I could still recall the days of writing telegrams. That was before the fax machine, internet and email. Writing a telegram meant economy of words and so obvious verbs and needless adjectives had to be omitted.
Today, with the advent of email and other cheap sources of communication you don’t have to be that paranoid about your message-except you are writing an advertisement. When writing a classified ad for example, every word must count in the small space allowed and so word choice becomes very important.
But word choice is not only about being brief.
Even when crafting a long sales letter you should try and avoid using the personal pronouns: “we, me, I, our,us”. The sales message should be about your prospects and not about your company. The “we syndrome” is a common error but it can easily be avoided. A sales message should state upfront the benefit to the customer not parade how many awards the company has received in the past ten years. Whenever possible then the copy should be written in the third person.
There are some other words that are very common in advertising but are just too vague to have any force. Great copy is always specific. “How to make $3,567.23 from your home in 30 days!” has more force than “How to make money from home.” Here are some commonly used words that lack force because their meaning is too ethereal:
It - State what “it” is rather than leave “it” for the reader to figure out. This word can often be replaced by what ‘it’ represents or stands in place of.
Quality - This has a similar meaning to “personality”. We often hear people say that someone has personality. But everyone has a personality whether good or bad. The same holds for quality. Every product or service has some quality which the customer will be the ultimate judge of.
Superlatives such as “tastiest, best, fastest, strongest, superior, minimize, optimize”. The problem with these words is that they instill doubt in the readers because these claims appear unsubstantiated. These words lack power because they are not measurable. Take the word “superior” for example. What criterion or measurement was used to judge this product as superior and by how much?
Solutions - This word cannot stand on its own. If you are selling a product or service it is also obvious that you are selling the solution to a problem, so state what the solution is rather than just using the word.
Technology - This word is commonly used to suggest innovation and newness. But customers have little concern about the technology that is behind the products they buy. They are only concerned about the benefit they derive from these products and services. How many drivers are really concerned about the technology that’s under the hoods of the vehicle they drive? They are really only concerned that the vehicle is reliable and gives them some social status.
Difference - Rather than stating that you are different from your competitors state the difference instead. Just saying “different” means little and is just filling space. The statement “We make all the difference” doesn’t leave the prospect more educated than before reading your sales message.
Consider the following advertiser’s blurb:
“We make all the difference because of our superior quality and solutions we offer.”
It’s like junk food - a lot of flavor but zero nutritional value. This statement means little because it’s not specific at all. It creates more questions than answers and leaves the reader totally confused. And this is the last thing you want to do to a customer.
Go to any website and you’ll see statements such as “can save you time and money”, (well how much?) “creates website in less time” (less than 2, 4, 100 hours?), “maximize your gas mileage” (by how much 1%, 5%, 40%?). All these statements will triple their effectiveness by using numbers (note that I gave a quantity, ‘triple’).
The more specific your message is the more believable you will appear. Using a bunch of superlatives only makes you seem self-serving. Customers are immune to this type of hype and filters out these claims like a squirrel discards peanut shells.
When making any comparison in your sales letter state the baseline, use numbers and give a time period whenever possible. In this way you don’t have to use superlatives because the numbers will speak for themselves. If you follow this simple rule your sales conversion rate will increase by 4.7% within 29 days of putting this into effect.
Even though that last statement was hypothetical you can sense its power because specific numbers were used instead of just saying ‘your sales will increase’.
I think it’s time to review your sales message and sweep away the chaff words leaving the pure wheat behind.
You’ll be 9.9% happier that you did!