There are many types of marketers and marketing activities, but one skill all marketers should master is the art of using language to sell a product or service appropriately. Whether you’re speaking on a webinar, in person at a networking event, or writing on a blog, marketing language is something every marketer can improve upon.
Whether you’re new to marketing or are already a polished professional, speaking, and writing to sell is a skill requiring constant refinement and improvement. Depending on your audience, location, and niche, your language may change drastically.
1. The Elevator Pitch and the Unique Selling Proposition
Before you can sell your product or service, design marketing materials about it, or accept speaking engagements, you need to be able to summarize exactly what it is you’re selling. Use two vital components to accomplish this:
- The elevator pitch: The elevator pitch is a brief description of what your product or service is, how it benefits the consumer, what kind of problem it solves, and what makes it different than anything else. An example of an elevator pitch for a lightweight broom would disclose the name of it, mention how light and easy to use it is, and talk about its durability. Perhaps a special texture on the handle of the broom makes it easy for people with arthritis, and it comes with clips that connect it to a wall or door.
- The unique selling proposition: The unique selling proposition defines what it is about your product or service that is unlike any other. In our broom example, if the grip texture is unique, the broom’s accessibility would be a unique feature. Since it’s also lightweight, those with limited mobility and senior citizens might particularly enjoy the broom.
Get comfortable with weaving your language around the features of your product. Remember: sometimes you’ll be speaking about your product, but other times you’ll communicate about it in writing.
2. Clarity in Communication
Now that you know what you need to say, you have to think about how to communicate it clearly and effectively. This can change depending on your audience and medium. Regardless of the context, you’ll eventually need to very clearly define what it is your marketing, even in a campaign that begins in mystery.
You can do this by thinking about your product or service in terms of the slogan. If you were to describe a MacBook, you might say: “Silver, sleek, reliable,” and then go on to list the RAM and other capabilities of the machine.
3. Authenticity Rocks
Being able to showcase your product truly—and your role in its development—wins value. Your audience wants to know all about how you came up with the idea, and more than that, they want to know precisely what your brand is about and who you are.
Authenticity means discussing your values as a brand and as a person. You might turn a few people off with your authenticity, but it will enable your audience to find you easily, and you won’t need to put up any pretense about yourself or your brand. People value authenticity, and when you’re real with them, it generates trust.
4. Crack the Code Switch
Have you ever heard of code-switching? It’s what happens when you’re speaking to a specific audience. Most people do it—think about how kids address their peers versus how they speak to their parents. With their parents, they often use more slang, less cursing, and more traditionally respectful language. Their peers probably even have secret “code words” and slang of their own that parents and others wouldn’t understand.
Cracking that code, or code-switching means speaking to your audience in the way that they understand. This is something you should only attempt in concert with authenticity. Don’t be the marketing executive trying to speak like he’s from the hood just to sell products to an urban market. Get me, homeslice? It needs to sound natural to the audience you’re addressing, so check your authenticity before you code switch.
If you’re not authentically code-switching to reach the audience you want, consider hiring someone who can bridge that cultural, linguistic, or generational gap. Your marketing team should be authentic in its messaging and communications and having the right person on your team can provide a better understanding of the market. If you’re not an executive who would gift fountain pens for the holidays and you’re in the business of selling fountain pens, it’s time to do some market research and hire a consultant who is more of a pen enthusiast.
5. Know Your Audience (and Research Them)
Fundamentally, what do you know about your audience, and how did you find out about them? If you really aim to reach your audience with your marketing language, you should know what they like and dislike, what offends and excites them, and specifically, what entices them to your service or product. There are a few ways to learn about your audience, and the data will also come in handy when you run PPC (pay per click) marketing campaigns:
- Google Analytics: Learn all about the people visiting your website with Google Analytics. Google Analytics provides demographic information (gender, location, age) as well as information about your users’ affinities, which allows you to speak to them about their hobbies and passions. For example, if you sell books and find out that most of your website visitors read science fiction, you not only know what products to offer more of, but what subjects to blog about. Your visitors would probably love reading about sci-fi classics as well as shows like Star Wars and Star Trek.
- Surveys: Learn about your prospects and customers by asking them what you want to know. People love providing feedback and helping their community. Ask them about their likes and dislikes to learn more about them, what types of ads they prefer (versus what types they find disruptive), and more.
- Hire Your Demographics: One of the most surefire ways to learn more about your audience and communicate your message effectively is to hire people in the demographics you’re trying to serve. If you want to sell to 24-year-olds, consider hiring some college graduates. If your product copy aims to reach sports fans, consider hiring a copywriter with a sports journalism or sports blogging background.
