Welcome to another episode of Write with Influence. This week we’re going to dive into the world of filler and fluff – I’m going to be highlighting two common mistakes that people make and showing you how to be specific and avoid writing copy that might sound good, but actually tells your customer nothing about your product or service.
Listen to discover:
- How to use if-this-then-that logic to write confidently about your product and service and increase sales.
- Why you shouldn’t smooth off your copy to please everybody.
- How to paint a picture for your customer using specific details instead of vague phrases.
- My advice on how to tell a good business story – a fun exercise for you to try.
Today I want to shift your perspective a little bit. I hear sellers and business owners tell me they “Don’t want to be too pushy” and this is a common fear when writing copy for the purposes of selling because no one wants to come off like one of those obnoxious salespeople. But if you’re not excited and confident in your call to action, then why are you bothering people in the first place? I’m going to show you how to create a compelling story about your product or service and make confident invitations to help your customer understand what it is that you actually do and see why it will add value to their lives.
As ever, I have peppered this podcast with some fun sketches. This week I’ll be giving you sales whiplash with my impression of an annoying marketing rep and I’ll also be showing you how reducing your copy to a three word slogan to please the masses and avoid complaints is probably not likely to have the same impact as the “Just Do It” Nike campaign.
Fortunately striking the right balance between getting your point across and not pushing your prospect into a corner is much easier than it sounds, and I hope this podcast gives you all the tools you need to write confidently and increase your sales.
Please feel free to get in touch with any comments, feedback or suggestions for future shows, I’d love to hear from you.
HOW TO AVOID FILLER AND FLUFF IN YOUR COPY
Hi, and welcome to another episode of Write with Influence. It’s a pleasure to have you here of course, and I hope that this podcast finds you safe, warm, and well fed. In the next few minutes together, we’re going to dive into the world of filler and fluff and why you don’t want your copy to be like an Amazon delivery box where they just go way overboard with the packaging. I received something today and there was just so much cardboard and packing in with it, I felt really, really guilty about the environment and it did spoil the enjoyment of the diesel engine that I just bought – bad um ching!
When you write copy, every word should pack a punch, so one of the things you need to do is make sure that your content is sharp, lean, specific, and also confident. Now, in the last couple of episodes, we’ve been looking at this. In episode 23, I talked about not making the mistake of burying your value by talking about the things you might love, but customers couldn’t care less about. In episode 24, the last episode, we looked at how to create new copy angles from seemingly unimportant details. But today it’s more about being specific and avoiding copy that might sound like a good thing, but actually tells your customer nothing.
Have you ever met someone who tells a story via the scenic route?
[Open Scene – Amy’s friend telling a story via the scenic route]
Annoying Storyteller: I read something the other day, Amy, that I really wanted to tell you about. It was fascinating. It was in a book that this guy recommended it to me whilst I was at a dinner party. I’d met him once before, funnily enough, it was actually at a dinner party with the same people a couple of months ago, and we were invited back for another gathering, and even though he was at this first one, we weren’t sitting next to each other, so I never really got chance to speak to him. But this time we were sitting side by side so obviously we started talking. And it was over the starter, I think it was prawns or seafood, they shipped them in from up from somewhere. Absolutely beautiful ….
