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.

10 Ways to Make Writing Easier

Professional writers love to write. But if writing is not your first career choice, you may find it slow at best and painful at worst. So here are 10 tips to make writing easier.

  1. Write first, edit last. Editing at the same time that you write is like taking a giant step back for every two steps forward. That voice in your head that keeps saying a word isn’t perfect or an idea could be expressed better–ignore it for now.
  2. Let the ideal first sentence wait. Holding out for that golden first sentence is frustrating, especially since the best opening sentence often emerges at the end, when your thoughts have coalesced. Start writing and the perfect first sentence will appear eventually.
  3. Start with the simplest structure–first to last, top 10, 3 ways to do something, or 3 reasons for taking action. Delete whatever doesn’t fit that structure. What you don’t use may become another day’s blog post or tweet. That’s a good thing.
  4. Write like you talk, because even your most sophisticated customer knows less about your product and service than you do. Share your knowledge; don’t struggle to sound like a marketing guru or subject-matter-expert. Your expertise will shine through and more important, everyone will understand your message quickly.
  5. Keep your audience in mind. Your goal is not to make yourself sound and look good; your goal is to solve a problem for your customers. Keep your eye on their problem and your solution.
  6. Know your limits. You may be able to write a 300-word blog but trying to write a 1000-word insight paper gives you an overwhelming urge to run away from home. The solution is to keep doing blogs, but wait until you can hire a professional to write insight papers. Alternatively, you may eventually be able to combine 3 or 4 of your related blogs into one long paper.
  7. Review with a fresh eye. Put away the finished piece for at least 24 hours. But remember to take it out again! The review is important.
  8. Edit, don’t destroy. Your goal is to improve what your wrote, not throw it away. Keep your attention on important fixes: Look for sentences longer than 18 words (no period, no colon), words longer than 3 syllables, strings of adjectives or adverbs, inconsistencies ($5M, $5 million), misspellings, and vague words (“on time”) when you could be specific (“within 4 days”).
  9. Listen to outside reviewers–mostly. Ask only one or two people to review and ask them to concentrate on errors or confusion in the content; don’t start debates over synonyms or serial commas. But pay attention to what they say. If you refuse to listen to your reviewers, find new reviewers you will listen to.
  10. Know when to stop. Your marketing copy starts working for you when you send it out into the real world. Words can always be edited after they’ve had a chance to make an impact. Give them a chance to start.

What approaches have you found helpful in easing the pain of writing? Please share them. And if you want totally painless writing, please contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications, where our words mean business.

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.

Writing Smooth Marketing Copy

Marketing copy should give readers a smooth ride forward like a gentle stream under a water tube–or, given that it is December, like a beginner’s slope under skis.

But all too often readers are faced with sentences like this: “We help companies effectuate change through the innovative utilization of technological solutions.”

The main problem with that sentence is not what it says but how it says it. The sentence is weighed down by 2 three-syllable, 2 four-syllable, and 2 five-syllable words. And so the sentence weighs readers down. They figure they ought to know what it says because all the words are proper English words arranged in a proper sentence but they are fighting their way upstream and uphill.

Now consider this version: “We help you control change by using new technologies.”

It says exactly the same thing but the only word with more than two syllables is “technologies.” That’s a hard word to replace with anything simpler, which is fine.

The revised sentence is also three words shorter. It makes its point and moves on. It immediately engages the readers by addressing them directly (“you”). It carries them forward fast and smooth, which is what marketing copy should do: keep readers reading.

Why do writers bog down their marketing copy with unnecessary multi-syllable words? Partly because they hope a big vocabulary will impress their readers. But marketing copy should never be a vocabulary test. And even people with doctorates in the field do not know a product or service as well as the business that provides it. If they did, they wouldn’t need that business.

Another reason for using obscure and complicated language is that writers think that’s the way marketing copy should sound. So many businesses use phrases like “innovative utilization” that writers feel they have to use them to compete. However, those same writers in the role of consumers–of readers–absolutely hate struggling through dense, static sentences. Why keep doing what clearly doesn’t work?

Readers want marketing copy that moves. They want information they can understand fast. They want clear, everyday words. They want a smooth, fast ride to the buy button.

Do you want to help them? Contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications. Our words truly mean business.



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.

Tolerant and Inclusive Writing

Happy Holidays everyone!

I happen to be Jewish, so my holiday is Chanukah. When casual friends wish me a Merry Christmas, I enjoy the spirit in which the wish was given and thank them.

But when companies focus all their marketing copy on Christmas, I wonder why they refuse to recognize those customers who do not celebrate that particular holiday. No one is asking for twenty ads for twenty different religious observances; but a simple “Happy Holidays” reaches out to everyone. The expression is respectful to your beliefs and mine.

Some organizations are created to provide products and services solely for one group of people (one religion, one gender, one difference) and that’s fine. For the rest, being inclusive and tolerant should be an easy choice.

Some of the women in my family have names that are appropriate for either male or female. If someone hearing their name mistakes their gender, that’s a very excusable mistake.

But when an entire company writes marketing copy as if women (or men) do not exist, I wonder why they exclude at least half their potential customers. Several alternatives exist to a universal “he” (or “she”): the marketing copy can address customers directly as “you”; or alternate “he” and “she” in examples; or use the plural (“customers,” “they”).

I happen to be short; in fact most of my family, including some of the men, stopped growing around 5’1″. Our shortness is a minor challenge, and we are very grateful to all those who are 5’6″ and over, who help us load carry-ons into overhead bins and select the spaghetti sauce we want from the top shelf in the market.

