10 Things to Never Say in Your Marketing Copy

Are you looking at your marketing copy from your customers’ viewpoint–or your own? Is your marketing copy creating honest communication between you and your customer–or is it leaving them with unanswered questions?

Make a true connection by never saying these 10 things in your marketing copy:

  1. Never simply say you’re the best; prove you’re the best. It is far better to show your achievements, through testimonials, case studies, photographs, awards, achievements, and examples.
  2. Never use your marketing copy to disparage other companies. Why give your competitors free publicity? Instead, use that space to educate customers about what they should expect from a truly great provider (like you).
  3. Never threaten your customers with the dire consequences of not using your services. They know they have a problem; what they need are solutions.
  4. Never be vague about what you can and cannot deliver. Rather than saying you finish projects in “about” three weeks, provide a range or increase the time to a definite four weeks and make customers ecstatic when you deliver ahead of schedule.
  5. Never start your marketing copy with features when you can start with benefits; never drown your customer in a long list of capabilities when you can excite them with potential results.
  6. Never switch your audience in mid-stream. Talk to “you” (the customer) and make sure you (the business) know who that customer is at all times.
  7. Never make disparaging remarks about individuals who refused–or eventually accepted–your services. Customers shy away from a mean spirited provider.
  8. Never fill your marketing copy with 10-dollar words, jargon, and acronyms under the mistaken belief that they make you sound more knowledgeable. Your customers are already depending on you to be knowledgeable. Use everyday language they understand to explain what you do and why it works.
  9. Never allow typos, inconsistencies, or grammatical errors in your marketing copy. Proofread, proofread, proofread.
  10. Never write solely for search engines. Your customers are people. Write for people.

Marketing copy that is clear, precise, interesting, and focused on your customers will always be read. That’s the type of copy we write at TWP Marketing & Technical Communications. Contact us today.

When Marketing Copy Confuses Customers: What Next?

As much as business owners try to communicate clearly, sometimes customers still find marketing copy confusing.

Over the years, I’ve come to recognize four basic ways that marketing copy confuses customers:

  • Confusion over the message. One of my clients began by helping her clients work through financial issues and then found herself offering advice on straightening out their staff and customer relations. Her background and education made her a gifted consultant in all three areas; but her marketing copy stayed focused on finance, creating confusion for potential clients and referrals. We worked together to sharpen her mission and suddenly everything she offered fell into place.
  • Confusion over the audience. Another client, a website developer, never quite defined his customers’ level of expertise. Part of the time his marketing copy assumed customers recognized high-tech jargon and acronyms; part of the time his copy defined basic concepts in excruciating detail. Customers were either baffled or bored. We settled on a middle course, cutting back on the jargon, acronyms, and explanations to focus on benefits to all his customers. After all, what customers want to know most is: What do I get out of it?
  • Confusion over organization. A company started its marketing copy by listing the products it manufactured–but then the rest of the marketing copy ignored those products entirely and focused on the manufacturing process. Customers want to know where marketing copy is headed. If you say you have four products, they want to read about four products, not three products and a process. If you say regulatory compliance is important, they want to hear about compliance. Guide them carefully along or you’ll lose them in poor organization.
  • Confusion over individual words. Sometimes marketing copy uses the wrong word (for example, “intransient problem” instead of “intransigent problem”). Sometimes it piles on adjectives (“this extraordinary, unparalleled, unique opportunity”) as if more adjectives equal more information. In either case, I always advise clients to use the simplest and most precise language they can–to write like they talk when they are talking to their favorite customers.

Let’s make sure your marketing copy never confuses customers. I’ll help you define your message, audience, and organization, and then choose the right words to grab and keep their attention. Contact TWP today.

How Do I Tell a Marketing Story about My Business?

Q. I’m a small business owner, and I carve gift items out of wood. Everywhere I look for marketing advice these days, the gurus tell me to tell a story. I enjoy what I do but where’s the story? I buy wood, I carve an item, people buy it. End of story, right?

The problem with doing something really well is that it’s easy to forget that other people can’t do it. When I hear that you carve gift items out of wood, I want to know more: What drove you to that business, what tools do you use, what types of wood, what advice would you give me for taking care of the item I purchase, what advice would you give me if I were interested in learning about wood carving?

Each of those questions is the gateway to a marketing story, about you, your skills, and your relationship with customers.

