Nine words and phrases that kill your content

Avoid these words at all costs. And if you discover that by removing them your content ceases to be interesting to you, imagine how little it means to your customer.

9d488c4dd6b949416c85906c5bd7a4c3d3163632d5606a6a068e487c0f3a2d73There are lots of lists that identify words, phrases or concepts you should avoid using in your content, but I've had a list of nine for several years that I've never seen included in those lists.  Joe Basques and I went over a few of these in a Hangout (that you can see here).  The full list follows.


Leader/leading


There's an old Afghan saying. “If you think your are leading, turn around.  If there is no one there, you are just taking a walk.”


Everyone who claims to be a leader in this world is really following after someone else.  They’re probably far behind the pack and everyone knows it.  If you want to know who the leader is, look for the company that never uses the term to describe itself.  Leaders don’t have to say it.


Key


This actuality means “of crucial importance” but if it really was important, anyone who doesn’t have it will fail, and since many have succeeded before you, they know your stuff isn't "key." It is so overused that it has lost all meaning and can be replace with “Blah.”


First/only


Lots of companies say they are “the first” to do or provide something and they are usually wrong.  A VC once said in a meeting with a client, “If you are the first/only company to do something that either means no one thinks it is worth doing or you have not done proper market research.”  Then there are those companies that actually were the first to do something but no one remembers because someone came along and did it better.  GO was the first company to come out with a tablet PC.  But they are gone with the dinosaurs now.


Solution


This means either how a problem was solved or a stable amalgamation of multiple components.  But most companies describe neither the problem, nor the components so no one knows really what they are talking about.  An engineer once told me that whenever a scientist designates something as a “field” it means they know something is there, but they don’t know what, why, or how it exists; only that it exists.  (Electric fields, magnetic fields, etc.)  Complete mysteries.  A solution is the same thing in marketing.  It would be more interesting and accurate to call it a Felgergarb. (No, that isn't a word, but it would create more intereste than "solution.")


Seamless


This is as useless a term as saying “I breath air.”  Every technology should interact seamlessly with other related technologies.  No one is going to say their product doesn’t interact with anything else, even if it doesn’t.  Someone out there is going to find the seam and call you out on it, and then you will be in CYA mode.


Working closely


This is a synonym for seamless. The opposite of the term is, we really don’t work well with those folks, but that’s your problem.  No one is going to say that, either, but it is probably what your customers believe because all marketers are lying rat-bastards, you know.  Why stir up bad thoughts.


Easy to use


Speaking of lying…  You should never EVER say this.  You should let a customer say it.  And if you can’t find one that will, then you aren’t.


Powerful


This is often used as a qualifier for “solution.” What you mean is that it actually accomplishes a task that you said it would accomplish within the parameters you define.  More simply: Hey, this thing actually works! That reality, in itself is a major accomplishment, but, then, most customers don’t believe you when you say it.  So, again, it’s something a customer should say.


Exciting


An earthquake is exciting.  A walk-off home run is exciting.  Shakira doing a belly dance while singing is exciting.  Your “powerful, easy-to-use, seamless solution” is not exciting.  Neither is your recent partnership with a “leading” company.  No one but your CEO is excited about this.  And no one cares that he is excited about it, nor that he is “pleased” about it.  In fact, unless he is a hatchet-wielding maniac, no one cares about his mental state.


Avoid these words at all costs.  And if you discover that by removing them your content ceases to be interesting to you, imagine how little it means to your customer.