10 terms to banish from B2B content

February 1, 2011

Are you writing a press release, white paper, webcast script or some other content aimed at a business-to-business (B2B) audience? You should know what you're getting into before starting the writing process. B2B buyers are accustomed to making big decisions based upon a lot of research and market knowledge. The tactics that you’d use to sell diet soda or laundry detergent won’t work here. In fact, they can make people angry.

I’ve combed through thousands of documents aimed at B2B buyers during the last 25 years. And I still see the same overworked clichés repeated by marketers who apparently believe that this is the way B2B marketers are supposed to talk. Not any more.

Today’s buyers are far better informed than those of just five years ago. Not only is there now bountiful information available online, but buyers can also easily vet your claims with other people just like them. If you don't stand up to that scrutiny, then you look disingenuous.

It’s time to stop obfuscating and start explaining. Here are 10 terms to banish from your B2B content:

1. Superlatives (“best,” “finest,” “most,” “greatest,” etc.) — These words are meaningless without context. Who says you’re the best? Cite research, sources or benchmarks. If you can’t, then discard these empty terms.

2. “Solution” — It’s pretty presumptuous to assume you have the solution to the customer’s problem when you don't even know what the problem is. This tired old buzzword is long overdue for a proper burial.

3. “Customer-focused” — Umm, as opposed to what?

4. “Intuitive,” “User-friendly,” “Easy-to-use,” etc. — These are subjective terms that don’t mean anything without proof. If your product is easy to use, then put 50 people in front of it, measure how long it takes them to become productive and then detail the results. Or guarantee the results. Not nearly enough companies do this.

5.  “Leading” — Any product or company can be a leader if it defines its scope narrowly enough. Industry-leading according to whom? Third-party validation is so much more powerful than your own claims. Be specific or strike this one from your vocabulary. Try a synonym like “best-in-class” instead of leading.

6. “Performance” — This overworked term means different things to different people. Performance can be a measure of speed, defect rate, value for the dollar of any number of other factors. If you have benchmark numbers, then use them. In any case, don’t use this word.

7. “Standard” — People have said that the beauty of standards is that there are so many of them. There are formal ANSI-like standards and informal market-leader standards. Which do you conform to? And if you don’t conform 100 percent, then you aren’t truly standards-compliant. Buyers will quickly figure this out.

8. “Free” — Yeah, right. You’re talking to B2B buyers, not supermarket shoppers. Dump this word. No one believes it.

9. “Innovative” — This is perhaps the most overused marketing term of the last decade. Innovation is in the mind of the beholder. Provide a list of your achievements or link to a website detailing your awards. Otherwise, this buzzword just takes up space.
10. “First” — The technology graveyards are filled with the bones of companies that were first to market and then done in by competitors with superior market share or account influence. For B2B buyers, being first is synonymous with isolation and risk-taking. Less than 20 percent of B2B buyers define themselves as early adopters. Why limit your prospect base like that? Try a synonym for first such as “revolutionary” or “unprecedented.”

Let’s hear your nominations. What marketing buzzwords would you really like to wish into the cornfield?


Allison says:

Add "robust" to that list! Great post!

Feb. 1, 2011

Alan Stamm says:

I second Allison's compliment, with a footnote. Proposing "revolutionary" and "unprecedented" as alternatives for "first" seems to contradict banishments #1 and #9, as well as the suggestion to avoid scaring B2B cautious adopters. I'd use "distinctive" or "imaginative." But hey, Paul, at least you didn't offer "unique" or "breakthrough" -- my nominations for the cornfield. synonyms.

Feb. 1, 2011

Post a Comment

Editor’s Note: Please limit your comments to the specific post. We reserve the right to omit any response that is not related to the article or that may be considered objectionable.


To help us ensure that you are a real human, please type the total number of circles that appear in the following images in the box below.

(image of nine circles) + (image of eight circles) + (image of eight circles) =