How do you tell your marketing story so that it resonates with potential customers? The best stories feature:

  • An appeal to the senses: Write about the smell of sawdust, the textures of different woods, or how a tool interacts with the wood.
  • Interesting characters: Write about a customer who came in searching for a gift for a special occasion. Write about your fellow woodcarvers or your own history.
  • Interesting events: Write about the journey wood makes from the forest to your workshop or the process that turns a random piece of wood into a beautiful gift.
  • A clear purpose: Motivate potential and current customers to purchase or to spread information about your business.

Stories about your small business and your customers are all around you. You may need to take a step back to see them–but they do exist and they are interesting.

TWP Marketing & Technical Communications writes memorable marketing stories for B2C and B2B businesses, large and small. Contact us today and let us tell your story.

My Customers Won’t Talk to Me!

Q. My customers must love my products and services because they keep returning. But they don’t send thank you letters, they don’t compliment me or my staff, and if I ask them how we did, they say “Great!” That doesn’t tell potential new customers anything. What’s with them?

A. Customers are only human. They know they are talking to the head of a business they like, so they want to give you what you want. But they aren’t sure exactly what to say (they expect you want marketing jargon and they don’t know how to speak jargon); are shy about revealing their ignorance of the specifics of what you did; and feel resentful about having to invent something right now or about confronting endless surveys. The wise approach is to put a third party into the mix.

Strong Interviews Lead to Strong Testimonials

Here’s how I handle customer interviews to make sure they deliver testimonials and information you can use to market, align, and improve your business.

  • First, I interview you to find out what you think you accomplished for that customer and how how that particular job reflects your overall business and its goals.
  • Then, I contact your customer (after you’ve prepared the way with a brief email or phone call) to ask for a 15-minute interview at the customer’s convenience. That time limit is most important.

I ask the customer leading questions, listen to the answers, and base my next question(s) on those answers. We take a journey together through the customer’s experience, with no previous expectations. I ask the hard questions, too; for example, what would you do differently next time to solve your problem? What should the company do differently? I can ask those questions because I am not the business owner, and I can negotiate confidentiality if that’s necessary. I keep the interview on target and deep dive for differentiators.

Finally, I create one or more strong testimonials, which I then submit to the customer for the customer’s approval. Or I create an entire case study, which I submit to you first (to make sure the content matches your goals) and then to the customer for approval. Because I listen well and ask insightful, respectful questions, most testimonials and case studies return from the customer with minor if any changes.

Strong Testimonials Connect with Potential Customers

The result: You have testimonials that actually say something in clear, everyday language that speaks to potential customers. You learn facts about your business and the customer experience that you may never have expected. You have the basis for or a complete case study that explains exactly what you do and how you do it.

TWP Marketing & Technical Communications has over a decade of experience in interviewing business owners and their customers. If you want testimonials that work hard for your business in the marketplace, contact us today.

Telling the Truth When You Write

I began my career as a technical writer and for years I thought of marketing as the evil empire. Technical writers are concerned with accuracy, clarity, and consistency. Marketing writers? As far as I could see, they would say anything to sell–they knew little about the product or service and cared less.

Then I discovered something: customers like the truth. They like the truth as much as I do. They look askance at promises that might never be delivered or at claims that have nothing to back them up. They are tired of hearing empty phrases, like “state-of-the-art, superior, best-in-class service” because everyone, from the airline they fly to the local coffee shop, promises state-of-the-art, superior, best-in-class service.

How do your customers know if you are telling the truth? You provide photos, testimonials, case studies (I love case studies!), awards, and details on industry standards that you meet. You describe continuing education, certifications, and participation or leadership in industry events. You share your expert advice and experience.

The truth is also revealed by the way you write: with accuracy, clarity, consistency and a focus on the information customers want mostdo you understand my problem and how will you solve it? Every customer problem and question is worthy of consideration. Your goal is to find and share answers to the most pressing customer questions. And admit when you don’t have the answer.

Every company has something that makes it uniquely qualified to help its customers, because every company is the result of someone’s unique vision. Let customers know about you. The truth about your company is a major differentiator. Did you start or build your company because you identified a lack in your region, took a different approach in your field, recognized an opportunity that others missed, wanted a chance to help others, found an outlet for your creativity, discovered a neglected customer need? All or none of the above?

My background as a technical writer means that I have worked in fields as diverse as construction, coaching, manufacturing, healthcare, software development, and retail. Regardless of the industry, I have kept and verified my belief that customers appreciate the truth as much as I do. After all, aren’t we all customers of someone?

