Take the frustration out of copywriting: how to stop using filler words and clean up your copy
You’ve spent ages perfecting your latest blog. You carefully explained why you have the ideal solution for your clients and proudly published it. Perhaps you even sent it to a prospect, to help them along in their buying decision. And then…nothing.
So what’s going wrong? Using filler words, like ‘solutions’, prevents clients from connecting with what you’re saying. This language doesn’t explain how you can help your clients, so all the hard work that you put into your marketing materials goes to waste. If clients don’t connect with what you say, then they won’t see you as an authority. They might not even understand what you mean. And if they can’t do any of those things? They won’t buy from you.
What’s wrong with the word ‘solutions’?
A while ago, I recorded a video explaining why you should avoid the word ‘solutions’. It may seem harmless. It’s not.
It’s used everywhere. A quick Google search shows that it’s found on the websites of: structural engineers, cleaning companies, IT services, recruitment agencies, bathroom suppliers, payroll companies, even an orthodontist’s website.
Different types of business serving very different people
Some of these businesses sell a service and some sell a product. Some sell to consumers while some sell to tradespeople; some sell to other businesses. The people that buy these goods and services are also very different. Not only in terms of their industry or job title, what they are looking for is different too.
The fundamental need of a builder purchasing a new bathroom for a customer is completely different to the person who wants braces for straight teeth. The builder’s job is to supply and fit something physical. He needs to source something at the right price, available at the right time so that the customer is happy. The orthodontist also supplies physical materials; however, the patient in the chair doesn’t want to buy pieces of medical-grade metal and bits of wire. They want to look at their holiday photos and feel good about the smile beaming back at them.
Why filler language hurts your copy’s success
Having a ‘solution’ doesn’t set you apart from the next provider. As the proliferation of the word shows, it barely distinguishes your company from an entirely different industry.
The most important reason that you should avoid filler language like ‘solutions’, is that it doesn’t set your customers apart from the faceless majority. How will they know whether you can help them as an individual? Clients and prospects come to you because they are looking for a way to solve their problem, meet their need or fulfil their desire. If the words that you’re using don’t describe exactly how you can do that, they won’t connect with what you’re saying. They’ll have no real idea why they should choose you.
That’s a crying shame! You provide something valuable, that could make a big difference to your client or prospect’s job, their company, even their life. So you owe it to your business to get the copy right. If writing isn’t your strong point, a copywriter takes the headache away and translates what you want to say into what your prospect wants to hear.
If you’re open to learning, improve your own copywriting with the below tips.
How to avoid filler words like 'solutions' when writing copy
Think like a prospect
Try to imagine where the client or prospect is coming from. Ask yourself what their mindset is? What are their challenges? It’s hard to get into the mind of your clients and prospects at the drop of a hat, even when you write copy regularly. That’s where research and a thorough client brief come in handy. An easy way to get around the mental block is to recall what people say when they approach your business with an enquiry. If you don’t deal with customers, quiz your sales or customer service team about what things people often say during interactions.
Nobody calls Dyno Rod and says, ‘I need a solution to my blocked drain!’ A few years back I worked for an insurance company that dealt with people’s home emergencies. The “blocked drain conversation” usually went along the lines of: ‘Help! My drain is blocked, it’s overflowing/it stinks/it’s coming back up the kitchen sink! When can someone get here?!’ Speak to your clients in language that reflects theirs, and write copy that answers their questions. How about the following as a very quick example: ‘Blocked drain? Don’t panic. Our Emergency Response Team will be with you in under an hour. So your kids will be back in the garden playing safely before you know it.’
If your marketing material talks in vague terms and promises ‘We have the solution for you!’, you’re making life easy for yourself. Of course, it feels good to spread your message; it’s satisfying to let people know what you want to say. It feels even better when you know that what you’ve said has connected with someone, and they respond by picking up the phone, downloading your whitepaper, or making an order.
Use words in your copy that you would use in real life
If you’re still unsure whether you’re writing filler, answer this: would you really use the word ‘solutions’ in your sales meetings, presentations or pitches? Is the word a natural part of your vocabulary? Sometimes, when we’re struggling to get what’s in our brains coherently out of our mouths (or keyboards), we panic and desperately grope for filler words to prop us up. We use them like a crutch because they sort-of do the job until the moment of panic has passed.
The easiest way to let go of this crutch is to spend some time thinking about what you are trying to say. Sometimes it helps to stop writing and say what you mean out loud. If you sell branded merchandise, would you, or any of your sales team, ever say, ‘We can provide you with a portable, branded, stay-dry-solution for when you’re on the golf course’? Well, I’d hope that nobody apart from a robot would say that, but you catch my drift. How about: ‘Our large umbrellas mean the clients you’re treating won’t get soaked on your golf away day. And the corporate branding means they can spot you as you storm on ahead to the 18th hole.’ I jest – you’d let your clients win, wouldn’t you?
The example is tongue-in-cheek; the point remains the same. It’s far better to speak plainly and say what you mean than to add words which mean very little. If you know that you’d never say the word ‘solutions’ in your normal, everyday business conversations, chances are your clients wouldn’t either. They’ll pick up on that and find it forced and unnatural. And they won’t respond.
The moment of truth: put your copy to the ‘So what?’ test
Take a look back over what you’ve written and if you find that some ‘solutions’ have crept in, take a different approach. Put your copy through the ‘So what?’ test. Imagine that you are a potential customer of your own business reading this for the first time. What would you think, feel or believe after reading the copy?
If the answer to any of them is a shrug of the shoulders, then the copy isn’t right. This part is disheartening, I’ll admit. The sinking feeling when you think you’ve made progress, only to read it back and realise it all needs a vigorous edit makes you want to throw your draft in the fire. We’ve all been there. Remember that it matters. It’s your copy. It’s your business. Your copy communicates to your clients and prospects how you can meet their needs, wants and desires. So it needs to be right. Revisit steps one and two until you’re telling your clients and prospects something useful, on their terms, and in their own words.
This is the part that many people find too difficult. It’s really tough to objectively assess your own creative work. At that point, professional help makes a big difference. Someone that has enough knowledge about – and distance from – your business can make an unemotional decision about what is wheat and what is chaff. So you end up with only the very best copy that has the impact you’re looking for.
Attain copy satisfaction: banish the word ‘solutions’ from your marketing vocab
Solutions. Of all the filler words, it’s a big offender. There are many more phrases that prevent your copy from being crisp and clear. And when your copy’s not reaching your clients and prospects on a deeper level, it won’t connect. That won’t just affect how you feel about your marketing materials. It’ll have implications for how you communicate with the people that support your business.
If you’re concerned about your copy and you have a sneaking suspicion that it could be doing more for you, get in touch. The words you use decide whether your prospects choose you or your competitor. So if you believe that what you say to the world matters, it’s time to make a change. After all, you care how your business is perceived. Say no to filler, say no to ‘solutions’, and allow crisp, clear copy to speak to your clients and let them know why they should choose you.