I think many of us have at one time or another have worried about our style of writing in marketing materials and content. We are surrounded by such a huge amount of information that we try our best to stand out with the words we use.
But is that really necessary? Can we take it too far and end up losing customers by using particular words?
In this week’s guest post, CMA Member Owen Philipson talks about the language we use in marketing and why it should be based around building trust.
I have spent more than 15 years working in marketing and publishing in the construction industry.
Throughout this time, my copywriting and editing has always followed a technical, objective style. Although publishing methods, marketing best practice, and distribution channels have changed, the following mantra has always remained: ‘just give your audience the facts’.
This principle rings true in the construction industry, but I’d also like to show you how I think it can be applied to many other industries as well.
What are construction buyers like?
First, some background. The audience for construction products are buyers and ‘specifiers’. Specifiers are usually architects, who ‘specify’ a particular product in a construction design but don’t actually place the order. They are very sought-after – if your product gets specified, you are likely to get a big order. As a result, many product manufacturers work very hard to please architects.
This audience needs raw facts to make their choices – information such as materials, finishes, and dimensions.
There are also technical regulations that construction products must adhere to. If a product manufacturer fills their content with exaggerated marketing language, it actually makes it harder for the potential buyer to do their job. So plain language, well-written copywriting, and an emphasis on technical information are important.
I believe this approach will work in many other sectors and contexts.
Traditional language in marketing
As a marketer, you may want to present your products or services in the best possible light – emphasising their benefits, and making sure your branding is properly represented.
In marketing it’s traditional to use a promotional, persuasive, and, in some cases, aspirational type of writing. There is sometimes a place for this, such as your home page and company ‘about us’ pages, or on exhibition display stands. It is used in straplines and in places where you communicate your brand values.
However, jargon, exaggerated marketing claims, and overblown language will not break down the barriers that are preventing your customers from buying.
You will recognise the overused phrases I am referring to.
- Cutting edge.
- High quality.
- World class.
- Market leading.
David Meerman Scott’s Gobbledygook Manifesto is required reading on this topic.
I also have my own list of 15 words to avoid in construction marketing. Boasts, unique, state-of-the-art, and ultimate are some of my least favourites. Which ones are you using?
Don’t try to make yourself or your company appear clever or important – make it easier for your customer to buy from you.
When you write about your actual products and services, I believe that plainer language that gets straight to the point is better.
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes.
Trust: The language of content marketing
If you are reading this you probably follow content marketing, so you will know that consumers and buyers are turning away from traditional advertising.
We skip adverts and avoid speaking to pushy salespeople and marketers. We resist picking up the phone or walking into a physical store. It is harder to gain our trust as buyers.
The Content Marketing Academy has learnt and taught a lot about Marcus Sheridan’s They Ask, You Answer philosophy. We know that, more than ever, people are researching online before they buy.
To make the purchase they need information, and the most common things they need to know about are:
- cost and price
- ‘best of’ or ‘top 5’
Creating content on these topics attracts buyers and breaks down the barriers to buying.
By their nature, the content should educate and inform – it should be written in a clear and simple way that is easy to understand.
This type of content also builds trust in your potential buyer, who will be very reassured if you are upfront about the cost, and any potential problems in particular.
In terms of trust, I find that the use of words from my ‘15 words to avoid’ article makes me feel suspicious when I see them on a company’s website.
When someone says their product is unique, is the ultimate choice, or is the industry leading product, it erodes my trust – I suspect that they are bullshitting me.
Construction buyers demand a very high level of trust in the products they specify. Their professional reputations depend on the buildings they design. They need to be sure that the products will not fail over the long term.
They will buy or specify from a sales rep they trust, too – someone who listens and offers the type of technical information and advice that they need, when they need it.
For this reason, I always use plain, factual language when writing about construction products, instead of language that erodes trust.
Just give your audience the facts
I’m certain that this honest approach to writing can work for you, too.
Your audience is made up of decision makers – and you want them to make the decision to buy from you.
Starting that relationship with exaggerated or deceptive language is a way to never gaining their trust.
Give your potential customers the plain facts and the information they need, and they will trust your brand.
Use an objective, plain-English style of writing and you will make it easier for them to buy from you.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic too.
- Do you have a list of ‘bug bear’ words that you hate seeing in marketing? Share them with us!
- Are you a member of a community? How has it benefited your content?
Please share your experiences below and feel free to ask if you have any questions.
- Be Less Boring
- What is content marketing?
- Episode 57: How to improve your writing for business blogging
- Guest Blogging: Why I’ve started a Guest Blog
About Owen Philipson
Owen Philipson is a technical copywriter and editor, with specific expertise in the construction industry. His passion for clear, concise language is mostly used to help construction product manufacturers communicate effectively.