Copy is alienating customers


I’ve been in the copywriting game for quite a while now, and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s ‘in your face’ marketing content.

You know the stuff I mean; all those websites and landing pages that are full of highlighted hype and insincere multi-coloured drivel that’s supposed to make you pull out your plastic and buy, buy, buy.

Do you want to know what will make people buy?

Benefits; how your product or service will make their life easier, delivered in plain English without any fluff or fanfare.

And by plain English, I mean no marketing-speak, no jargon and no techie terminology – just ordinary, everyday language (that means your customers’ everyday language, not yours).

Types of language that prevents sales

It’s all well and good telling you not to stuff your content with fluff and fanfare, but what does that mean?

Well, here are five categories of language that you must avoid at all costs.

  1. Over-used phrases

Hands up if you’ve ever used terms such as ‘ground-breaking’ or ‘market-leading’?

Come on; I know you do because these are the things I never write and yet get inserted in the copy by my clients when my back’s turned

“Our product is world-class…” – really, where’s your proof?

“Our new widget is first-rate…” was the old one second-rate?

The phrases are meaningless if you can’t back them up with cold, hard facts.

Your reader would rather know why your product is great and why that is important to them; will it make them richer, save them time, and make them happier?

  1. Over excitement

Your new thingamabob has got your marketing and sales department all excited. It’s amazing and they can’t wait to get it to market. But if your marketing literature harps on about it being a ‘breakthrough’ (unless you have proof), ‘innovative’, or ‘pioneering’ it’s going to fall flat on its face.

It’s new; we get that but tell us why. Explain what’s new about it and, more importantly, what it means consumers. In other words, convert the ‘new’ into a cast iron benefit

  1. It’s amazing

It’s the latest must-have, a wonder drug, fantastic time saver…[yawn].

Consumers aren’t stupid. You can tell them your product is best, incredible or the ultimate as much as you like but they’re going to want proof.

Show them how good it is. Show them how it will improve their lives. In other words, deliver the evidence they want.

If you over-hype your copy, no one will believe you.

  1. Meaningless

I bet somewhere on your website you claim to offer exceptional customer service.

If you do, that’s great. The problem is everyone says their service is fantastic, and as a consumer yourself you know that is far from true.

If you want to say it, make sure you can back it up with testimonials and case studies that show your strengths through the experience of current customers.

  1. Jargon

Probably the biggest offender in the meaningless drivel stakes, jargon is a definite no-no.

Leveraging and alleviating are not as powerful as ‘using’ or ‘easing’ – stop trying to be clever and write what you mean.

Plus, I don’t want to hear the argument about jargon being used in your industry all the time. By you and your colleagues, yes it probably is, but by your prospects? Probably not.

Think about how you would speak to a customer if you were face to face with them. What language would you be using then? Probably plain English (at least I would hope so), so that’s how you should be communicating across your whole marketing strategy.

Writing simple, straightforward copy isn’t as easy as you first thought. Spattering your copy with meaningless drivel is easily done (and very lazy). But it will dilute your message until there’s nothing left to impress your customers.

Before you start writing think about your customer, who they are and what they want. Then keep them focused in your mind as you write using their words.

Sally Ormond is an international copywriter who helps her clients grow market share while staying on brand.