But when an entire company refuses to recognize differences among people in their marketing copy–when all their photos show trim, gorgeous, 6-foot models in luxury settings instead of real people having real interactions–then I wonder who exactly are they appealing to?

When you are inclusive and tolerant, your world expands. When you are exclusive and intolerant–even by accident–your world contracts. As a business owner, you want as many customers in the largest world possible. The choice of inclusion and tolerance falls in the category of enlightened self-interest.

If you are struggling with ways to say and show your message in a welcoming, inclusive manner, please contact TWP Marketing & Technical Services.

The ABCs of Great Marketing Copy

Three factors–the ABCs of copywriting–often make the difference between marketing copy that succeeds and marketing copy that fails in communicating with your customers, employees and peers. The best marketing copy is:

  1. Audience-specific. To write great marketing copy, you need to write for your audience. This is a variation on the same advice that resume writers, for example, give to job candidates. Great resumes target a specific job; great marketing copy targets a specific audience. Great resumes address the actual needs of employers; great marketing copy addresses the actual needs of your customers.
  2. Balanced. Great marketing copy has balance. It is accurate, concise and passionate without going to extremes. It gives details, without overwhelming the audience; it is concise, without leaning on 18 syllable words to make a point; it is passionate, without sacrificing information or becoming egocentric.
  3. Complete. Good copywriters know when enough is enough, and it is time to send out the copy. If your marketing copy is sitting on your desk, waiting for the next bright idea or the 38th reviewer’s comments, it is not working for you. Send it out. If it doesn’t draw the response you wanted, revise and send it out again.

Marketing copy that violates these ABCs is easy to recognize. It sounds sort of like those spam letters you receive offering you a million dollars left in some bank overseas. It gives you details you don’t want about an offer you don’t need and goes on and on past your level of tolerance (and gullibility). It sounds unprofessional. It makes you hesitate to take action.

Those qualities are easy for an audience to recognize, but harder for most companies. Companies often feel strongly that they are communicating when they aren’t. They blame the audience for not understanding. They blame the method of communication and inundate the marketplace with brochures, blogs, websites, newsletters, catalogs, articles and social media posts in a random and panicked rush to connect.

If you suspect your marketing copy has not or will not come across as audience-specific, balanced and complete, please phone or email TWP Marketing & Technical Communications. I have the audience empathy, techniques and commitment to lead your marketing copy to greatness.

When Foreign Companies Write for English-Speaking Customers

A fellow blogger, whose first language is Spanish, recently shared the benefits of writing his personal blog in English. Among those benefits were reaching a larger (English-speaking) audience and accommodating search engines which prefer English. However, one of his reasons gave me pause: You get to practice English.

Practicing is a great thing to do on a personal blog. But when you are writing marketing copy for English-speaking customers, you do not want to practice. Here are three reasons:

1. When you make mistakes in standard English or colloquial English, native English speakers often infer that it will be difficult to communicate with your staff. Unfortunately, most native English speakers have only one language. They may prefer working with companies that are fluent in English.

2. Your English may be both standard and colloquial, but your marketing copy may mix up cultural and other clues. One off-shore copywriter described a service as “year round” that, in large parts of the US, would only be feasible in summer. Another off-shore copywriter unwittingly lauded a product that violated US electrical codes.

3. If your company is based in an English-speaking country, a struggle with standard English or colloquial English implies that it is based off-shore. Geography may be an issue with some of your customers; you need them to understand immediately that they are dealing with a local company.

Regardless of where your company is based, whether in the US or abroad, you should use a copywriter whose first language is the language of your customers. As a professional copywriter, I have helped many companies deliver a strong, culturally sensitive marketing message in standard and colloquial US English.

If the language of your customers is English, I can definitely help. Please contact me today.


Before You Start Writing

Before you start writing any marketing copy, whether a blog, newsletter, website, success story, proposal or article, you should know the answers to these four questions:

1. What does your customer want? Your marketing copy must provide a solution for the customer’s problem. You have to know the problem, be able to solve it, want to solve it and know how to communicate all that to the customer.

2. Where do your customers hang out? Do they search the web or newspapers? Are they more likely to read an article in a magazine or a story on your blog?

3. How much time are you prepared to spend? A regular newsletter or blog takes time; so does tweeting and maintaining a Facebook presence. Do you have the resources?

4. What is your deadline? A website or proposal that is four years in the finishing is four years overdue. Your marketing copy can’t start working for you until it reaches your customers.

If you are having trouble defining and reaching your audience or finding the resources and time to complete writing projects, contact me. At TWP Marketing & Technical Communications, our words mean business.

Differentiating Yourself from the Competition

Are you doing less to make your company stand out than you do for yourself?

If you were writing a resume, you would differentiate yourself from your competitors by stressing your specific skills and accomplishments and by focusing on the information the company expressly asked for in its job posting.

The same tactics work in differentiating your company from its competitors:

  • Be specific. Define “excellent customer service” with statistics, testimonials and success stories. If your work is extremely accurate, define “extremely”: within a mile or an inch or a millionth of an inch?
  • Take credit. If you “have the capability of repairing a car in 24 hours,” then you repair cars in 24 hours. The italic statement is more concise, stronger and more believable. “Having a capability” means nothing unless you follow through and use it. So stand up for what you do.
  • Let your customers in on the secret. Never assume your customers know what you do or how you do it. Everyone in your industry may use environmentally friendly chemicals. Make sure your customers know you use environmentally friendly chemicals.
  • Focus your message. Researchers have proven that people can remember at most 4 chunks of new information. Stay under that limit and concentrate your marketing copy (each marketing brochure, website page, blog, press release or success story) on one idea at a time.

Need help in writing marketing copy that differentiates your company from the competition? Give TWP Marketing & Technical Communications a call.