin' Donuts: America Runs on Dunkin. McDonald's: I'm Lovin' It. To be clear, these are just examples of how each company conveys, albeit succinctly, the value that it offers. That said, slapping a tagline or slogan on your service won't do the job of un-genericizing it, either.

What do all of these great brands have in common? They're memorable, they include a key benefit, they differentiate the brand, and they impart positive feelings about the brand. They follow the old classic marketing advice: "sell the sizzle, not the steak." Which is a fancy way of saying sell the benefits (what's in it for the consumer?), not the features (the nuts and bolts of the offering). In short, there's nothing generic about them.

Here's an example: We frequently work with authors one-on-one, and they'll say "I offer my investing ideas, isn't that enough? What are readers missing?" Frankly, no, it isn't enough to simply say "readers get access to my investing ideas." What's so unique - or non-generic - about that? Anyone can provide investing ideas. It's what you do FOR investors, and how you package your ideas, that counts. And that's what readers will pay for, as long as you convey the value you offer in a way that's meaningful and compelling.

What does that look like? We characterize a "good" service as one that offers not only ideas but is very specific about HOW investors can benefit from those ideas, and WHY the author running the service is uniquely qualified to help them. For example, an author with two decades of investing and professional money management experience might compile his or her ideas into an actively managed portfolio. In that way, subscribers benefit not only from the ideas themselves but also the author's vast expertise and his or her specific approach to managing those ideas to achieve specific performance metrics. In this instance, subscribers may also receive regular portfolio reviews and updates and other "perks" that help them become better investors and manage their money more effectively and efficiently as a result of being a member of that particular service.

Features like these provide an "anchor" for an author's Marketplace service - they offer subscribers something to gravitate towards and provide additional value beyond generic "ideas." You might be the greatest investor in the world - heck, you might be Warren Buffett - but if you aren't being specific about the value you're bringing to the table and how you can help investors up their game, they're likely to pass you right by. Even Warren Buffett has a value proposition, and it stems beyond his track record as an investor (although that doesn't hurt). He's known for listening to his intuition, bucking the herd mentality, and sticking to his own investing discipline, and he's made tons of money by sticking to those principles. And plenty of investors follow him because of that.

So, you see, there's a big difference between saying "you get my ideas" and "you get a portfolio of 20 dividend stocks, 3 new ideas a month, and regular portfolio updates and reviews to help you stay the course and generate a steady stream of income." In the second example, the offer and the value are specific and obvious.

Specificity applies to how you run your service as well - be specific about what you are doing so readers can fit it into their workflow. A seeming trivial example - how you title your Marketplace articles. Your titles become the subject line in the email your subscribers read, and you probably want them to click and read, right? So, make the title specific and compelling, so they have a reason to check in. Tell them what stock you're writing about, add bullets that describe the contents of the article in a way that piques someone's interest, and even provide some context in the title about what type of article this is. "Portfolio Update: Fox's Vote On Disney And What We're Doing." This tells me as a reader what I'm going to get while making me want to learn more.

If you're worried that your pitch might fall on the non-specific side of generic, here are some questions you can ask yourself - sort of a generic "sniff test," if you will:

  1. Are you being clear about what you're offering/writing about?
  2. Is your value proposition specific and obvious?
  3. What's special about you and the service you offer? In other words, what sets you apart?
  4. How does your service help subscribers become better investors?
  5. Would someone who is not familiar with your service be able to tell, quickly and easily, what makes it unique, relevant, and useful to them?

Again, the bottom line is, being generic isn't going to help you gain subscribers. In fact, it'll likely have the opposite effect, in that they won't notice you, because they're not getting the sense that you're offering anything specifically for them or they can't understand what you're offering at all. By being specific, clear, and obvious in your approach to marketing and selling your Marketplace service, you stand a very real chance of standing out from the crowd and building a strong subscriber base. It's not rocket science. It simply requires a shift in how you present your value. To hit that refrain one more time: be specific, not generic.

Marketplace Success Tips is a monthly series designed to help Marketplace authors become better at promoting themselves and their services on Seeking Alpha through marketing, content strategy, developing a clear value proposition, providing exceptional customer service, and more. If you have a suggestion for a future installment, a question you'd like answered, or feedback on this series, please email Robyn at or leave a comment below.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.