5 Old Marketing Phrases to Avoid

At its core, marketing is about communicating to a potential customer or client in a way that makes them likely to choose your business, service, or product. Communication is the key word in that definition, and one of the weakest forms of communication is with buzzwords and overused phrases. These marketing phrases are missed opportunities to be more specific and exciting at best, and outright annoying or suspicious at worst.

As an important note: if you realize that you’ve used any phrases like this, don’t feel bad. Language evolves, especially the language of business and marketing. Those who aren’t trained to write will easily fall into old, familiar marketing phrases that feel natural. But to see what I mean, check out these five phrases you should watch out for in your business copy. They may come to you on instinct, but that doesn’t mean they’ll inspire your customers.

Save Time and Money

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Image via Flickr by Singing With Light

This marketing phrase, and variants, such as “more for less,” don’t necessarily send the wrong message, but they are so old and so commonly repeated that they mean almost nothing to a potential customer. Like all the phrases in this list, the idea is perfectly fine. Instead of reaching for this low-hanging phrase, communicate how something saves time or money with specific stories. You could also use hard figures, such as “115% faster stain removal” or “nearly double the product for the same price.” This better describes what your customer gains by choosing you over someone else.

Another issue with this phrase is that it might be too universal. Depending on your business and customer base, time or money could be far more important than the other. For example, a service that helps beginner entrepreneurs will most likely benefit from emphasizing how they save customers time, while a coupon company gains far more by describing how much money customers can save. To resort to a generic phrase with both time and money may water down the impact of your message. Even if it doesn’t, it can be said in better ways.

Putting the Customer First

If this can be backed up or explained with details, it’s possibly forgivable. By itself, however, this quickly aging line carries the unintended implication that the business didn’t always put the customer first. It’s best to avoid negative associations with your brand or product, so avoid this line unless you can communicate it in a concrete and interesting way. For example, your copy could describe the specific ways competitors don’t measure up. Accolades are particularly strong, such as “Ranked #1 in customer service.”

Try imagining the different ways a company can put a customer first, like strong attention to detail and the customer experience, fulfilling special requests, or responsiveness to feedback. Whatever applies to your business, use that as an attention-grabbing line. Concisely show what makes your customers happy, and they’ll get the message.

That’s Not All

Reminding the customer of infomercials isn’t the best idea, and lines like “that’s not all” and the dreaded “but wait, there’s more” have become inextricably associated with them. It’s more of a punchline when making fun of bad selling tactics than an effective phrase. It can also come off as slightly haughty by assuming that the previously mentioned product or offer is already getting the customer excited. That may not be the intention at all, but why take the risk that someone would see it that way?

There’s no denying that a good bonus can convince someone to buy, but make sure the customer is willing to hear you out. Originality goes a long way toward generating trust, and infomercials are the antithesis of originality in advertising.

If X Can Do It, You Can Do It

Often seen in technical school commercials, this bizarre phrase can drain all the good humor from an inspiring testimonial. Someone can hear that phrase and perceive that rather than being encouraged, that the advertiser is talking down to them, establishing the person as the lowest common denominator. That may not be the intention, but familiarity breeds contempt, and negative associations.

It’s very effective to use testimonials based on the hardships of a customer, and how your business was able to accommodate them. It’s common today to depict an extremely challenging scenario to a comedic degree, in fact, and then use a skit to show how these challenges don’t get in the way of good service. Insurance companies sometimes make funny commercials that follow this principle brilliantly, such as a car being attacked by a buffalo or a family standing waist-deep in a flooded house. Using such a phrase would only detract from their impact.

Act Now

Often ineffectually paired with “don’t wait,” “act now” is an empty request with too much interpretation. The problem is that “act now” is the vaguest possible call to action, using the literal infinitive “act” that the word “action” uses. In truth, “act now” could just as easily convince someone to “act” but clicking on something else, or putting your brochure away.

A call to action is very important in copywriting. It’s what directs a intrigued customer to buy, click, subscribe, or perform whatever you’d like them to do. Go as specific as you can with your call to action in a single sentence, such as “Click here to lock in your order and daily bonus before they’re gone.”

These phrases aren’t outright bad or incorrect, but they’ve gone out of style and newer techniques are proven to be more effective. Specificity is always better, and a skilled copywriter can pinpoint the things about your business and customers that should be highlighted through careful word choice. The extra time and effort will subtly show customers what could make your product or services work for them.

It’s easy to write copy without realizing the many complexities that turn an average piece of writing into something more engaging. Revamp your website, ads, or emails with the help of a copywriter and you’ll not only have more and happier customers, but you’ll discover more of the specific, golden lines and marketing phrases that only your business can use.

About the author

Shane Hall

Shane Hall is an independent fiction author and copywriter with a B.A. in English from the University of South Florida. His experience in the harsh world of fiction developed a focus on personalized marketing strategies for artists and other creatives.