In this series so far, we have discussed why
- ‘Old school’ product marketing must change
- You should encourage buyers to pull your information in instead of 'pushing' out your marketing
- You want your customers to do the selling not you.
- Customer-centric marketing is more effective than product-centric marketing
Here, in part 5, we’ll look at why clear, natural writing is more effective than formal, traditional, and professional writing styles.
- Don’t choose words to impress
- Do simplify for clarity
"Professional" Language doesn't Impress
The vast majority of business marketing copy is horribly ineffective.
Inexperienced marketers assume that business writing should be formal. They try really hard to make it seem professional, because they want to make themselves look good and they know it's expected in their industry - "everyone else does it like this".
...avoid jargon-laden phrases that are over-used in your industry. In the technology business, words like "groundbreaking," "industry-standard," and "cutting-edge" are what I call gobbledygook
-- David Meerman Scott @dmscott
- Sophisticated grammar
- Extensive vocabulary
- Latin and Greek phrases and quotes
... to prove you were a professional, well-educated and worthy to serve high-class customers.
It worked in 19th Century England. We are not in 19th Century England.
You will gain tremendous credibility, become much more productive, make those around you much more productive, and experience a great deal more joy in your working life if you look someone in the eye after hearing one of these verbal brain jammers and tell the person, "I don't have any idea what you just said to me."
-- Dan Palotta
The purpose of language is to enable us to communicate. Complexity, hyperbole and jargon get in the way.
You only have a few seconds to engage your readers' attention.
Every time your audience hesitates over a long word or a difficult phrase, you're losing attention. Fewer people will focus on the content. Your message and marketing will be less effective.*
*There will be a few rare occasions e.g. for legal, scholars, banking where very formal language is more effective. But test thoroughly to make sure if you think this might apply for your audience.
Professional copy writers work very hard to ensure their writing is natural.
Readers enjoy consuming information and marketing messages that are easy to digest.
Speak human: Communicate your brand mission, values, and philosophy in simple terms, using the language of your customers. Speak in a conversational tone, with personality, empathy, and true emotion. Kill corporate-speak, buzzwords, and other language that makes you sound like a tool.
-- Ann Handley @MarketingProfs
One area that causes a lot of confusion for marketers is using jargon to reinforce relevance and authenticity.
It's tempting to think that sprinkling industry-specific jargon throughout your marketing will improve its effectiveness for your target audience.
But it's the content of your marketing that is more important.
Writing clearly about topics that are important and relevant in an insightful way will always be far more authentic than bland marketing drivel stuffed with industry aconymns and buzzwords.
- NUA: Never Use Acronyms
- MYJ: Minimize Your Jargon
using jargon in your communications can confuse your readers and make them feel alienated. If your message gets lost under layers of complex technical talk, your prospects will look elsewhere for answers to their problems.
-- Rachel Foster @CopywriterTO
Clear First Clever Second
- You'll appear confused
- Your product will seem too complicated
- Your offer will be less attractive
To communicate clearly, your writing should be
- Focused » Stick to one key message
- Crisp » Use fewer words and shorter sentences
- Simple » Choose words that are popular and short
Specific is attractive, specific is clear, specific is convincing. Don’t be vague, be specific.
Use this exercise, the next time you're writing a marketing piece
- Write an objective including desired action
- Decide what your main message is
- Write out your copy
- Remove half the text, especially any paragraphs that aren't essential for your objective / main message.
- Simplify each sentence, remove jargon, cut out non-essential words
- Remove half the text again. Use pictures and bullets instead of full sentences
- Test against your original copy and see which converts best
Next time in this series, we’ll look at which types of marketing investment are the most effective - and which are not.