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Four (and then four more) reasons why lists work

If you have something to share, turn it into a list. People like to read lists.

Thus lists such as ‘Ten top tips for…’ are an essential element of popular magazines and increasingly found in professional and academic articles.

So the four key reasons why lists work is that a list implies to the reader that what follows is:

  • Short
  • Complete
  • Has been thought through
  • Will be easy to understand

So if you take your main marketing points or product benefits or almost anything, turn them into a list and give it a catchy title that includes a specific promise, you will be well on your way to a powerful communication tool.

The title should prompt action from the reader. Construction product manufacturers might try something along the lines of:

  • ‘10 practical reasons to choose a flat roof’
  • ‘Eight reasons why PIR insulation is best’
  • ‘Three top choices for waterproofing basements’
  • ‘12 iconic architectural projects’

Four reasons why they work for you

Lists are everywhere online these days; one of the most popular sites on the web (BuzzFeed) has achieved that principally by offering lists of strange facts. Those checked while writing this article included:

  • ‘35 surprisingly useful websites you never knew you needed’
  • ‘14 celebrities you never knew were the same age’
  • ‘22 reasons Wetherspoons is the best thing that happened to Britain’
  • ‘21 jokes so clever you probably won’t understand them’

A good list can provide things to agree or disagree about. People will share lists if they have sufficient value, and by creating lists for specific audiences you increase the chance of your list being shared.

Easy to read yet satisfying

People glance before they scan before they read and lists meet this formula perfectly. They are provided in a bitesize format to help that process.

Remember: if there’s one thing that turns readers off it is a long and complex paragraph. Lists are an antidote to information overload.

There is no need to scroll down to see how long an article is; you know what you’re getting and how long it will occupy you before you start.

Despite – maybe even because of – their brevity, lists make it easier to understand and recall information.

Plus they are easy to read on smartphones, which makes them even more accessible.

Educational AND entertaining

Because most lists are short they can be read as a pastime – indeed, speed of completion is often a deciding factor when browsing online.

With a list of things you want to know you can learn something without trying too hard. Lists can help educate you as well as providing a diversion from your real work.

Turn glancers into customers

There are two kinds of online users: those who are just looking for a quick read and those who keep coming back because they see you as a trusted source. Lists provide the path by which a glancer can become a customer.

Lists are an excellent way to attract glancers and once you’ve got them interested you have the opportunity to offer them more detailed, deeper information; then you are on your way to them becoming customers.

Your information will be relevant longer

Lists are usually a series of statements or assertions; they are not expected to be in-depth analyses of their subject matter. This means they date less quickly than complex articles and so will work longer for you.

So make a list of your possible lists and start listing.

Rick Osman works for Highwire Design, an agency that specialises in collaboration and development solutions for the construction industry – see www.construction-standards.com – as well as being a CIMCIG committee member and a judge for the Construction Marketing Awards. You can find out about more about marketing in construction and relevant events at www.cimcig.org

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