When you tell the truth about your company, you enable customers to connect with you. You build a relationship based on a firm foundation, which means customers will return again and again. Let me help.

4 Questions before You Start Writing

You’ve heard the maxim “know thyself”? In your rush to spread the word about your products and services, you may have forgotten an equally important maxim: Know thy customer.

All writing is written for someone to read; even a private diary is written for one’s self. So here are four questions you must answer before you start writing.

  1. Whom are you writing for? Your writing takes on a different tone for the new CEO of a company searching for a coach and the homeowner who needs emergency roof repair. Be realistic: you may want to reach the top five billionaires in the world, but is there any chance they will want to purchase a billion dollars worth of your widgets? What you write depends on who your customers are. The better you know them, the better chance you will have of grabbing their attention.
  2. Where do your customers hang out? A daily tweet might go nowhere whereas a weekly blog post catches exactly the customers you want. Your salespeople might appreciate printed brochures to leave with customers after a personal contact; they might prefer e-brochures for online contacts. What you write depends on where your audience looks for you.
  3. How much tolerance do your customers have for repeated contacts? Whether you create an online or paper campaign or both (eblasts, tweets, blog posts, postcards, brochures, newsletters), at some point your customers will become annoyed rather than intrigued. Know when to stop writing.
  4. Will they be interested in what you have to write? Customers are looking for a solution to a problem, whether it is how to etch semiconductors or where to find a prom dress. Details of your company philosophy and history, a laundry list of products and services that are irrelevant to their problem or a recap of your last sales campaign–that can wait. What you write depends on what your customers want to hear.

Are you having trouble figuring out who you are writing for, where they hang out, how much you should write and what you should write about? Contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications and we’ll help you find the answers.


Video Instructions: 5 Golden Rules

Many companies have now turned to video for showing customers how to use their product. Videos are an excellent way to connect with customers. However, they should still follow the five golden rules for good instructions.

  1. Never assume. Start your instructions from the very beginning–that might mean showing the viewer or reader how to plug in the product or where to find the start button. If you are offering a series of videos, building in complexity or detail, make sure you refer to the previous videos for viewers who are not aware they are starting in the middle.
  2. Be consistent. Always refer to buttons, menu items, the names of previous videos (or chapters), operations, processes, and so on using the same exact terms. Your viewer will quickly become confused if the same screen shot is called the “home page,” the “opening screen,” or “screen 1” in different videos or different parts of the same video.
  3. Be thorough. Before your release a video or written procedures, follow the instructions using only the steps in the video or on the page. If you find your hands doing something else, revise. You overlooked a step and you are in danger of losing your audience.
  4. Be exact. It’s easy to tell a customer “click here” or “see this” or “move this way” without ever defining here” or “this.” But your customers may have no idea what you’re referring to no matter how carefully they watch or read. In addition, customers often try to follow directions while actually working on the product. How can video viewers tell what “click here” means unless they are looking directly at the screen?
  5. Go slow. The best instructions are divided into discrete steps that viewers or readers can master at their own speed. Readers have a lot of control over speed; viewers have very little. If video instructions come at viewers too fast, they have to pause and backtrack and pause and backtrack. All that backtracking interferes with their learning and enjoyment.

You may want to provide written procedures that customers can download based on your videos. The written procedures and videos should at least complement each other even if they aren’t exact duplicates. It they contradict each other, you have a major problem.

Would you benefit from help in creating clear scripts and written procedures for your customers? Contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications today.

Finding & Telling Your Marketing Story: Part II

In a previous blog, I wrote about the importance of appealing to the senses and using visuals (photographs, videos) in marketing stories. In this blog, I’d like to focus on another aspect of great story telling: characters.

All stories have characters, even if the only character is the narrator. But as a business owner you have access to a slew of characters:

  • Yourself
  • Your staff
  • Your former customers
  • The audience you are writing for (past, future and/or current customers).

As I’ve often mentioned before, the most powerful phrase in marketing is “we can solve your problem.” That one phrase includes two strong characters, the “we” (the business owner and staff) and the “you” (the customer). Give that “we” more personality by writing blog posts or articles or online biographies that introduce you and your staff. Let your character shine forth in Q&A (FAQ) pages. Even if they aren’t customer-facing, let your staff make their presence known in photos and Meet the Team pages.

