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Platitudes Guarantee Dismal Results: 3 Tests To Improve Your Marketing Copy

19 Aug 2012 | Categories: Marketing Copy, AD Copy, Marketing Copy, Marketing Copy, Platitudes | Posted by: Cheryl

There are three kinds of phrases you should never use in any of your advertising material, as they guarantee poor results. Platitudes plague most advertising and marketing materials, and we guarantee you ARE using them (whether you know it or not).

When prospects contact you, do they seem solely focused on price? Leaving you forced into a price-competition to get their business? Do you find yourself needing to squash profits in order to price match to stay competitive? If you answered “Yes” to any of these, the following exercise will open your eyes and explain why you have this problem.

Take a look at your advertising message and ask yourself if it surprises your prospects in any way? Does it educate them? Do you use the same tired, common words and phrases your competitors use? There are certain phrases that ensure poor results and we guarantee you are using them right now.

Think about the last time you bought something. Did you do some research, so you could learn about the product or service you were buying? Didn’t you want to know without a doubt who offered superior value? Once you’d gathered enough information, you then made your decision, confident in your buying choice. Your customers do the very same thing.

With quick access to unprecedented levels of information, people today are savvy shoppers. They are smart and need good information in order to make an informed purchase decision. While in stores, people are using their smartphones to gather reviews and information about your products and services. They need to evaluate your products and services against those of your competitors. If you were to help your customers understand how to make an informed purchase decision regarding your superior products and services, do you think they would choose you over your competition? You bet they would!

But how can your prospects do that if you use the same platitude-ridden messages your competition uses? How can they tell that you are any different than the rest if you say the same things? To give you a sample of what you will experience with our Insightful Marketing Program™, we’re going to give you three evaluations to use on your current marketing materials.

3 Phrases You Should Avoid – Platitudes, Platitudes, Platitudes

Words or phrases that are drearily commonplace and predictable that lack power to evoke interest through overuse or repetition, that nevertheless are stated as though they were original or significant.

Rich Harshaw—Monopolize Your Marketplace

Pick up your local Yellow Pages and look at the ADs. Pick an industry—say carpet cleaning—and look at all relevant ADs. What do you see?

Here are examples from one of our local Yellow Pages:

  • It’s not clean until YOU say it’s clean… guaranteed
  • You’ll get what you expect
  • No drying time
  • We answer the phone live
  • Honest pricing
  • Scheduled appointment times
  • Family owned business
  • Trusted since 1970
  • State-of-the-art equipment
  • Every day low rates
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Advanced “waterless” dry system technology

Page after page is filled with platitude-ridden ADs saying the same thing, again and again. Now, after looking at these, through your customer’s eye, do you feel you have received enough of the right information in order to make an informed decision about which company to pick?

Did you get any of your necessary carpet cleaning questions answered? Do you have a sense of the differences between each carpet cleaning business? Or do all the companies appear to be the same? If they all look the same, then the only thing you have to go on is to use price. Are you starting to get the picture? Guaranteed your advertising is riddled with platitudes, too, thus you leave your customers no choice but to use price as a differentiating factor between you and your competitor!

Yes, it is important that your business embody the example phrases listed above, and that we ourselves be and reflect these qualities. However, understand that platitudes offer NO VALUE to potential customers when included in advertising. And worst yet, they lay the foundation for the price-matching problem.

Okay, time for a hands-on experiment using your own advertising materials. Let’s see if you can pass the following three evaluations.

PLATITUDE EVALUATION #1 – “Well, I would hope so!”

Carefully look at one of your ADs and identify a claim you’ve made. Now ask yourself if one of your prospective customers could respond to the claim by saying, “Well, I would hope so!”

For example, look at the Daggs Painting AD where it says, “Prompt & Reliable Service”. Have you ever said to yourself, “Nope, I’d like late and unpredictable service, please”? No! We’d all mentally respond, “Well, I would hope that they offer prompt and reliable service!” Still looking at that same AD, they go on to say, “ALL WORK GUARANTEED.”What else would you expect them to say? Everyone will make the same claim.

