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Marketing Tactics

5 Ways Words Can Destroy Your Marketing Messages (And How To Fix Them)

Use these copywriting tips to improve your marketing messages and ensure you don’t lose sales or money on your marketing investments.

Susan Gunelius

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If your marketing messages aren’t powerful and don’t speak to the right audiences, they won’t deliver the results you need. In other words, you’ll lose money on your investments, and you’ll lose sales. No business owner can afford that!

Words carry a lot of weight, and you need to use them wisely in your marketing messages. An experienced copywriter can craft messages that communicate effectively and motivate the audience to take action, but what if you can’t afford to hire a copywriter? What if you’re not sure the copywriter you’re working with is any good?

Fortunately, there are a number of theories you can learn and tools you can use to write better marketing messages yourself or to ensure the writer you’re working with is delivering quality copy.

Here are five ways words can destroy your marketing and simple ways you can fix them.

1You used too many words

Research has found that people have an attention span of just eight seconds, so you don’t have much time to get your message across to your audience. It’s even worse for younger audiences. Millennials have a five-second attention span for ads!

Bottom line, every word that isn’t necessary needs to be deleted from your copy or you run the risk of investing a lot of time and money into a marketing piece that people will ignore before they see or hear the call to action.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa (PART 2)

Get to the point! Here are three ways to do it:

K.I.S.S. rule of copywriting: Remove filler words from your copy to keep it simple. For example, words like “really,” “that” and “very” should be deleted without mercy. Don’t feel bad for these words. Delete them!

T.M.I. rule of copywriting: Don’t let your audience get bored or distracted as you weave a lovely story. If text doesn’t support the goal of the marketing piece, get rid of it. Remember, you only have five to eight seconds, don’t waste them!

Red pen rule of copywriting: Keep your copy succinct, and it will almost always be more powerful. Once you’ve written your messages, get out your red pen and delete at least 30 percent of it. The objective is to delete a significant amount of copy, because it’s likely what you delete doesn’t include your strongest messages. You’ll be left with something that actually drives the results you need.

2You used jargon

marketing-sign

Big words and jargon are rarely appropriate in ads and marketing materials unless you’re in a highly technical or regulated industry. Even then, your audience will probably prefer you leave the jargon out, or it just looks like you’re trying too hard.

One of the most important factors to write great marketing messages is understanding your audience and writing copy that speaks to them. It doesn’t matter if you love the word grassroots. If your audience won’t respond to it positively, leave it out. The last thing you want is for your audience to cringe when they read or hear your messages. That’s a guaranteed way to lose sales.

Review your copy and find the jargon or excessively big words. Do those words enhance the message and make it more meaningful to the audience or do those words interrupt the reader or listener? Unless jargon and big words have special places in your audience’s hearts, replace them with simpler words.

3You used the wrong pronouns

Great marketing messages speak about the audience, not just about the company behind the products or services being offered. Therefore, your copy should use second person pronouns (you, your, yours) far more often than first person pronouns (I, me, mine, we, us, our, ours).

The truth is no one cares about you. They care about how your products or services can help them or make their lives easier. This is the cornerstone of the fundamental rule of marketing, which says, “Your product or service is far less important than its ability to fulfill your customers’ needs.” If your messages only talk about you, they’ll fail.

Related: 5 Reasons Your Small Business Needs Content Marketing

To fix this problem, review your copy looking for every instance where you use first person pronouns and talk about your company rather than about consumers’ wants and needs.

Now, think about how you can turn messages that focus on you around and show how that information about your company actually benefits consumers.

For example, you might have 300 customer service agents, but why should a consumer care? That number is meaningless until you give it meaning. Instead, say the wait time to get help via phone is extremely low since there is always someone available to take the customer’s calls. Remember, copy should always focus on benefits, not just features.

4You used passive verbs

When you invest in an ad or marketing piece, you typically want it to drive some kind of action from an audience. It includes a call to action that should motivate people to actually take that action. However, making a simple mistake like using passive voice rather than active voice in your sentence structure could negatively affect the results.

In a passive voice sentence, the subject of the sentence receives the action of the verb (e.g., the ball was kicked by John), but in an active voice sentence, the subject of the sentence performs the action of the verb (e.g., John kicked the ball). Do you want people to take action or just think about taking that action? To elicit an active response from the audience, use the active voice in your copy.

