Top 3 Reasons Your Product Description Sucks
Most product descriptions suck, especially when they’re written by marketing people who have never sold anything. Here are the three major reasons that product descriptions suck, along with examples of how to write ones that don’t.
1. You’re Telling the Wrong Story
Every good story has a hero, a goal, and supporting characters. In product descriptions that suck, your firm is the hero, your goal is making a sale, and your customer is a supporting character who helps or hinders you.
In effective product descriptions, the customer is the hero, the goal is what the customer wants to accomplish, and your firm is a supporting character who helps that customer achieve that goal.
- Before: “Designonline provides the leading cloud-based software for creating, sharing, and tracking design specifications. With Designonline, engineers can easily transform static content such as schematics and technical documents into voice-enriched design presentations that can be accessed anytime, on-demand.”
- After: “Your engineering group is dispersed among different facilities located in different countries. With Designonline, engineers can communicate more easily, anywhere and anytime, using both the written and spoken word. Research shows that your engineering team can create designs 25 percent faster using our tools.”
2. You’re Using Too Much Jargon
Jargon consists of technical terms that are useful for communicating inside a company but are (usually) unintelligible outside the company. A product message will be more effective if it uses commonly understood words rather than technical terminology.
- Before: “Placed in the hands of managers, ACME Coaching Software (ACS) provides upper management the ability to analyze the coaching efforts and correlate impact on performance. Comprised of Coaching, Recruitment, Action Planning, Customer Satisfaction Surveys, and Evaluation tools, the ACS offers a turnkey performance development platform...”
- After: “The quickest way to improve employee morale and performance is to turn managers into better coaches. ACME Coaching Software helps your managers learn better coaching skills, track the effects of their coaching, and evaluate their own coaching performance.”
3. You’re Spouting Fluent Biz-Blab
Biz-blab is any attempt to generate excitement by using words that sound impressive but which actually mean nothing whatsoever. (e.g. “state of the art,” “cutting edge," “blast the competition,” etc.)
Even though it’s incredibly common in the business world, biz-blab ALWAYS makes you sound like a blithering idiot. The other idiots might not notice, but the non-idiots will be rolling their eyes.
- Before: “Most organizations face real challenges in reconciling corporate intent with operational execution. Delays in execution equal loss. Loss of a sale, loss of good people, loss of market position, etc. We propose using a seemingly simple tool, an org chart, to bridge the gap. OrgEnt is a powerful tool that gives you deep and immediate visibility into your entire organization.”
- After: “You put a lot of time and effort into structuring your company. Why not use your org chart to help manage it more efficiently? OrgEnt lets you examine and tune your company’s operations in a way that’s natural—according to the responsibilities of your entire management team.”
The above is adapted from the chapter “How to Write a Sales Message” in my newly published book How to Say It: Business to Business Selling.
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GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist
Geoffrey James was recently named a "Top 40 Social Selling Marketing Master" by Forbes, and his blog has won awards from the Society of American Business Editors and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. His writing has appeared in publications as diverse as Wired, Brandweek, and Men's Health, and he is the author of numerous books, including The Tao of Programming, Business Wisdom of the Electronic Elite, and, most recently, Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know.