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Word to the Wise These 8 tired words will turn customers off instead of drawing them in.

By Kim T. Gordon

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Words are at the heart of almost every form of marketing. Whether they're married to images or standing on their own, words stimulate ideas, emotions and even our senses. Choose your words carefully, and sales will follow. Make the wrong choices, and customers will tune you out.

Right now, straight talk is in, and consumers prefer specifics to generalizations.

Bombarded daily with thousands of marketing messages, prospects respond to those that ring true and offer the specific benefits and features they desire. Throw in too much hyperbole, or make the same old tired promises as other advertisers, and your ads will be ignored.

Are you guilty of word crimes? Check this list of the most overused words eroding the quality of today's marketing. If you use these generalizations, you'll have a lot of explaining to do.

  1. Care: "We care," "caring for you" and "from people who care" are all versions of the same weak promise. Typically, you'll find these phrases in health-care, insurance and financial marketing. They prompt prospects to wonder how the promise will benefit them and in what ways this caring attitude is manifested. But because the word itself is so overused, prospects may not pay attention long enough to learn the answer.
  2. Solutions: The great love of technology marketers, this word has been beaten to death. So many companies promise to have the solution that the word is no longer credible. Since most customers or clients believe their challenges are unique, it's hard for them to specifically imagine how these solutions will be delivered without lots of additional information from the advertiser.
  3. Results: Though not truly a naughty word, results has been overused and represents a highly general, fairly toothless promise. When confronted with the promise of results, most prospects will want proof. So if you choose to use this word, be prepared with testimonials and other support.
  4. Amazing: How many "amazing" breakthroughs have you seen advertised today? Are most of them really amazing? Probably not. This superlative makes something sound too good to be true. Use it with caution and be ready to back it up with plenty of details.
  5. Needs: It seems like every advertiser these days promises to meet our needs. But most are short on specifics. This tired promise elicits a ho-hum response because we already expect the things we buy to meet our needs. Why else would we buy them? Strengthen your selling proposition by detailing how your product or service will do a better job of meeting needs than what your competitors offer.
  6. Quality: Just as we expect products and services to meet our needs, we also expect high-quality merchandise. Consumers believe quality should be a given. What makes your product of higher quality than others? Tell consumers the ways you ensure quality, and you'll put some teeth into this bland promise.
  7. Turnkey: Marketing that promises a "turnkey solution" is likely to be met with skepticism mixed with a touch of fear over the prospective loss of control it suggests. Prospects must trust that your company will provide stellar performance every step of the way. That makes it essential to use specifics and take sufficient space or time to tell a complete story.
  8. #1: It seems everyone is claiming to be No. 1 at something. Whether it's price, delivery, convenience or savings, marketers are claiming number-one status with very little proof. And that has damaged the effectiveness of this claim. Plus, being No. 1 is all about you and not about the advantages you provide to the customer. Use words that specifically detail how your number-one status translates into a higher value for the customer, and everyone wins.

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