Fixing this problem takes some sentence restructuring. Read through your messages and replace passive voice sentences with active voice sentences whenever possible. Keep in mind, adding a sense of urgency to your calls to action can boost results even higher. Don’t suggest an action, demand it – now!

5You didn’t use emotional words

Does your copy tap into the audience’s emotional triggers? If not, your results will be lower than they could be if you rewrote your messages to make people feel something. Copy that evokes emotional responses in consumers is almost always more effective than copy that does not. Why? Because most purchase decisions are ruled at least in part by emotions.

Related: 5 Extremely Effective Content Marketing Formats

Emotional triggers include fear, guilt, comfort, competition, trust and more. Follow the link for a great list of emotional triggers that you can use as a starting point to improve your marketing messages.

You can fix this problem in your messages by thinking about the benefits your product or service delivers to the target audience. Determine which benefits appeal to consumers’ emotional triggers and ensure messages related to those benefits and emotions are included in your marketing materials.

Know your next steps

Even if you don’t have the budget to invest in a great copywriter, you can improve your marketing messages by keeping the five ways words can destroy your copy in mind as you write. Follow the tips above to fix those problems, and you’ll be on your way to seeing bigger and better results from your marketing investments!

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

With nearly 20 years of marketing, branding and copywriting experience, Susan Gunelius is also an entrepreneur.

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Marketing Tactics

How Content Marketing Adds Real Value To Your Customers’ Lives

If you’re marketing on a budget, content marketing is a great way to reach your audience, add real value and gain brand traction – without breaking the bank.

Greg Tinkler

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Content marketing is a relatively new type of marketing that most businesses are still trying to get their heads around. Unlike traditional media advertising, which interrupts customers to get noticed, content marketing provides content that customers want in exchange for permission to market a product or service.

Disrupted media

There’s a saying, fish where the fish are. Marketing is the same. You need your message to appear where your audience’s attention lies. I don’t believe billboards or even TV adverts hold consumer attention anymore. People aren’t looking at billboards as they drive past; most aren’t even looking at the road, they’re so busy staring at their mobile device or listening to a podcast.

Related: Your 4-Part Formula For Creating Killer Content Marketing Videos

The traditional advertising model creates ad content that interrupts consumers. Billboards, TV commercials and radio advertisements momentarily disrupt what you actually want to be doing — watching your favourite TV show or listening to a song or chat show.

These ads don’t provide any real value to the customer and they don’t offer an immediate reason to even be viewed or engaged with. Instead, they rely on good placement, clever wording and brilliant creativity to capture your attention for a brief period of time.

The rise of content marketing

In response to these problems and restrictions, content marketing is on the rise. As a marketing alternative, it’s not only more cost effective, but it doesn’t aim to interrupt your customer. Instead, it aims to add real value to their lives and businesses by plugging directly into their interests, problems and challenges.

So how does content marketing work? Companies and marketers create content in the form of blog posts, podcast recordings, downloadable guides and infographics, video content and articles that don’t push products, but offer interesting advice, tips and opinions.

The value to consumers is provided in two ways: As educational content and as entertainment content. In both cases, access to this content is free, heightening its value.

Related: 5 Reasons Your Small Business Needs Content Marketing

Get the most out of content marketing

Here are three ways to get the most out of your content marketing efforts:

  1. Provide content that your customers want. Don’t make the mistake of writing your blog posts about your business. Lesson number one is that people don’t care about your business. Provide valuable content that customers want and need in exchange for their attention. This content can be educational or entertaining. It can be a ‘How to Guide’, an in-depth stats-driven article or an entertaining video. Just make sure it’s about them, and not you.
  2. Focus on content for the customer’s benefit and only occasionally promote or push your product. This is the rule most brands and companies struggle to understand. If you’re going to provide value to your customers, you need to mostly write content for the customer’s benefit and only occasionally promote your products within the content. People are interested in articles and posts that benefit them, not ad posts touting how awesome your products are. Give your customers content that they want, and nine times out of ten you’ll be rewarded with engaged and targeted audiences.
  3. Write cornerstone content. Cornerstone content is content that can be easily found by your ideal customers. It’s content that provides incredible value to customers over a long period of time. How-To Guides, resources, 101 content and instructional videos all fall into this category. It should be content that customers can refer back to, and which has a long lifespan. This also immediately increases the ROI of your content production, as you only need to create the content once, but it will continue to bring returns.