Then check out the Peacock Painting AD where it states, “Call Us For Clean & Friendly Service.” I’m quite sure anyone wanting to hire a painter would want the person doing the work to be clean and friendly. Can you imagine requesting a messy, grumpy painter to do the work? Do you get the picture? Everyone is going to say great things about themselves, but the question is does it add value and set them apart from the rest? Absolutely not.

So far, how did your AD fair? Do you have any painfully obvious statements present? If yes, you are not alone. The problem with using platitudes is that even if your business is exceptional it won’t be surfaced to the outside world because your company will appear to be the same as everyone else. That is how come you are not selling more of your valuable products and services. When making a claim, always ask yourself, “Why would anyone choose me over my competitor?” Answering this question will help demonstrate the inside reality of your business to the outside world. Because your company is distinct from your competitors, how can someone reading platitude-filled ADs grasp those important differences?

PLATITUDE EVALUATION #2 – Who Else Can Say That?

For this test you must pay attention to who else can say what you say, as opposed to do what you do. Most often the answer is anybody and everybody.

In the example painting ADs, all companies could say and claim the same thing. For example, all painting companies could claim:

  • Workmanship Guaranteed
  • Competitive Rates
  • Free Estimates
  • Interior & Exterior
  • Residential & Commercial

And if you look at the AD for Tru Dutch Painting, they claim to have “The Best Work, The Best Price.” Looking at the A & J Painting AD they have a similar claim, “On of Sudbury’s Best Kept Secrets.” As a consumer looking at these two ADs, you cannot tell if they really do the best work.

PLATITUDE EVALUATION #3 – Cross Out/Write-in Test

In the A & J Painting AD, they offer a “15% Discount for Seniors”. I think all seniors would appreciate a discount. And who else can say that? Realistically, any one of these painters could say the very same thing; we can see that Peacock Painting did, too. Now test how distinct your AD is by crossing out your competitors name in his AD and writing in your company’s name. Are all his claims true for you? Now try the reverse, cross out your name in one of your ADs and write in your competitor’s name. Is the AD still viable? Do you see how hard it is for your prospects to distinguish you from your competition?

Even if you know you have higher quality or offer some other benefit over your competitor, can your competitor claim the same thing? An uneducated prospect will not be able to tell you apart.

When we apply the Insightful Marketing Program™ to your business, we help you identify and eliminate platitudes from all your marketing materials (print, radio, video, website, brochures, etc.). By having you explain to us how and why you are distinct from your competition, we can identify how to replace the tired platitudes with content that helps your prospects ask the right questions of your competitors, and you. The goal of this process is to educate your protects about your industry so they realize—on their own—they’d be crazy to do business with anyone but you.

Case Study: Moving Company

If this sounds too far-fetched, consider a real life example about a moving company that Rich Harshaw worked with, and describes in his book Monopolize Your Marketplace.

Did you know there are three distinct types of insurance coverage moving companies carry? By carefully interviewing a client in the moving business, Harshaw found out about the three types of coverage:

  • Self-insured by the mover (if things go wrong, good luck collecting!);
  • Per-pound replacement ($0.40 per pound—imagine your TV being dropped);
  • Full replacement value.

Clearly, the best and only one you as a customer should have is the full replacement option. Yet every Yellow Page AD in that area reported they were “fully insured”. Can you imagine something going wrong with your move and you need to access the moving company’s insurance and only then find out they do not carry the full replacement option, despite their claim of being “fully insured”? Nightmare! Only by educating consumers about the “dirty secrets” of the moving industry did the moving company that offered full replacement stand out from the other 95% of the moving companies. The company Rich worked with went from 70 calls a month to over 900 calls a month! How’d you like to get those kind of results?

By using platitudes, you force a prospect to shop based on price. By following the Marketing Equation principals, the Insightful Marketing Program™ will help you define your strengths in order to help truthfully distinguish you from your competition. Using automated marketing systems and tools, we can then convey those distinct points of difference throughout all your marketing materials be they traditional (print, radio, billboard) or online (website, blogs, e-mails, text messages, videos, webcasts etc.

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