Don’t worry – this isn’t some rant about English being the official language of the U.S. It’s a rant about using plain, simple language to get people to want to learn more about your business and purchase your products or services.
I’m currently a judge for The Big Awards where companies compete to be named company, product, service of the year. It’s a pretty cool way to recognize companies for their accomplishments and give them exposure to broader audiences and prospective clients.
As I read one of the submissions, my head almost exploded. It was riddled with awesome $5 and $10 words and phrases. If you simply read it at face value, it sounds like this is the greatest company ever to walk the Earth. Allow me to illustrate with some selected portions of the submission:
“Our product is a game changer. It is shifting the paradigm on how an organization can better protect its assets.”
“But just like any quantum advance in technology, many are still waiting for the early adopters to validate how this paradigm changes the playing field.”
“But looking beyond the obvious cost benefits and immediate ROI, what makes our product uniquely worthy of Product of the Year is the scope of the solution. Its holistic approach to security is unlike anything on the market.”
What. The. Hell?
I gotsta buy me some of that game changing, quantum leaping, paradigm changing, holistic stuff that’s better than anything in the world.
While I’m sure their product is innovative and highly valuable, the way they present it is dense, confusing, and evasive. Remember – your marketing copy should be simple, articulate a clear problem, how your product solves that problem, and define some tangible benefits. You’re not trying to close the sale on the basis of your writing. You’re simply trying to get the reader to be interested enough in your product or service to get them to give you a call.
These principles apply whether you’re a wickedawesome start-up or a global multinational corporation. If your marketing copy (whether on your website or in your collateral materials) is dense, confusing, and hard to understand it’s not likely that prospective buyers will seek out your solution. I’ve covered some of these concepts before in 5 Reasons Your Idea Pitch Sucks. If you sell ideas (especially if you’re an entrepreneur) I’d suggest you read it. Those principles are just as valid here.
Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.
If you want to capture your audience’s attention, I’d suggest the following flow for your writing:
The Problem – clearly state the problem your prospect has. For example “your presentations are thick and unreadable” or “you’re hungry,” “you’re tired in the afternoon” or “your butt itches.” The goal here is to get the reader to say “Yes! I suffer from that problem! I’ve got to read more!”
The Solution – tell them what your product is and how it solves your reader’s problem. “We teach a class that shows people how to make their presentations shorter and clearer” or “we sell cheesy cracker goodness that cheeses your hunger away” or “our product is full of caffeine and sugar and wakes you up” or “our powder eliminates your butt rash.” The clearer the articulation of what the product/service is and what it does, the easier it is for your audience to say “Yeah! That’s what I need!”
The Benefits – explain how your product makes your reader’s life better or easier. Tell them what they get for their money. “After taking our class, you’ll spend less time writing PowerPoint and more time implementing your recommendations” or “you won’t be hungry anymore” or “you’ll feel awake and refreshed so you can get your work done” or “you won’t be uncomfortable and itchy anymore.” They’re buying the benefits you’re selling.
The Target – in case your reader still isn’t clear that your product/service is right for them, it can be helpful to tell them they are indeed the target audience. “The target audience for our course is people who write lots of presentations” or “if you’ve got hunger pains, our product is for you” or “if you get tired at work, our mega-energy drink is right for you” or… well… not gonna explain that last one.
The Call to Action – now that they know the problem and how your product/service solves it as well as being sure the benefits are something they want, tell them what you want to do. “Contact us to arrange for our courses to be taught at your organization” or “go to the grocery store and buy a bag of Combos now!”
I promise if you simplify your writing and speak in plain English, you’ll find more people will respond to your message and buy your stuff. Death to buzzwords! Long live simple speak!