Bringing it all together

As you make your final marketing push for the year and gear up for next year, make sure content marketing forms a vital part of your strategy. Learn to write engaging blog posts, invest in a podcast setup and push video content. No one is expecting your content to be perfect — you are the expert in your area, and have great advice to share. That’s what will keep your audience engaged and coming back for more.

Just remember that this is a long play. Success won’t happen overnight. It takes time to build momentum — but over time, you will notice increased traffic, more leads and more sales.


Getting Started

  • Do you know what your clients are interested in, concerned with or challenged by?
  • Are you offering advice, tips or opinions that tap into these areas?
  • Does your content mostly focus on your clients and not you?

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Marketing Tactics

4 Ways To Implement Strategic Marketing Without Breaking The Bank

Marketing your start-up is all about the right strategies, not how much money you spend. You need to build your reputation from the ground up. Here’s how you can get started.

Mongezi Mtati

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Strategic marketing

Building a fledgling business is as much about increasing your client base as it is about building a positive reputation around the business and its expertise. Many experts and seasoned entrepreneurs argue that clients buy from people they trust and building that trust hinges on various parameters.

Take Steve Jobs, Wendy Luhabe, Richard Branson and many other leading business minds whose brands are built on years of credibility and trust. The truth is that equal attention needs to be given to great products and building trust within your client base.

Here are five skills that we’ve used to build our reputation at WordStart.

1Sharpen your writing skills for media and general communication

Create media coverage. Write on a company platform (like a blog) or for established media outlets. This will position you and your business in ways that get people to listen and share your knowledge.

Having your name next to an article on a respected platform can lead to useful connections with relevant contacts. A series of media features and industry commentary also help to position your business and team as experts in your field.

2Share industry trends

People will generally do research in and around an industry to find insights and trends, sometimes before they buy anything in that industry — and even afterwards. When I search for information on photography, Canon appears more than any other brand and they tend to set the scene on which device to buy.

Imagine your business is construction and that homeowners endorse your skills as a home improvement specialist. Packaging your knowledge into industry trends is also a great way to use your own lessons about the industry as you grow and it also helps you to connect with potential customers. Useful information with your name on it can increase your sales and client base.

3Edit. Edit. Edit

back-space

Something that cannot be stressed enough is that your writing in client documents can tarnish your brand. Many businesses tend to overlook the importance of grammar in their documents.

It can be difficult to reread and rewrite documents that you use in the business, but that is precisely what can lead to the loss of new and existing business.

Pay attention to how your business uses language and edit that work. When in doubt, read it again and be sure that nothing was missed. 

4Practice public speaking and search for opportunities

After you have written for various publications, you increase the likelihood of being invited to speak at conferences and seminars, which means that people put a face and voice to the written expertise. In some instances, the speaking engagements can be paid for by conference organisers which can be an additional revenue stream.

Public speaking, especially industry-related speaking, will increase the likelihood of selling more products or services and this will separate you from the competition. By increasing the trust customers have in you, you can improve the likelihood of them buying from you.

Once a business is positioned as a team of experts with the ability to speak for their industry, opportunities open up for that business to create unique content. Industry leaders who are able to help the public to connect the dots through the information they share are regularly on guest lists.

Is there anything you can share that your industry peers and the public may find eye-opening? There may be a conference organiser looking for you.

5Educate the market and build a client base

One of the advantages of being part of an industry is that you have inside information that the general public does not have. This presents an opportunity for you and your business to become a self-nominated industry mouthpiece.

When an individual and business share news about an industry, they can create a new client base because the public associates them with that information.

One of the best cases in South Africa is Discovery’s Vitality rewards programme, where you earn points for being healthy. This does not mean that Momentum, Bonitas, Sanlam, Sizwe and other players do not have similar or even better offerings. Vitality is more visible and more vocal about the fact that leading a healthier life can get you rewards.


A great reputation may lead to positive word-of-mouth for your business and increased sales over a longer period than a single marketing message.

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Marketing Tactics

Cut The Bull That Comes With Women Saudi Drivers

If there is an opportunity to increase sales and dominate a market, hell they are going in, briefing their agencies to start the marketing and… well, cue the thoughtlessness.

