Are we speaking your language? That’s no accident. We choose our industries with intent—because no competitive advantage rivals experience.
As a professional marketer, it always gets under my skin to hear the word “marketing” used in a derogatory way to mean “fake,” “misleading,” or “insincere.” People use phrases like “marketing speak” or “marketing lingo” to describe language that obscures a product’s faults by spinning bugs into features. “Marketing language” is unspecific, full of empty statements, and inherently vague. At its worst, this copy is riddled with jargon terms, exaggerated language, and superficial hype.
No wonder no one likes it.
But here’s the truth: Language like that? Probably isn’t the fault of your marketing department (unless they’re all bad at their jobs).
Of course, the problem could be that your business is bad. If you know your products are mediocre, your service is unsatisfactory, your employees are searching for another job as you read these words, and your customers only offer lukewarm praise at best, then of course your marketing copy feels fake, misleading, and insincere.
But most businesses we speak to have the opposite problem: They love their organization. They think they’re the bee’s knees. They’re frustrated that their marketing doesn’t represent how awesome they are. If this is the case, there could be a number root causes plaguing your marketing materials.
No good marketer likes to be left out of the loop, yet it’s all too common for organizations with strict silos to inadvertently isolate their marketing team from what their other team members are doing. The less access your marketing team has to the rest of the company, the more watered down and generic their materials will become.
This one is harder. Maybe your upper management likes to have a strong say on marketing materials. They’re constantly weighing in with their latest greatest idea. But the result is that each good idea gets reworked and massaged and overthought until it loses its edge.
There’s a difficult balance to find in marketing, where large brand statements have to represent the big picture, but most customers are going to be drawn in by the niche and specific. Headlines should be bold and general, but after that you need to get down to the brass tacks if you want to be convincing.
Finally, we’ve worked with some businesses that seem to be governed by anxiety. They’re afraid to make bold statements because they don’t want to offend, or to over-reach, or to seem too full of themselves. The more business second-guess their creative choices, they more they talk themselves back to safe” (read: “bland”) copy.
As build/create’s head copywriter, before we do any major brand work—and before we do any significant copywriting—it’s my job to interview key team members of our client and talk with them about their work. I may talk to one or two people or as many as twenty, depending on the job. These conversations let me hear first hand from team members about the work they do, what they enjoy about it, what they wished other people knew about it, and what they themselves find exciting and inspirational. If something’s inspiring your team, that’s what should be in your copy.
I once worked with a great client—someone gregarious and collaborative, who was more than willing to discuss his business ideas with me at length—but who also had an unfortunate penchant for inventing new words and terms to describe his business at every turn.It’s very hard for anyone to get excited about your business if they’re overwhelmed by abstract terminology. Jargon has a specific place in copy—for when you’re communicating peer-to-peer with professionals who need to know you speak their language. If you’re the only person who can speak your jargon, you’re creating communication barriers your marketing won’t easily overcome.
At the end of the day, your marketing is there to place your business in the most flattering light. It should highlight your strengths while being honest with customers about whether or not you’re a good fit for their needs. It should make you feel good about your company and your brand not because it says bold and exciting things about you, but because you recognize those things to be true.
If your marketing isn’t doing that for you, it’s time to reevaluate. That means going back to your brand values, looking at how well those align with your products, services, and company culture, and doing the work necessary to bring them up to the vision you have for your organization.
But if you believe in your company, trust your team, have great customer relationships, and your marketing still doesn’t ring true?
It’s time to bring in a better marketing team.
If that sounds like something you need, contact us.