5 types of copy that are costing you money

People don't care about your brand

A lot of companies fill valuable space on their websites, brochures, emails, press releases and sales letters with rubbish.

Marketing has one purpose – to convince people to do what you want. But so much copywriting ignores this key principle.

Instead, it focuses on boastful nonsense that’s more likely to bore prospects than persuade them to buy from you.

Some of the mistakes on this list are so common you may not realise they’re hurting your business. Here are a just few types of copy your customers couldn’t care less about…

1. Mission statements

There was a time when every business website seemed to have a mission statement.

Lots of companies still have them. And they always seem to start with something along the lines of “we aim to become the number-one provider of widgets in the world”.

But your customers don’t care about your mission statement, brand purpose, manifesto (or whatever you want to call it).

 

 

The problem with mission statements

There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to be better, so by all means have a mission statement. There’s just no reason to tell your customers about it.

The main issue is your mission is about you – not the reader. Have you ever spent time with someone who only talks about themselves?

We all know someone like this.

These people usually have an inflated sense of their own importance and show little or no interest in what you have to say.

Mission statements often make companies seem like that annoying person you avoid because they bore you to tears.

People don’t choose to buy from you because of your “commitment to innovation” “or your dedication to customer satisfaction”.

Lines like this impress no-one – partly because they’re so common and partly because they’re dripping with self-importance.

As ad man Dave Trott says, if you really want to stand out, then be different. So in the case of mission statements, you can stand out by ignoring any urge to jump on the bandwagon.

Your customers buy from you because you provide a product or service that makes their lives easier. And it’s the job of your copy to tell them what you’re offering them and why they should choose you over your competitors.

Most mission statements also fail to set out a strategy that tells a company’s employees the way forward. All they amount to is pompous rambling with no real purpose other than to stroke the egos of those in charge.

2. Your feelings

Lots of businesses issue press releases and other marketing materials that start with the phrase “we are delighted to announce…”

But I’ve got news for you.

No-one cares about how you feel about the launch of your new product or website. They just want you to answer one simple question: what’s in it for me?

3. Solutions

solution

So many companies use the word “solution”, either in their business name, their taglines, or in their descriptions of their service.

You see solutions everywhere. From plumbing solutions, to imaging solutions and outsourced client solutions (what does that even mean?).

But guess what.

No-one cares about your solution.

Some people seem to think that tacking solution on the end of their business name makes them sound more professional. But even if this were true, it’s now lost all its meaning because it’s so over-used.

Besides, any half-decent copywriter will tell you the same thing – the word “solution” is confusing to your reader.

When someone searches for someone to unblock their toilet, of course they want a solution to that problem. But I’m willing to bet good money that nobody thinks to themselves “oh, I must call a plumbing solution”.

Why?

Because all they want is a plumber! This all goes back to the idea that you should use copy to talk to your customers like you would face to face.

I’ll leave the last word on solutions to fellow copywriter Sarah Turner, who quotes a now-deleted statement from Wikipedia in an old blog post:

 

The word solution should be confined to its use in chemistry, mathematics and problem solving. It should not be used to refer to products, services, software or a combination of these things, since such usage implies that the product or service solves the problem it is intended to solve: the word “solution” should instead be replaced by a concrete descriptive term for the type of product, such as “software”. Solution often is used simply as a buzzword that can be eliminated altogether with no loss of meaning. 

4. Brand experiences

Legendary direct-response copywriter Drayton Bird has the following to say about much of the marketing world’s obsession with branding:

 

Please don’t spend your time naval gazing about branding. Nobody gives a monkey’s f— about your brand. Nobody wants to have a relationship with a brand. Nobody wants to f— a brand. Nobody wants to go to bed with a brand, or kiss a brand. All they care about is their sweet little selves.

Watch Drayton Bird’s talk at Copy Cabana 2016 (below) for more insight on marketing:

These caustic words certainly go against the grain these days. Especially at a time when companies spend millions espousing their “brand values” and agencies promise “brand experiences” that “drive relevance in a changing world”.

Yet consumers think about a brand in terms of how it makes their lives easier.

It’s daft to expect them to take the love they feel for family or friends and apply them to a brand. Let’s face it – it’s hard enough to maintain real human relationships. Still, companies cram marketing briefs with words like “loyalty” and “passion”.

The world may be changing, but one fact will remain the same until the end of time.

Your customers only care about what you can do for them. 

For this reason, your copy should put your product and its benefits at the centre of any campaign.

After all, if the product doesn’t fulfil your customers’ needs, your swanky branding won’t hide its faults for long.

5. Product features

Yep, I know this might seem like I’m contradicting myself here. But your customers don’t really care your product or service – they care about what it does.

The need to write about benefits over features is a well-worn topic among copywriters. However, it’s worth repeating as so much copy still ignores this principle.

Describe the quarter-inch hole – not the drill

As Harvard Business School marketing professor Theodore Levitt once said, “people don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” As a result, a copywriter’s job is to understand what your customer really wants.

So if you’re selling paint, showing the wall with a gleaming new finish grabs attention better than just listing the features of the product.

If you’re selling a Ferrari, you can write copy to paint a picture of them living a VIP lifestyle. Or better still, describe the feeling of adrenaline pumping through their veins as they push the pedal to the floor.  

The key to selling more is to make your reader see and feel all the great things they get when they buy your product.

Conclusion

The common theme running through this article is that the key to successful marketing is focusing on your reader. Your customers couldn’t give a rat’s arse about you or your business.

With this in mind, don’t waste their time by rambling on about brand experiences, mission statements, your feelings, or the features of your product or service. People don’t want to read your ad – to them, it’s junk mail.

Your reader’s favourite subject is him/herself. So to engage them, you need to make your copy about them and not you.

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