6. Get Emotional About It
Many of your customers make emotional buying decisions. They want to buy products and services that make them feel empowered, inspired, and motivated. Use language that allows them this opportunity. Let’s take a look at some potential e-commerce marketing copy for a weighted blanket.
“Feel comfort. Experience relief. Get the rest that you deserve. This cooling weighted blanket provides you with care and support, as though an extra pair of arms surround you while you slumber. Say goodbye to nightmares, anxiety, and restlessness with a new weighted blanket. Learn more.”
This marketing copy isn’t just selling a weighted blanket—it’s offering to solve a problem that disrupts the prospect’s life. Instead of ridiculing an adult for having nightmares or feeling alone, this copy invites the reader into a comfortable zone. When they learn more, they can find out about the science behind the weighted blanket, the specifications, cost, and more. The point is that you’ve evoked an emotional response from the prospect, and that leads to the conversion.
7. Consider Making it Personal
With the precise nature of data and other information now available via social media, it’s possible to create extremely tailored marketing ads. Email software like Constant Contact also enables us to personally greet users by inserting their first name at the top of the email. Customers are used to receiving specialized offers on their birthdays, and they’re used to Facebook ads that understand what types of clothes they’ve been browsing recently.
As a marketer with a message, you’ve got to meet that expectation, sometimes on the fly. Let’s say you’re marketing premium dog food at a pet expo, and a pet owner approaches and asks about your food. You can personalize the interaction by asking them what type of dog they have, recommending the right type of food for their dog’s age, activity level, and breed, and then finalizing the conversation by providing them with a free sample—with their dog’s name written on it. Hand them your business card and a coupon, and let them know that you’d love to hear from them about their experience.
This type of interaction adds value to the customer’s life and buying decision. You’ve built some trust, recognized something very important in their life (their pet), and made a genuine effort to learn more about their pet and the dog’s needs. Even Fido would be impressed!
8. Watch the Jargon
Have you ever observed an interaction between a civilian and someone in the military? While the average civilian might understand words like “AWOL” and “shore leave,” there is a slew of military terms that will go right over their heads. It’s almost like watching two people speak a different language.
Now imagine that a retired military serviceperson was attempting to sell a service to the civilian. All that jargon would act as a barrier. While it would create curiosity, it’s another step the customer (civilian) has to overcome to access information about the product and the culture surrounding it. Instead of feeling like part of that product’s community, a civilian would feel pretty left out.
If that veteran is speaking with another veteran, however? Using military terminology will create an instant culture of trust and understanding. The rule isn’t about avoiding jargon entirely, but you should only use it when you’re among others who get it.
Marketers often make these mistakes when describing features of their product or service, especially if they’re selling something that helps other people do marketing (we love our own jargon). Non-marketers might not understand KPIs, advanced metrics, psychographics, and other words we love. You have to break it all down for them.
9. Buzzwords and Evolving Language
Similarly, you probably notice buzzwords, trends, and evolving language, especially in marketing. It’s crucial to stay aware of these cultural changes. Right now, you need to know what it means if someone gets “canceled;” you need to understand how and why to use the singular they, and you should most definitely know that the 1990s fashion is back. All of this affects the language and style of communication.
To stay on top of this, get a daily dose of Twitter, and make sure to follow your audience’s top influencers on Instagram.
10. Become an Innovator
Now that you understand a unique selling proposition and how to use it, it’s time to add one more thing: if you’ve created something truly innovative, you should boast about it. Your audience will love you if they can see how and why you’re making waves in your industry.
This means you have to tell your story. Know your story and your passion for this product, in your core. Be able to repeat it with passion and finesse. Keep it authentic and keep it real.
Quick Rules for the Written Word
When you’re writing, there are a few more quick shortcuts that can help you communicate effectively. Check it out:
- Use short paragraphs: These are easier to scan and read, especially on a mobile device.
- Use headings (typically H2s) in your posts: This helps Google understand your content, but it also keeps your content scannable.
- Use bullet points: Lists like this one are also easy to read.
- Employ calls to action: Let the reader know what you’d like them to do when they’re finished reading your post. Do you want them to buy a product? Subscribe to their newsletter? Give them some direction.
- Make it visual: Place an image approximately every 250 words. Your words are lovely, but you’ve got to break up that text.
Lastly, when in doubt, practice. Ask your coworkers, friends, pets, and family members to listen to your pitch. Marketing is a social activity, and your team should help you brainstorm and create in a collaborative fashion. Some of your best stories and language will evolve this way.
Best of luck, wordsmith!