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Marketers, Stop Sounding Like Movie Trailers

In a world…where time and space collide…marketers throughout the land are wondering why no one is responding to their content.

Maybe it’s because they’re writing like that.

Marketers often start with a razor-sharp focus on message and goals, then manage to bury it under a cloud of extraneous intro copy. Take, for example, this lead sentence from a healthcare industry white paper:

The challenges of healthcare management are constant and inevitable.

Wow, you’ve hooked me. Constant and inevitable…who knew? Or, how about this groundbreaking revelation, which served as the gripping opening line on a landing page for gated content:

Healthcare is a unique industry.

Yes, I’m definitely willing to serve up my contact information and enter your automated email campaign if you can offer me more insights like “healthcare is a unique industry.”

This is, in fact, how we earned our reputation for generating “marketing fluff.” The problem is, copy like this is more than just ineffective. Poor writing actually undermines the credibility of your entire team. If “challenges are inevitable” is your carefully chosen first impression, it doesn’t appear likely that your company executives are actually leading the industry. It doesn’t matter that a junior marketer with no access to your brilliant CEO is responsible for the weak landing page. Prospects and customers will hold it against all of you.

So, how can we do better? How can we avoid writing copy that only works if it’s read aloud by James Earl Jones? Start with these guidelines.

1. Lose the Generalizations

The goal of your marketing piece probably is to identify a specific business challenge and illuminate your company’s specific solution. Why, then, do we feel compelled to open it with a vague generality? Platitudes and clichés dilute our messages and make us indistinguishable from our competition. What kind of product are you selling if “challenges in healthcare management are constant” is your hook? Almost anything.

2. Look for Wasted Words

With much of our work subject to digital character counts and word limits, we’ve got a built-in safeguard that should help us spot the marketing fluff. Get in the habit of scrutinizing every sentence to ensure that each one is worth the space it’s taking up. Now that you’re paying attention, you’ll be surprised how often you can simply cut the first sentence. Whatever you were planning to say next, start there.

3. Start with the "Why"

Simon Sinek’s sales principle “Start with Why” applies to writing, too. You must start your marketing copy by telling the audience why they should care about the information you’re offering. Now that you’ve cut the cliché, replace it with an impactful statistic or compelling anecdote that clearly illuminates the problem that your white paper will teach readers how to solve.

Here’s a good one:

Consumers will choose a hospital with higher safety ratings 97 percent of the time.

It’s specific to a vendor group, it clearly establishes the problem to be solved, and it doesn’t waste space with common knowledge. I’d watch the rest of this movie.

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