The following is an excerpt from “42 Rules of Marketing” by yours truly
This rule will empower you to leverage your thinking and step outside the box so that you can help customers find solutions to their problems. Huh? In an effort to sound smart, different and credible, the language of corporate marketing has taken a turn for the worse. Complete websites, brochures and datasheets are written that don’t mean a darn thing. We understand all the words, but when they are put together we don’t know what it means. What, for example does “we provide technical solutions for progressive companies” mean? How about; “technical innovation is the foundation of our best-in-class industry leading solutions that exceeds customers’ expectations.” What in the world does this actually mean?
This type of corporate gobbledygook is not helpful. In fact, it has just the opposite affect. Customers read your brochure (or website or white paper) and are left with more questions than answers. Since it would require effort on their part to figure out what you do, they move on to the next guy – and you’ve lost a potential customer.
It isn’t very often that a customer says to themselves, “I need an innovative solution to exceed my expectations.” They probably think “I’ve been trying really hard to solve this problem and I just can’t – maybe someone else can help.”
So what is a marketer to do? Well, some clever folks at Deloitte Consulting took it upon themselves to create “BullFighter” – a clever piece of software that looks at all your copy and identifies all the “bull words.” The software plugs in to Microsoft Word and works much like spell-check or grammar-check. You select “Bullfighter” and it finds “bull words” and suggests alternatives. Just for fun, I did a before and after test of several phrases. This is what I got:
Stakeholder: Alternative words were vampire slayer, victim and forks. “Overused to the point of pain by consultants.”
First-Mover: “Battle cry from the first Internet boom-bust, one with little remaining credibility.”
Empower: “A grandiose word…solidly enshrined in the Consulting Cliché Hall of Fame.”
Hatsize Learning Corporation took this lesson to heart when they revised their corporate positioning and messages. Initially their top three messages were: optimize resources & hardware; reduce delivery costs; and increase training revenue. After much discussion the team found the underlying benefits and got straight to the point. Their new message is: more revenue, higher margins through increased product knowledge. The impact was to get away from buzz-words that mean nothing and say what you really want to say.
The point is, make sure what you write actually means something. Make sure it means something to someone who doesn’t work for your company. Make sure it means something to your customers and potential customers. How do you know? Just ask them.