Yeah. It’s a bit of a bug bear of mine because I just want people to get to the point, get to the good stuff. I don’t need all these extra detail in my life. Sometimes I get this feeling when I look at a company’s marketing – that there’s just a lot of content. There’s a lot of detail there, but it’s not really working hard to make that sale. It’s not really telling me something as a customer that I really need to know. So, in today’s episode, I’m going to share with you two common mistakes that people make which causes filler and fluff to creep into the copy. The first mistake is being too humble. I remember way back in the day, sending out a survey to my audience to find out what copy challenge people were facing and one of the most common ones was this fear around being too salesy – no one wants to be pushy. But when I looked at the copy that they were writing, they were nowhere near pushy, they were a bus ride away from being pushy. A lot of people had this fear that their copy sounded like Sandy from the last scene in Greece with the tight leather pants, attitude and “Hey Stud!” In actual fact, their copy was more like Sandy at the slumber party with a massive nighty on and wouldn’t say boo to a goose. So, what does being too humble look like when you’re writing copy? Well, phrases like, “You might like…” or “You might be interested in…” or “Why don’t you check out…” and then your product, these are quite tentative phrases in a call to action and I don’t think it does your product any justice. I don’t think that you should be shy, and you might say, I don’t want to be forceful, I don’t want to be pushy and tell people what to do. So, what I recommend that you do if you feel like that is, I want you to shift your perspective a little bit. Instead of seeing this as almost asking someone to do you a favour e.g., buy something, I want you to imagine instead that this is an invitation to try something that they are going to love, because that’s why you’re writing to them. Don’t be British about asking for something because it’s a bit like saying, “Oh, Hey, I’m having a little get together next week, if you’re not busy, if you’ve got nothing on, maybe you might be interested in popping along, but no worries if you can’t do it.” If you do that, what’s going to happen is you’ll find yourself sitting on your own, surrounded by uneaten breadsticks, undipped guacamole, and an unwrapped game of monopoly, wishing terrible things on everyone that didn’t show up to your party. You’ve got to be excited and confident in your call to action because if you’re not, then why are you bothering the poor people in the first place? One thing that can help you feel a little bit more comfortable in being confident is by using if-this-then-that logic, because I agree, if you simply say, “Buy my stuff, you know you want to, it’s great, you’ll love it …”, it could come across as being pushy. But if you use, if-this-then-that logic, it explains why you think people are going to love it and it softens the pushiness whilst still sounding confident. So, you could use phrases that say: If you want/like/need X, then you will love/should try/check out …
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So, that’s my first example of filler and fluff and how it creeps into your copy – just not being confident enough in the ask. The second type of filler and fluff in copy is those vague phrases that we tend to use. You know the ones: cutting edge, top class, seamless integration, first rate service, optimized processes – they’re common, they’re rife in marketing, and they tell you nothing about what a business has to offer customers.
[Open Scene – Marketing company selling their services to customer]
Frickin Owesome Marketing Consultant: So, do you want to know what Frickin Owesome can do for you? Well, we’re a next generation branding company and we’re going to make your brand stand out.
Frickin Owesome Marketing Consultant: With a roadmap of awesome. You’ll see here in phase one, that’s where we focus on creating really epic content, compelling stuff that influences people, makes them see your brand differently.
Customer: Okay, how?
Frickin Owesome Marketing Consultant: By taking it to that next level. What’s that level? That’s the epic level. Then in phase two, that’s the acceleration phase. That’s where we double down on our efforts in phase one and accelerate results with a focused and targeted approach.
Customer: How, how specifically do you do that?
Frickin Owesome Marketing Consultant: Great questions. I love your mind. You are awesome. We do it by taking your current brand, very simply, we make it bigger, brighter, better, bolder, and not only that, we optimize from every perspective and that’s what makes us unique. We turn your brand up to 11, oh, that’s a good tagline, write that down. And this is why we called the company Frickin Owesome. Awesome with an O.
Customer: Oh, is that why the logo says FO? I thought it meant something else.
Frickin Owesome Marketing Consultant: So, does that explain everything? Should we just set up the retainer? Are you ready to be Frickin Owesome?
Customer: Can you just give me one specific example of something that you would do in phase one?
Frickin Owesome Marketing Consultant: That’s where we’d optimize visibility.
Frickin Owesome Marketing Consultant: By making more people see your brand.
Frickin Owesome Marketing Consultant: By publishing awesome content.
Customer: But what like?
Frickin Owesome Marketing Consultant: Tweets. We do five tweets a week.
Now, I’m not criticizing anyone that calls themselves a leading company or best in class, I understand why it’s done. We use these words because we’re familiar with them and quite often we’re short on time and getting something out there is better than agonizing over it forever. These words sound good and it does take a bit of extra effort to be specific, but sometimes we use them because we’re afraid of being more specific. Sometimes we feel like if we are too specific in describing what it is that we do, if we don’t do the exact same thing for every single customer then we’ll somehow exclude people from our marketing, so we can tend to pull back to this higher level of writing copy and end up with something that’s just a little bit more generic, and I see this more often than you might think. Companies want to stand out. They want to say something different, but a lot of them are actually quite frightened to do it. Bold ideas get eroded for safer ones and when it comes to copy, this can happen a lot and that’s why, unfortunately, there is a lot of mediocre copy out there.
[Open Scene – Amy working for a radio station creating adverts for Tom’s Pizza Place]
Tom’s Pizza Place Owner: Amy, do you have the copy for the radio advert?