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Women belong in the kitchen, right? Wrong! Now they can drive in Saudi, and you know what that means? They can fetch the groceries too!

Bet the Feminists clicked on this article looking to wage a social media war. No need. The afore mentioned thinking is exactly how the quick acting social media teams of major car manufacturers are acting after King Salman announced the lift on banning women drivers in the kingdom.

Whether we think it’s progressive is not the debate here right now. I personally think its great that such a country who has long ‘protected’ its women from the horrors on the road now believes that women are capable of taking care of themselves out there. The issue? Let’s take one step back and mention one South African social brand so you can see where I am heading. Take Bic Pens with their infamous 2015 #HappyWomensDay post reading, “Look like a Girl, Act like a Lady, Think like a Man, Work like a Boss”. 

bic-campaign-on-womens-day

What does a Pen in South Africa and a Car in Saudi Araba have in common you ask? All their CEO’s have a twig and two berries (66% of those car manufacturers who ‘praised’ Saudi Women drivers on social, are white men) and they didn’t get there without some form of business knowledge.

Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing

If there is an opportunity to increase sales and dominate a market, hell they are going in, briefing their agencies to start the marketing and… well, cue the thoughtlessness.

Thinking before Tweeting 

There is nothing like a good tactical on Social Media. Every brand wants to be Oreos during the super bowl when the lights went out. Every Marketing Manager wants to be the one to get his or her clever execution out first because time is of the essence.

Did the car manufacturers do great tactical work? Absolutely!

Did the car manufacturers think about the role they didn’t play in the fight for the cause? Absolutely NOT! They just saw another opportunity to capitalise on ‘to be relevant’.

This ever-connected digital world we live in comes with an opportunity for brands to build deep relationships with their customers. Sure relevance is key, but do (straight, white, male) brands have a place in that conversation now that the hard work is done (by strong Saudi Women)? Was fighting for women’s rights to drive in Saudi ever part of their Brand DNA before the last week of September 2017? Nope, they just see an increase in sales come June 2018.

Common amongst those tactical auto brands’ values were customer service promises, the comfort of people in cars, and sustainability. Only one vouched for the respect for diversity, while another strived for integrity, vowing to keep its doors open to men and women alike. While I can understand that a Trans National Corporation needed to respect culture and politicophere of Saudi to be able to operate there, was there not an opportunity to lead the charge and help the 10- year fight for equality on the Kingdom’s roads? Would their auto brands need to advertise after being part of the battle after that?

The irony is that The Women to Drive Movement started with a 2007 YouTube video. Did none of these brands have an ORM tool that picked this up? I wonder if any evaluated the risks vs the returns had they supported the movement.

Sullivan Principles Anyone?

Back in 1977, The Sullivan Principles was a part of the world’s Corporate Social Responsibility as brands applied pressure on apartheid, South Africa. The corporate protest came with the thought that if business divested in SA, apartheid would eventually be cash-strapped and collapse. At the time General Motors was the biggest employer of Black South Africans and eventually was the first to pull out.

In 1999 the new Global Sullivan Principles was unveiled by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the preamble reads:

“The objectives of the Global Sullivan Principles are to support economic, social and political justice by companies where they do business; to support human rights and to encourage equal opportunity at all levels of employment, including racial and gender diversity on decision making committees and boards; to train and advance disadvantaged workers for technical, supervisory and management opportunities; and to assist with greater tolerance and understanding among peoples; thereby, helping to improve the quality of life for communities, workers and children with dignity and equality.”

Related: Direct Marketing: Go Where Your Customers Are

The first part of the new Sullivan Principles reads:

(We) “express our support for universal human rights and, particularly, those of our employees, the communities within which we operate, and parties with whom we do business.”

If brands actually invested in the people and their lives first, the customers will follow. Do this and there would be no need to be super tactical when it comes to the celebrations of the marginalised. We need brands to value ethical and corporate social responsibility they have in the markets they operate in. We have seen that the likes of General Motors can have an impact on a country, especially in South Africa (let’s drop the fact that they have divested again for the purposes of this).

Bottom line is advertising, marketing and brands have the power to shape the world years before a few people can go at it alone. Yes, businesses need to make money, but see the bigger returns when you are a part of something. The returns will be greater than the PR value you got on that meaningless, thoughtless, and unearned tweet. I promise you.

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