When it comes to their profession, most people have got a few industry-insider pet hates.
Mostly, said pet hates are things only someone who really understands that profession would know, because it’s what they spend most of their waking hours doing – which means they tend to notice all the irritating minutiae that go along with it.
When I worked in HR, my pet hates included people thinking “HR is about everything to do with people”; a conveniently vague catch-all description that meant I had to deal with things like body odour complaints, or testing people’s urine for drugs (don’t ask).
Now I’m someone who’s regularly asked to write words that sell, I’ve turned my ‘pet hate’ attention to those lazy, go-to words and phrases people always use when they want to flog something.
(Be honest: have you ever used any of these?)
Once upon a time, we were all trained to think about business as presenting solutions to customers’ problems.
Which is fine, except now the whole world seems to have taken it literally. Go online, and you’ll see that everything’s become a “solution”. Dinner is a catering solution, your phone is a communication solution, and your significant other is your loneliness solution.
Happily, fixing this one is nice and easy. Just explain exactly what it is you’re selling, instead.
Do that well enough, and the actual solution you offer will become crystal clear.
2. “Bring your XXXX to life”
This is a seriously overused phrase that always makes me think of Frankenstein’s Monster. Usually, it’s referring to dreams.
(Type “bring your dreams to life” into Google, and you’ll get hundreds of thousands of results).
But who wants to bring their dreams to life?
I don’t, because mine are mostly about getting lost in dark and scary places, all my teeth suddenly falling out, or getting married to Nigel Farage.
Dreams are senseless and abstract, so it’s hard to picture them suddenly being “brought to life”. It’s harder still when everybody else is saying it, too.
So when you talk about bringing something to life, what do you mean, and how are you going to achieve it? Make it easy for people to understand what will happen as a result of working with you.
3. “We treat you like family”
I’ve seen this one pop up more and more often on business websites and profiles, and it’s really weird.
Families tend to seethe with unanswered questions, broken relationships, endless taken-for-grantedness, and petty domestic complaints about things like leaving the cap off the toothpaste. Against all this is a permanent undercurrent of the twisted kind of love and affection that can only exist between a group of people who’ve been randomly thrown together for life.
(I’m exaggerating a bit here, but I know you get the idea).
Since it goes to follow that most people will treat their customers far more nicely than their family members, there’s really nothing wrong with telling people you’re going to treat them like customers.
4. “A XXXX like no other”
This phrase is slowly starting to replace the ever-prolific “unique”, as businesses search for attention-grabbing words to describe their products and services.
But in reality, what you’re selling probably isn’t unique. Even if it is, using the word “unique” to describe it will ironically make it sound the same as everything else.
The same goes for “…like no other”. That’s a dramatic claim to make, and if it’s true then people will want to see how you’ll back it up.
All too often however, it’s used in a big, bold headline on a web page that then goes on to describe something that sounds just like its many competitors.
Don’t worry. Even if what you’re offering isn’t truly unique, and even if it doesn’t bring anything to life at all, you can still stand out from the crowd in words.
All it takes is thinking about your business as it really is, then having the confidence to choose words and phrases that honestly describe who you are, what you offer, and how you offer it.
That way, you won’t have to keep talking about “unique business solutions” any more. And wouldn’t that be a refreshing relief?
(If it’s not a relief for you, trust me – it will be a relief for your readers).
I'm a friendly and professional writer, reviewer and editor who works with warmth, humour and flexibility.
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