Whether you’re marketing your brand, your product, yourself, or your ideas in a business meeting, words matter.
These words will throw your readers into “scan” mode, “cut-through-the-jargon” mode, or even “eye roll” mode, if you’re not careful. Any meaningful content you have may be tainted by these tired-out terms.
Use them cautiously and wisely (or not at all). Without further ado:
Sophisticated ways to (falsely) claim, “I’m special”
If you must use them, please explain how they apply in the given context. Better yet, describe in detail what these words are pointing to. Don’t tell me your product is “awesome”; tell me it shaves 35% off of my commute time. Now that’s awesome!
Back in the day, “innovative” described what was truly original and advanced. But blink twice and now every business with a millennial in marketing is “innovative”.
But they’re not, really. Most companies don’t have something truly original and advanced – as evidenced by their use of “innovative” in marketing collateral.
Other than your sleep cycle or diet, what has your business actually disrupted lately? And by the way, is that actually your goal?
What most markets need is an improvement, not a disruption. We’re looking at you, tech companies.
#3: Best-in-Class (See Also, World-Class)
So apparently, someone somewhere decided they were better than everyone else and called it being “best-in-class”. Next thing you know, seven out of ten companies in the same industry are “best-in-class”. Go figure.
That isn’t to say you can’t use these phrases in a marketing piece. There’s just one condition: prove it.
#4: Secret Sauce
If your algorithms do the same thing that a competitor’s do, any secrets you may have don’t matter. People are tired of seeing this food-based claim to exclusivity.
Side note: Google recently told me that one of my emails was deemed important per their “magic” sauce. Hmm, okay. I guess their sauce has supernatural powers…
Yes, maybe your $75 organic mustache wax. Perhaps that $13 pastry from the local coffee shop. But not these:
And definitely not these:
This one commands the same judicious application as “innovative”. For instance, there are scads of “creative” writers out there.
But are there, really? Or are most of them just ordinary people who write?
So let me get this straight. Your product or service:
When the “common” words just won’t do:
Words like these are typically used for one of three reasons:
1. The actual content of the message is weak and needs some padding
2. The words are super-trendy, so why not
3. You’re pretentious
You know what people need to “utilize” more frequently? Simpler words. Unless you live in Pompousville, you don’t need to toss out a decent, one-syllable word for a three-syllable word that means the exact same thing. Utilize = use.
I’ll take the electric chair…
Mmmm… just say it with me: “Authentic”. Do you feel these millennial vibes right now?
I hope whatever you’re selling is real, for crying out loud. Because that’s all that “authentic” means.
No one cares
These words are often used appropriately. The problem is, they don’t mean much to your prospects.
So, I’VE heard – get this – Acme Data Solutions offers… “results”!!
(Actually, I think they may “deliver results” instead…)
Oh and guess when they do it?
“We have a passion for…”
“Our people are passionate about…”
“Our passion around…”
Your prospects couldn’t care less about your passion. They care about what your passion produces for them – a better product or service.
So please, describe the heightened benefits of the product/service… not your intense emotions about it.
I feel sorry for this term - there’s really nothing wrong with it. You can be client-focused, customer-focused, results-focused, focus-focused… all good things. We’ve just overused the daylights out of it.
As opposed to…?
When marketers use these terms, we imply that something we offer is exceptional when it’s actually commonplace. Instead of talking about these (hopefully) typical facets of a product/service, let’s just act upon them and focus on differences that matter.
If something isn’t strategic, then what is it… trivial, unimportant, or unplanned? It goes without saying that you (and your competitors) are strategic in some sense of the word. I hope.
Instead, tell us how the strategic nature of your offering equates to more sales, time, or peace-of-mind for me. If it does those things, we honestly don’t care if it’s strategic or not.
Because somehow, we dumbed down insights into two categories: those that are actionable, and those that are not.
It’s really just a marketing ploy because all true insights are, by definition, actionable. You can’t always make decisions based on unstructured data or information, but an insight can always point you in the right direction.
Boy, it’s a good thing your company is proactive. No one else is! All your competitors are just sitting around, waiting for life to happen.
Bonus: Corporate Edition!
Just for fun, I asked a friend of mine to have his team send back some overused words from his office… apparently I didn’t make my request clear enough. Here was his response:
Can I open a dialog here? I want to strike while the iron is hot, but am muddy on the ask. To be clear, the objective is that I collaborate cross-functionally with my partner’s workforce to pinpoint the real-time verbiage our counterparts use to redundantly and unnecessarily explain elementary learnings, thereby effectively hamstringing efficient communication.
If so, to be fully transparent, I may need to circle back on this. We are slammed right now and I don’t have the bandwidth to juggle additional action items. Our superiors may think we’re trying to boil the ocean. Unless there’s a significant paradigm shift, we may have to re-task this deliverable down the road.
-Kevin" (name changed because “Kevin” isn’t a real person anyway)
Let’s face it – there are more than 17 words that we should watch out for in the coming year. What were some that you thought of?
Copyright Luke Hastings © 2017