Writing stand-out marketing copy that’s different from your competitors is hard. Having to write my own marketing messaging for my own business has taught me this. But it’s more than personal experiences that have led me to this conclusion. My clients have told me so, too.
On my intake form I ask this question: What do you loathe about your existing copy? These are some of the replies I’ve had over the years.
‘It’s boring and a little generic.’
‘It’s formulaic, it doesn’t stand out.’
‘It’s boring and doesn’t say enough.’
‘I think my content is boring.’
‘It’s bland and doesn’t get me hits.’
Rinse and repeat.
Clients come to me wanting their existing copy rewritten because of the fear of sounding boring and like their competitors. The main fear is losing business because of this. Is the worry of sounding boring specific to one particular industry? Nuh-uh. Whether it’s digital marketing, wedding, or companion, the ‘I sound the same, the copy is boring’ concern always surfaces.
And when I look at the existing copy, I see what they mean.
It’s not that the copy is badly written.
It’s not riddled with errors or poorly structured.
It’s just that it’s full of cliches and lines that are exactly the same as what their competitors are saying.
The problem with cliches is that they’re boring and predictable
Reading copy that’s jammed full of tropes that appear on every site is the equivalent of listening to a James Blunt album. I mean, it’s fine. But it washes over you. There’s no lasting impression, which is exactly the opposite of what copy must do.
I’m banging on about this not just because of the dozens of conversations I’ve had with clients about sameness, but because of this cracking article titled Advertising: reimagined by marketer Amy Charlotte Kean. Not got time to read it? I’ll summarise.
Amy argues that the reason we keep seeing the same old, same old being used in adverts, is because we’re afraid. Afraid to write differently or create ads that are a slap-in-the-face contrast to what our competitors are doing. The result? Everything reads the effing same to the point where one company become indistinguishable from the next.
So how do you avoid writing beige copy and create words for your advert, website, or email marketing that sticks with your readers?
Three super simple tips to liven up your writing
1. If you’ve read it somewhere else, don’t use it
When you read something really, really good that you like the sound of, it’s tempting to use it. Or a version of it. Especially if you’ve seen it on a successful competitor’s site. It’s easy to think, ‘Well if they’re saying this and they’re getting loads of business it must be the right thing to say, so I’ll do the same.’ But here’s the thing. Unless you have access to their metrics or audience data, you can’t know that. All that ends up happening is a parroting of the same copy repeated on site after site, advert after advert. Customers do notice.
The Fix: Be inspired by what you read but make it better. Take the sentiment of the messaging and make it your own by writing it in a way that’s uniquely you. Draw on your branding, local dialect, or say it aloud to capture the essence of how you talk.
2. Keep the language simple
Wanna see an example of some copy that made me retch? Here ya go.
This is what happens when jargon gets the better of a writer. Or, more realistically, what happened when C-suite got hold of the work the copywriter did and “helped”. (Oops, did I say that out loud?)
Simple language is simple to read, which makes its message easier to digest. And when copy is easy to understand, it’s punchier. It’s can also build trust between you and your reader. This is actually something Amy discusses in her article. She argues that big fancy language is often a smoke-screen, used to bamboozle the reader. Jargon can be an attempt to make the writer or company sound more important, knowledgeable, cutting edge (there’s a disgusting cliché right there) than they actually are.
The Fix: Write using language that is familiar to your ideal customer. And run your copy through the Hemingway App. It analyses your writing, giving you a readability grade and suggestions for making your writing bolder, clearer and punchier.
3. Back up any claims
Phrases such as, ‘We’re the number one business for…’, ‘Our service is truly unique,’ and ‘We’re loved by millions’ are all very well, as long as the claim can be supported. Otherwise, it ends up sounding like wishy-washy hyperbole.
The Fix: Use the hard facts and information that you get from your business figures and customers. If you’re in a position to share sales figures, great! Of course, you can always rely on client testimonies for honest insights into what’s great about your business. And don’t forget to drill down into your processes, revealing and explaining how your business is the things you say it is.
Writing lively, original copy is hard
The reason businesses rely on cliches and follow in the footsteps of their competitors is because there’s a fear of doing anything different. And finding a new, original angle is hard. Sometimes it’s impossible. The good news is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You just need to change enough so that your readers feel like they’re reading something that’s uniquely you.