Is Marketing Speak Hurting Your Website?

May 25, 2011

Have you ever gone to a website and realized you have NO idea what the company does?

Do you see phrases like these?

“Best-in-class solutions”

“Out-of-the-box thinking”

“Groundbreaking blah de blah”

Me too.  As a freelance writer, I admit to using marketing speak in client work (or at least not insisting that clients get rid of what they already have).

I understand why businesses use those phrases.  You want people to know that you’re unique, different, and one-of-a-kind.  The issue is, there are better ways to describe your uniqueness and your business so customers know what you’re all about.


Maybe you really are an “international web-based medical publishing company,” or a “strategic information consulting and managed technology service.” But there’s got to be a better way to say it.  The most-read newspapers in the world (Reader’s Digest, USA Today) are written at a 9th and 10th grade reading level.  Follow their lead, but also:

Show how you can help, rather say what you are

Instead of “We are a web-based medical publishing company…”

Better: “We help explain complicated medical topics in everyday language…”

Instead of  “We are a strategic information consulting service with best-in-class solutions for…”

Better: “We use technology to help companies work together, even if employees are spread out all over the country.”

Some other ideas:

“I help designers go from idea to sales.” (from Jane)

“We engineer green buildings that end up saving you money.” (from an engineering firm)

Get specific, and real.

Want to be unique?  Focus on something real and tangible that makes your company different.

Jay Goltz of Artists Frame Service in Chicago recently wrote about his company’s one-week turnaround promise on framing services.  They do a fantastic job there, but so do a lot of other framing places.  So instead of talking about the company’s “highest quality materials” and “years of expertise” (marketing speak, everyone has this), they promise a one-week turnaround.  Jay recently wrote in the New York Times small business blog that this was operationally difficult — so difficult that they were considering cutting it — but such a differentiator that, in the end, they decided to keep this as a major differentiator.  Read more about it here.

What you promise must be 1) unique and more importantly 2) of value to your customer.  Look how well Zappos did starting the free-shipping-both-ways trend.  Can you offer customization? A free add-on service?

A few resources to learn more:

Writing at lower grade levels is shared more often (includes tips for grading your own website’s readability)

Plain language: scoring popular newspapers and novels

What makes you different?  Can you use that difference to get rid of your marketing speak?

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