Claims vs. Facts and the Power of PersuasionFebruary 24th, 2011
The utilization of claims should be left to advertisers. Proposals, as a sales and marketing tool and potential basis for binding contract discussions, must inhabit the world of fact. Not only is this approach safer, but your documents will be that much more compelling for it.
Take this hypothetical example:
- “Brite ‘n White Toothpaste is the very best at getting teeth white, and tastes great!”
- “According to independent research, Brite ‘n White was found to whiten and clean
teeth more thoroughly than any other non-prescription brand of toothpaste. Additionally, Brite ‘n White scored in the top 3 in a double-blind taste test.”
The punchlines of these messages are essentially the same, but their impacts are dramatically different. In the first statement, a simple claim is made that is unsupported. While it may be a great sentiment to want to include in a proposal or marketing brochure, a claim left unsupported by fact is left open to doubt or outright dismissal by the reader.
The second statement offers a factual foundation for the claims made in the first. The toothpaste has been proven to be the best at cleaning teeth, and has scored quite well in terms of taste. The fact that there may be some prescription toothpastes that clean better, or as many as two others that taste better, serves to bolster the company’s credibility: they are willing to demonstrate their honesty by pointing out minor shortcomings while not detracting from the overall strength of their product’s position.
How to Make the Facts Work for You
Writing in a factually specific way requires employing a disciplined approach. Claims are easy to write and can sneak into your documents without your conscious awareness. The trick is to review your work critically and thoroughly, identifying all of the claim statements you have included. The keys to getting to a point where you can turn claims into facts are the following:
- Know your company’s internal metrics – Without knowing what you’ve done, where you’ve done it, for whom, and what results you’ve achieved, writing fact-based documents will be exceptionally challenging. Think of the relative power of the following statements:
- We have performed the scope of work detailed in the request for proposal many times for some of the most significant global companies in the transportation industry.
- We have executed this very scope of work more than 80 times. Of those engagements, over 20% were in the transportation industry. Additionally, we have performed this scope in TransPort’s headquarters location within the past 24 months. Finally, in each of our engagements, we were able to successfully complete the project within budget and ahead of schedule.
- When internal metrics are weak, develop approximations:
- If you cannot possibly develop precise numbers, establishing approximations can be effective: “We have completed this scope more than 125 times,” or, “We have worked with more than 35 companies in your industry.” These statements, while not totally precise, are factual and illustrative enough to elevate them over pure claims.
- Once you’ve established a line in the sand for these figures, you can add to them actual statistics tracked more accurately going forward.
- Develop some good, detailed case studies. Regardless of what statistics you have available, case studies help you demonstrate to prospective customers exactly how you’ve helped others resolve very similar challenges.
- Case studies augment statistics with factual details that illustrate the depth of your technical capabilities, responsiveness, flexibility and customer service as few other tools can.
- Of course, developing good case studies is easier said than done. In fact, we’ve seen this aspect of building knowledge management capabilities to be a significant challenge for almost every client we’ve worked with, so we’ll cover this topic separately in another post.
An Important Distinction: Statements from Others
As we discussed previously in Ten Easy Ways to Make Sure Your References Are Saying the Right Things About You, references are an excellent way for other people to rave about you in a somewhat subjective manner that frequently have the power of pure fact. Similarly, client testimonials (actual quotes from actual clients) are no less valuable in that the commentary of others about you is frequently given more consideration for its factual basis than any claims you can make about yourself.
Making your Facts Stand Out
You may find it tempting to bury your facts and figures within paragraphs of text, but we think facts and figures are important enough that they’re worth separating out in graphical form as diagrams or tables. For example, we keep the statistics below handy to credentialize ourselves to prospective clients. We think they are compelling facts presented in a way to make immediate impact:
So, make it a priority to replace claims with facts in your sales and marketing deliverables; your documents, and your results, will improve.
About Kinetic Group, LLC
Kinetic Group provides business communication services including brand/identity creation, website and marketing collateral design and content development, video production, and outsourced proposal/presentation writing. The Kinetic team brings decades of expertise developing the branding, positioning and communication tools that help clients establish unique identities, grow awareness and win business. The company serves companies around the world and across a wide range of industries with a distinct orientation toward practical, compelling output designed to achieve specific results in an efficient, client-centric fashion. Kinetic can be reached at (323) 465-5296 or firstname.lastname@example.org.