Amy: I do. Yep …
When you visit Tom’s Pizza Place, you’ll receive a warm welcome as you’re shown to your table, whether you want a quiet, cosy nook to eat in or prefer the lively ambiance of our main dining area. Choose from a range of soup, salad, pizza, and pasta with gluten free and vegetarian options and every Friday we have live music to help you start the weekend with a toe tapping spring in your step. Book online now at www.tomspizzaplace.com.
Amy: So, there you go. What do you think?
Tom’s Pizza Place Owner: It’s good. Just couple of notes …warm, welcome, warm welcome … yeah, I mean, most staff are friendly, but someone could have an off night. I just, I don’t want people complaining, so scrap that it’s too risky. And, yeah, we have some lovely, quiet nooks in the main dining area, but look, we just can’t guarantee every person’s going to get the spot they want, unless they book online. I just don’t feel comfortable making that promise. People are going to turn up and complain if they expect a quiet nook and we can’t give them a quiet note.
Amy: OK, quiet nook is gone. Got it.
Tom’s Pizza Place Owner: Gluten free, vegetarian …we provide those things, but is that going to put people off who like meat? I don’t think we can list all our ingredients; the airtime is going to be too expensive for that, but I just don’t know how to describe the type of food that we have without someone feeling excluded. So, we’re going to have to drop that. And the music, I mean, I see what you’re doing, but that’s going to open up a can of worms. What if we’re let down by a band when people expect music? I just don’t think we can one hundred percent stand by these promises, so don’t mention the music.
Tom’s Pizza Place Owner: So, what do you have?
Come to Tom’s pizza place.
Tom’s Pizza Place Owner: Perfect. Nike built an empire on the back of a three words slogan. I really think less is more. Come to Tom’s pizza place. Yeah, sure, why not?!
When you start smoothing off copy because not everyone will do, have, want this thing in the way that you’re describing it, it’s a slippery slope into the greyness of sounding like everyone else. But here’s the thing, if you give me a specific example, it doesn’t necessarily make me feel excluded from the offer, in fact, it gives me a flavour of at least how you work so that I can picture it in my life and I can decide whether or not it’s right for me. So, here’s a good way to avoid this type of grey filler and fluff of copy, when you’re looking at your copy, if you feel like you’ve got some of these vague promises in there, think in terms of actions, and I actually encourage you to try and act it out in your head as to what it means. That sounds like a mad exercise but there’s a lot of overlap between telling a good specific story in general, as you would if you were creating a little film or a video and telling a good business story. So, what do I mean when I say, think in terms of actions and acting it out? Well, let’s say you’re an IT company and you help businesses move their data and applications to the cloud, and you tell customers that it’s going to be a seamless integration – maybe one of your big selling points is that you have this seamless integration. So, what would that look like visually, vividly, in real life terms if you were to direct it in a film for your next blockbuster called Seamless Integration? It’s going to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival. What would the trailer look like? What would people see? One of the things that I always encourage people to do is to think in terms of, what could someone perhaps do that they couldn’t do before, or what can they stop doing? So, if we are with our IT manager, for example, who’s going to experience this seamless and seamless integration, what would the little film look like? Well, it might be that the IT manager doesn’t have to arrange for overtime to supervise the migration to the cloud because that’s what the company handles. So, it means that they can go home on time or they can keep their costs low because they’re not having to bring in extra support. It might mean that the people in the office can still send emails, use the phones, pull up customer records without any downtime, even while the migration is happening, and it might mean that they don’t have to close the website down for maintenance so that they don’t miss a single sale while this whole move is going on. If you can pull out these sorts of details, these are the things that help you customer understand actually what it is that you do and also start to see the value of it because you’re painting a picture, you’re giving them the trailer of your promise, and that is a more compelling story than simply saying “What we do is, provide a seamless integration …” So, that’s what I want you to think about today. I want you to avoid these two common areas of filler and fluff in your copy, make confident invitations, and when you’re making a promise about service, describe the actions. I mean, not to get all Miss Saigon on you, but see that movie in your mind and then share it with your customers.
[CANNES FILM FESTIVAL TRAILER – IT MANAGER ]
In each IT manager exists the soul of a warrior facing digital disruption, data encryption, and employees that cannot remember their password. Today, one man is chosen to guide his company through the dangerous territory of cloud migration, protecting his people against the dark forces of on-premise hardware. The odds are stacked against him as he faces the threat of downtime, service level agreement breaches at shadow IT. This is his story of seamless integration.