Are You Undermining Your Marketing Message?

One of the best pieces of writing advice I received from a VP of sales was to search marketing copy for the word “can”–and delete it. Nine times out of ten, the word “can” unnecessarily weakens a marketing message. For example, compare these two sentences:

  • Our software can reduce your project development time by 15 to 20 percent.
  • Our software reduces your project development time by 15 to 20 percent.

If you hesitate to commit yourself to a marketing message unless the word “can” appears, maybe it’s time to rethink the message. Would “10 to 20 percent” or “up to 20 percent” make you more comfortable in the second sentence? If the “can” is absolutely necessary in that sentence, where else might you omit it?

I often call “can” one of the weasel words: a way to weasel out of a written commitment to the customer. The most severe case of weaseling I ever came across was by an engineer who wrote that an improvement “averaged approximately in the range of about 15 percent.” The word “averaged” said all that needed to be said about the precision of “15 percent”–those extra words (approximately, in the range of, about) merely emphasized the engineer’s fear.

Marketing copy that is high on adjectives (state-of-the-art, proactive, results-oriented, customer-focused) and low on specific examples, numbers, and photos also undermines your marketing message. Find me a business that is not customer focused, and I’ll show you a truly unique business model. Otherwise, let testimonials, case studies, awards, and photos of happy customers prove your claims of superior customer service.

Multiple uses of “can,” a refusal to commit to a certain standard of excellence, and a reliance on adjectives instead of proof, all have the same effect on the customer: a growing doubt that you know whereof you speak.

TWP Marketing & Technical Communications helps businesses develop a strong, focused marketing message they and their customers believe in. Contact us today and consider us your can-do writers.

Put Your Marketing Message in FOCUS

Whenever a website or brochure begins with a list of all the services and products the company offers, I cringe. Lists don’t tell me, the consumer, what I most need to know: can this company solve my problem? From the company’s perspective, of course, the difficulty is in figuring out which problem. And that’s where FOCUS comes into play.

FOCUS stands for friendliness, opportunity, currency, up-selling and satisfaction. Every marketing message needs FOCUS:

Friendliness: Think of times you’ve wades through someone’s list of products and services searching for the exact one that addresses your problem; or you were treated to hundreds of words about how great a company is without ever quite understanding what the company does. When you focus your message, you guide your customers quickly to the information they need–and they are grateful.

Opportunity: What do most of your customers ask for most often? What complaints do they make most frequently about your competition? Your marketing message should focus on those gaps and explain how you’ll fill them.

Currency: We all need to make an income. What product or service brings you a steady income you can live with? That one deserves top billing in your marketing message.

Up-selling: Sometimes the item customers want most is not the item that brings you the most income (or satisfaction). But it provides an opening for you to demonstrate your skill, forge a relationship and suggest other products and services.

Satisfaction: We do best what we enjoy most. When you find that sweet spot where your customer’s needs match what you like to do, then you have a viable business and a very strong marketing message.

Do you need help to FOCUS your marketing message? Contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications; clear, focused writing is what we do.

Add Wow to Your Marketing Message, Part 3: Power in the Details

In Part 1 of this series on marketing messages, we strengthened your verbs; in Part 2 we eliminated vague adjectives. Now it’s time to connect with your customers by giving them the details that differentiate you from your competitors.

  • Do you regularly complete projects “on time and under budget”? Consider a success story that describes how you delivered a project 4 months ahead of schedule and $3,000 below estimate.
  • Are you manufacturing “extremely precise” measuring devices? Let people know exactly how precise: your devices measure down to 0.00004 inch; measure the width of a cell; are certifed by the International Standards Organization (ISO).
  • Are you regularly employed by “large international companies in every industry”? Define “large” by giving a range of numbers (companies with up to $4 billion in assets and 15,000 employees); clarify “international” with the number or names of countries or their general locations (North and South America, Europe and Asia); and list the industries you’ve worked in.
  • Are you “the best hairdresser in your area”? Describe your specialty in cutting extremely thin hair; mention your community service in offering free back-to-school haircuts to children; list testimonials from satisfied customers.

Think of your marketing materials as your resume to the world. You don’t hire employees based on general assertions like “a highly skilled contributor to the bottom line.” You ask for a list of specific skills and examples of how they were used. You might ask for an academic degree or a chance to test the employee yourself.

Your customers want the same from level of detail in your marketing message: they want to know exactly what makes you different from everyone else.

If you are struggling to differentiate yourself from the competition, contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications. We can do that.

Add Wow to Your Marketing Message, Part 1: Verb Magic

What a wealth of verb choices English gives us! Start with a sentence like this: “ABC Corporation is the world’s finest manufacturer of industrial robots.” With a little verb magic, it changes into: “ABC Corporation manufactures the world’s finest industrial robots.”

Or start with this: “ABC Corporation has the capability of designing your dream house.” Presto change-o, you have: “ABC Corporation will design your dream house.”

In both cases, the magic verb wand turned a weak noun form into a strong verb: manufacturer versus manufacture; designing versus design.

Stronger verbs also create tighter sentences, for faster delivery of your marketing message.

Search your marketing content for verbs disguised as nouns. Add wow to your message by transforming mumbling nouns into clear-speaking verbs.

Or contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications. Magic is our specialty.

Five Writing Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

Whether you’re writing an email or a 50 page brochure, a blog or an entire website, a one-page instruction or a success story, here are five mistakes that can cripple your effort to connect with customers:

  • You didn’t identify your audience. Before you can write for your customers, you have to know who they are and what they want. What problem are you solving for them?
  • You didn’t focus. Even major department stores, with thousands of products, focus their brochures, website and blogs on one topic at a time. A list of everything you can do or sell isn’t marketing, it’s monologuing.
  • You forgot the power of pictures. Sometimes the best way to deliver a marketing message isn’t in words but in photos, drawings and charts. (Be sure to label any pictures so that search engines can find them.)
  • You were lured by the phrase of the moment. The strongest marketing messages are those with the most truth expressed in the simplest words. Anything can be a “proactively engineered state-of-the-art system,” even a paperclip. To differentiate your product or service, stay away from the phrase of the moment.
  • You never reviewed your marketing materials as a whole. As a result, your brochure says something different from your website and your website is out of date and neither one supports your latest success story or Tweet.

A great marketing message targets a specific audience, keeps its focus, uses as few words as possible, differentiates you from the competition and is consistent. Maintain those standards, and your customers will definitely get the message.

Need help? Contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications today.