Is Your Marketing Copy Undermining Your Credibility?

World-class. Market-leading. Cutting edge. Bleeding edge. Innovative. State-of-the-art.

Do you know what all these words have in common?

They’re all crap. Garbage. Bosh. Baloney. Rubbish.

Seriously. They don’t mean anything. Vague adjectives like these dilute the power your words have to persuade people. You’re showing readers that your claims have no substance and that you don’t really understand or know how to express the value that you’re providing.

They make you sound insincere, sleazy and totally full of it.

No Pussyfooting Around

I know you don’t mean to sound that way. That’s why I’m going to help you fix your fluffy, stuffy, sounds-like-you’re-making-this-stuff-uppy marketing copy — one crappy phrase at a time.

Chop Meaningless Drivel

If your copy isn’t telling someone exactly what’s in it for them — what it’s going to help them achieve or avoid or simplify — it’s meaningless.

What exactly is a “world-class fitness” coach? What does “in shape” actually mean? Does your definition align with the one customers actually use?

Compare these examples (which are totally made up, like all of the examples in this article) and see which one sounds more convincing.

Our world-class fitness coaches help you get in shape after pregnancy

Has chops:
967 new moms hit their pre-pregnancy weight with an After Baby fitness coach

Whittle the Wishy-Washy

When you don’t have exact numbers, it can be tempting to use words like hundreds or thousands. But they’re vague and make you sound like you’re exaggerating the truth.

Specific numbers sound a lot more credible — but don’t fake them. If there’s no way to use an actual number, consider deleting the statement entirely.

The wishy-washy:
Thousands of small businesses use our delivery service to ship orders on time

The bold:
12,349 small businesses use our delivery service to ship orders on time

Snip Saccharine Statements

The vast majority of us don’t like to impose on others’ time. When we ask for a favor we’re inclined to give people a way to say no.

When it comes to your calls to action, being overly polite is a big mistake.

Never start a call to action with if. When you really want someone to do something you tell them exactly what it is you want, so start your CTAs with a strong action word.

Giving them a way out:
If you would like to receive our newsletter with monthly tips for growing citrus indoors, just enter your email address and click subscribe.

Getting what you want:
Enter your email address and click subscribe now

Revive Interest With Reasons

Tracy Chapman said she’d turn right back around for one good reason. Your customers will, too. If you can tell them how you’re going to improve their life, or what you’ll help them overcome or avoid, they’ll be a lot more likely to believe what you’re saying and do what you’re asking.

An okay reason:
Get updates (they’re free)

One good reason:
Know before your friends do. Sign up for free weekly updates.

Trash Testimonial Twaddle

Don’t write your own testimonials. That artificial candy coating will melt clean off. When you ask for a testimonial, have your customer highlight what objections they had before they hired you and what made them glad they did.

I highly recommend Freddie because he’s a funny comedian.

When I first saw Freddie I didn’t think he would be able to entertain a thought, let alone a crowd. But his price was reasonable so I decided to take a chance. His first joke had everyone chuckling. By the time his set ended, everyone was laughing so hard they were crying. I got the hiccups. We asked Freddie to come back and perform at our company’s annual get-together this fall.

Hack Egotistical Hogwash

Your customers are focused on only one thing — themselves. People will get bored with you if you talk about yourself too much. Or worse, they’ll see you as arrogant or condescending. Focus on how you benefit your customers or how you solve a problem they’re having instead.

No one cares:
Award-Winning Pastry Chef With 30 Years’ Experience

Take my money:
Flaky pastries, gooey cookies and melt-in-your-mouth cakes made to order

Kiss Sucky Superlatives Goodbye

Nothing makes you sound more full of it than superlatives. If you’re the best, focus on what makes you the best. If you’re the easiest, quickest, oldest, nicest, most secure…quantify it!

Totally full of it:
We’re the fastest delivery service in Miami.

Wow! Fast and reliable:
Get lunch delivered in 30 minutes or get 10% off your bill.

Cut Loose Excessive Adjectives

When a writer has nothing to say, they’ll start adding adjectives. When you become overly descriptive of yourself or your products, your potential customers will become increasingly skeptical.

If your product is visual, consider using images instead of sales copy or using images with less sales copy.

This soft, downy, cozy collection of jersey cotton bed sheets gives your bedroom, guest room or kids’ room a lavish, modern appeal while cocooning you in warmth, peace and the sweetest of dreams. Twin, Queen, King and California King sizes available in a variety of beautiful patterns. Colors include red/black, purple/pink, yellow/blue, tan/cream.

Well lookee here, Maw:
Fall asleep anywhere in these jersey cotton sheets. Available in all sizes and colors shown.

Avoid This Other Marketing Prattle

You can say a lot without really saying anything at all:

We’re a premier industry leader on the bleeding edge of technology. Spearheading the best innovative turnkey solutions, we leverage state-of-the-art technology and robust analytics to achieve our legendary award-winning breakthroughs.

To help you on your way to clarity and credibility, I’ve decided to include a list of some of the most craptastic gibberish out there. Avoid these at all costs:

  1. World-class
  2. State-of-the-art
  3. Innovative, innovation
  4. Cutting, bleeding or leading edge
  5. Breakthrough, groundbreaking
  6. Market leading, leader, leading
  7. Top, best, premier
  8. Award-winning
  9. Next generation
  10. Revolutionary
  11. Leverage
  12. Best practices
  13. Flexible
  14. Spearheading
  15. Sustainable
  16. Robust
  17. Legendary
  18. Best in class
  19. Turnkey
  20. Enterprise-class
  21. Solution-driven


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It’s a Process, Not a Quick Fix

Don’t get discouraged if your new copy doesn’t come out perfect on the first try. I always tell people that there’s no such thing as a great writer, only great editors. (Sometimes they just happen to be the same person.)

So walk away from what you’re writing when you think you’re done. Come back to it an hour or a day later. Be objective. Read it as if you were the customer.

Ask yourself what key phrases mean. Where the value for you (as the consumer) is. If you don’t have a good answer, cut the fluff and reword your copy until you’ve got something more substantial.

One really easy way to identify BS is to read your copy aloud. Either to yourself or a coworker or friend you trust. If it’s there, it will come through loud and clear.

Once you (and anyone you’ve enlisted to help you) thinks your copy is credible and convincing, the next best thing to do is test your copy with actual consumers. Run a campaign with the copy you originally had against one with the new copy you wrote. See if conversions increase for the new copy. If nothing happens, keep tweaking until you see a lift.

Cut the Crap Today

Copywriting is ultimately about sales, which means overcoming objections and managing friction points. It’s up to you to prove your value.

But now that you’re aware of the words and phrases that undermine your credibility, you should have no issues writing more persuasive copy.

Tell me what changes you plan on making. I’d love to hear what kind of results you see.