As for your former customers, they are truly “well rounded characters” and a great source of marketing stories, especially case studies and success stories. Please interview them! When I interview customers for my clients, I am always amazed at the generosity of the interviewees in sharing their time and their experiences to help another business. They recount experiences that make more positive, more detailed and more compelling stories than the business owner could have imagined.

Every story benefits from characters that seem to step right off the page; and your customers, staff and you are just such characters. Let your marketing story benefit from characters that lift your dry recital of facts to another level, where people are communicating directly with each other. I’ll be happy to help.

TWP Marketing & Technical Communications provides freelance writing services for companies in New Hampshire and throughout the US.

Websites That Drive Customers Crazy

The other day I had nearly finished purchasing an item on a retail website, and I couldn’t find the Continue or Next (or even Purchase) button. The only button on the page was labeled Add More. I didn’t want to add a second item; I wanted to purchase my first item.

When I called the store for assistance, they explained that the Add More button had the exact same function as Continue or Next. I always encourage creative content, but not when it interferes with the expectations of customers who are sure to believe that “Add More” means…add more.

One way to find out if your website is driving customers crazy is to ask yourself if you would patronize a company whose website worked and sounded like yours. Another way is to ask your customers what bothers them. Yet another way is to ask your help desk staff because they must answer the same questions from irritable customers all day long. Here are four sure ways to drive customers crazy:

  • Use popups that pop up right over the item the customer is most interested in. If the dismissal button is obvious, irritation is short lived; but many video popups are impossible to exit until the entire video finishes. Customers might very well decide to leave the page and the site rather than be held captive. Constant music or sound effects also risk driving customers away.
  • Don’t check your internal and external website links. Customers are driven crazy by links that don’t work. If you haven’t checked the links on your website for a while, please check them now. Please.
  • Change your content midway through the website. On the website for one IT service company, a free offer changed scope from page to page. Inconsistencies confuse customers but also send the message that you overlook details, even important ones like what exactly you are giving away.
  • Refuse to communicate. First, hide your contact information. Then give the phone number as a word (1-800-DONTCALL) that has to be translated into numbers. And when the customer calls the number, provide only three or four extremely narrow options, with no possibility of selecting “other.” So by the time the customer reaches a live person, the customer is already livid.

When you drive your customers crazy with your website, you lose money, whether through constant calls to your help desk, lost sales, costly mistakes in content, lost repeat customers or high employee stress and turnover.

A website review by TWP Marketing & Technical Communications examines your website page by page, item by item, to make sure that the content is clear, accurate and interesting and that everything works. This cost-effective solution helps keep your relationship with customers positive from first click to last. Contact us today.


6 Biggest Writing Mistakes

1. Turning your writing into a vocabulary test. Most small words have more energy than big ones and communicate faster. While some multi-syllable words can’t be avoided (“multi-syllable” being a good example), many of them are simply barriers to clear, passionate writing–for example, utilize, capability, and actionable.

2. Forgetting your audience. You have a goal: to write about everything your company can do and has done, so that the world will be impressed enough to beat a path to your door. But your customers are not looking for a company that does everything for everyone; your customers are looking for a trustworthy solution to their specific problem. When you write, write to meet your customers’ goals.

3. Giving your audience too much credit. If your customers were as knowledgeable as you are, they wouldn’t need you. You have skills, experience, and tools that your customers lack. Slowly guide them to understanding what you offer, using words, pictures, examples, and comparisons they can easily grasp.

4. Failing to recognize the power of pictures. Use graphs, illustrations, videos, and photographs whenever you can to replace paragraphs and pages of description. A great layout can add just the right emphasis and eye-candy to attract customers; a professional graphic designer is well worth using.

5. Overlooking the need to organize. Websites are divided into pages; blogs into posts; white papers into sections; manuals into chapters. Each of those divisions should have a single subject. If, for example, I shifted gears mid-way through this blog post to explain how to write a press release, you would be justifiably confused. It’s okay if your first draft is a brain dump. But then you have to organize the material so that it flows–and delete what doesn’t belong.

6. Falling in love with your own words. Set aside anything you write for at least 24 hours, then proofread, proofread, proofread and edit, edit, edit. Until you examine what you wrote with a fresh eye, you have no way of knowing if you truly communicated.

Sharon Bailly is the founder of TWP Marketing & Technical Communications which helps companies reach their customers online and in print. Our words mean business.