5 words that wreck B2B marketing content

Are some words in your marketing a bit overused? David McGuire outlines the unobvious B2B buzzwords to avoid

Let’s not beat around the bush. A lot of B2B marketing content is a hot, steaming mess of tired cliché, impenetrable jargon, and wince-inducing business buzzwords.

(As tech copywriters, Radix had great fun drawing a periodic table of our particular favourites. We even had B2B cliché fridge magnet poetry made – which works brilliantly. In fact, I’ll post a set to the first five people who ask me.)

But this article is not about those words.

What would be the point? You already know about them. You likely already struggle to prise them out of your stakeholders’ hands, and I’m not going to change anything by berating you for them.

Five red flag words (that are probably in your content right now)

Instead, I want to warn you about five words you won’t find on a buzzword bingo list. Words that are probably all over your website and lurking in your marketing content, right now. Words that seem perfectly fine in isolation, but actually reveal you’re approaching your content all wrong.

These words are more than just problems; they’re often red flags. Symptoms of deeper issues. And it pains me to tell you this, but if you see them too often, your content is probably crap.

Let’s start with a biggie. A word that’s more than likely near the top of your “about us” page right now. And which – not to put too fine a point on it – is total bullshit...

1. Passionate

Be honest. You don’t really have intense feelings about quality control, data protection, or whatever you claim to be passionate about, do you? You just put it because everyone else does (yes, literally everyone; search Google for “we are passionate about”). It’s that thing that businesses say.

(OK, there’s an outside chance it might be true. But even then, all your competitors are saying it anyway – whether it’s true for them or not.)

And that renders the word completely meaningless. Worse, it makes you look insincere. Because, like so many things in life, real passion isn’t a thing you talk about. It’s a thing you prove.

Why is “passionate” a red flag in B2B content?

If you see “we are passionate about” in your copy, it means you’re telling when you should be showing. It’s a sign that your content is probably longer, more boastful and – as a result – less engaging and credible than it needs to be.

What should we use instead?

Here’s a wild idea: try showing a bit of passion – in the things you talk about, and the way you talk about them. The examples you choose. The way you put your customer at the centre of your story. What’s better: telling someone you’re funny, or telling them a joke?

See also: committed, innovative, iconic, expert.

2. Whilst

Ooh, get you, fancy pants.

People have this idea that – just because they’re at work – their vocabulary has to put on a tie. So you end up writing words you’d never use in conversation in a million years. Words which make you sound like you’ve stumbled out of a Jane Austen novel. Words like “whilst”.

(Of course, 19th-century romantic fiction might be the feel your B2B tech brand is going for, I suppose. It would certainly be different…)

Why is “whilst” a red flag in B2B content?

Copy that says “whilst” is almost always too formal. It’s the sort of word you see in whitepapers that haven’t been edited well, because the stakeholder or subject matter expert who drafted the original input got an A in their English GCSE.  (OK, O-Level.)

That means it’s a fair bet the content is also over-long… and it’ll definitely make your brand sound stuffy and old-fashioned. More to the point, in such a long format, it’s a pain in the arse to read.

What should we use instead?

While. (You know, like an English-speaking human being would.)

See also: utilise, plethora, enhance, engage.

3. Solution

Oh yes, B2B marketer; I went there.

It’s good for your copy to focus on your customer, and the problems your products and services solve. But is a “solution” actually a thing your customer says, thinks, wants or cares about? (When was the last time you went out to buy a solution?) It’s weirdly abstract.

The worst part is when marketers drop in “solution” as a catch-all substitute for the thing they actually mean (the system, the software, the service, whatever)… presumably because they think it’s impressive, or they skim-read The Challenger Sale. Either way, it’s not clever; it’s just vague.

(Unless you actually sell chemical solutions. In which case, carry on.)

Why is “solution” a red flag in B2B content?

If you say “solution”, you’re probably not talking your customer’s language. At a guess, you probably use a lot of jargon and business speak inside your organisation, and you’ve forgotten your prospect doesn’t necessarily think or care about the same things you do.

“Solution” is vague. It’s abstract. It’s an idea, rather than a thing, which makes it really hard to buy. And I’m guessing it’s not the only word like that you use.

What should we use instead?

Ideally, whatever the actual thing you’re selling in the real world is.

See also: transformation, sustainability, productivity.

4. Whether

An all-time classic copywriting fudge. When you see “whether you’re… or…” it really means “the brief couldn’t narrow this down to one example, so we’re taking two bites at the cherry”.

Ironically, in your admirable attempt to be specific and refer to the reader’s real world, you’ve actually done the opposite. You’ve created a sense of breadth.

The problem is, having a wide range of products or services is a benefit to you, but rarely to your customer – who in B2B generally wants one, specialised thing, not a vague, multipurpose claim. They want a precision scalpel, and you’re offering a Swiss Army knife.

Why is “whether” a red flag in B2B content?

It’s a sign that your brief is too broad. You’re asking your writer to include too many potential audiences and use cases, and that means your content is unlikely to really resonate with anyone. The best writing is for one person, and one person only. So target until it hurts.

What should we use instead?

One, specific example. And if you can’t narrow it down to one audience or use case, focus on one common benefit or need.

See also: regardless of, from… to…, wide-ranging, comprehensive.

5. Check out

Has anyone – apart from cheesy local radio DJs – ever said “check it out” in a non-ironic way? It’s the kind of phrase that goes with finger guns, novelty glasses and piano ties. Trying too hard to be fun and likeable, and instead comes off wacky, zany, and a teensy bit weird.

Basically, you’re Timmy Mallett.

And that’s what happens when a business tries to add approachability as an afterthought in its writing, rather than genuinely talking your reader’s language.

(And by the way, people say “check it out” as an instruction. In the real world, does anyone really put the noun at the end, and tell you to “check out” a thing?)

Why is “check out” a red flag in B2B content?

It’s a big hint that your voice and tone are off – that you’re trying too hard to be informal, rather than actually writing as you’d speak. And as a result, your copy sounds a bit like a fifty-year-old besuited businessman wearing a baseball cap. Backwards.

What should we use instead?

Read, see, get, open, look at. (Seriously, just pick a word real people use.)

See also: cool, fab, all sector-related puns.

No word is a magic bullet

If you like, you can go through your content and replace these words and phrases as you find them – and stop insisting on them when you give feedback on writing work. What you end up with will probably be a bit better (and my fellow B2B content writers worldwide will no doubt buy me drinks for the rest of my life).

But really it’s a wasted opportunity. Because if your content is full of these words, the most important thing is to think about what they tell you – about your attitude to your customer, your brand voice, the way you brief your writers, and the feedback you give.

It won’t just give you better content. It’ll make you a better marketer.

Bonus tip: On Premise

Tech marketers, can I have a quiet word?

A “premise” is a previous statement or proposition from which another is inferred or follows as a conclusion.

If you’re talking about a building or location, the word you want is “premises”.

So the opposite of cloud is “on premises”. Not “on premise”.

Thanks (on behalf of copywriters everywhere).

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