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Use words to win more business

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By Jim O’Connor, Managing Director of Stories That Sell

Words are the oldest trick in the marketing book when it comes to promoting your business. And, being old, they’re easy to overlook. 

The danger these days is that you get so wrapped up with the latest digital opportunities that the message itself, what you are actually saying, does not get the attention it deserves – you end up using the technology to just sling verbal mud at the wall in the hope that some of it sticks!


Have you fallen into this trap? This checklist will help you get the words on your website, and in all your other marketing activities, working as hard as they should. 

Put the focus on the reader

Humans are hard wired to be self-interested. So, if you want to get attention and create engagement, talk to people about their favourite subject – themselves! Obviously you need to describe your business, products and services. But relate it to the reader and make sure every point is expressed in a way that’s relevant to them. How? See the next item.

Sell the benefits

“Features and benefits” is a phrase most of us are familiar with, and yet so many businesses fail to put this knowledge into practice. A feature is a fact about your product or service, while the benefit is the corresponding pay-off for the buyer. So, taking a cordless drill as an example, “comes with two rechargeable battery packs” is a feature and “so you’ll never run out of juice and can keep working without interruption” is the benefit.


Because people are self-interested they want to know what’s in it for them. If you just give them the feature their reaction tends to be “so what?” But give them the benefit and they go “ah-ha, now you’re talking, I like the sound of that!”

Be clear about your target audience

 Benefits are more motivating than features. But what benefits will be most motivating? That depends on the target audience – you cannot answer this question until you have a good sense of who it is you are trying to influence.

What are their hopes and fears, likes and dislikes, needs and wants? Is there a particular problem that you can help them solve? What do they most want to hear when looking for the kind of product or service you are offering? How important is price to them, or quality, or choice, or personal service, or a money-back guarantee? Do they have any particular attitudes that influence their decision making?

Differentiate yourself from competitors

Have you thoroughly researched your competitors to see how your offering compares to theirs? Have you successfully identified a meaningful point of difference that sets you apart from them – something you provide that others don’t and which the prospects actually care about? And does your brand story and message clearly communicate this point of difference?

If not, you will be lost in the crowd – another boring business whose products and services are just “me-too”.

Create a powerful promise

Your prospects are suffering from information overload, are spoilt for choice and totally focused on their own particular problems and concerns. If you are going to get their attention you need to communicate a promise that’s clear and simple. Clear and simple messages go into the mind more quickly and stay there for longer.

Support your promise with a convincing argument

People are suspicious by nature. Many businesses over-promise and under-deliver. So you have to support whatever it is you are offering with relevant facts and well-reasoned arguments that persuade them you can be trusted. You also have to keep it brief, easy to read and thoroughly engaging – attention spans are short!

The best brand story wins

Perception is everything. It’s not how good your business, products and services are – it’s how good people think they are. That’s why the words you use are so important.