Local advertisers: some new words to make your ads work MUCH better

In this article in the series for local advertisers, I’m putting my money where my mouth is. In other words here are suggestions for more powerful alternatives to the words and phrases which sadly have become clichés – and therefore have lost their fire power.

words and phrases that work well in local advertising HTWB

So many words you can use in local advertising … but which ones really work to get your business quality leads?

Here are the top ten that were listed in an earlier article (with a reminder in italics) along with some better ideas…

The top 10 cliché words and phrases in local ads, and what may work much harder for you

Established for XX years. This rightly suggests long-term commitment and experience, but should never get in the way of how your business is bang up to date with its products and services. The reality is that how long you’ve been established isn’t a benefit to customers: what is a benefit, is that you’ve gained a lot of presumably useful experience. Even that, though isn’t enough unless you qualify it with what your experience achieves for your customers. So, how about “the experience to get it right first time” … or even “the experience you expect from true experts” ?

Family business. I fully appreciate why small local businesses use this term to differentiate themselves from the big boys, but unfortunately many customers feel safer with the big companies and the option to hold them to account. Ironically a “family business” isn’t a perceived benefit to customers unless perhaps you run a restaurant with grandma cooking up all her favourite old recipes in the kitchen! Harsh though it may seem, “family business” can even be detrimental as some cynics will wonder if you’re carrying some freeloading relatives who aren’t any good at their jobs. So instead, focus on phrases like “strong, small team of dedicated experts” … “a lean team of experienced experts” … “a tight, small team of well-honed expertise” … etc.

Free quote. What prospective customer expects to pay for a quote? Of course they don’t, so to use this as a selling point insults their intelligence. Create a strong call to action that gets them talking to you or one of your staff. Keep it simple: no lists of choices of phone numbers and email addresses. Say something like “let’s have a conversation about your new kitchen ideas right now – phone XXXXX XXXXXX.” Then make sure there is someone to answer the phone and talk whether it’s at your premises or it’s a telemarketing firm … or at least, use a switched-on answering service. The quote comes a bit later in the sales funnel, in any case – after the prospect knows what you can do for them and how that solves their problems.

Friendly. Use of this word is based on the very, very outdated assumption that the Big Boy competitors are mechanical, unfeeling and just want the maximum profit from the minimum effort. Most local customers value efficiency and reliability more than friendliness, anyway. And look at it this way; how many of your competitors would be unfriendly? This old-fashioned term is another way of insulting a modern customer’s intelligence. Make your whole ad LOOK friendly by focusing on benefits (not features), which will make readers see that you’re thinking about them and their needs, not your own self-aggrandisement. That’s pretty friendly and works a lot better.

Fully insured. This is something best left to the small print at the bottom of your ad, if you even use it at all. Although it may be important to you (and cost you plenty in premiums!) it is not a perceived benefit for customers unless you explain it in detail which, of course, there isn’t room to do.

For more articles and tutorials that help you improve your local advertising, click right here on HTWB

Lists. Readers (even of print publications as we’re discussing here) tend to get word blindness after the first few bullet points. In the main people don’t want to know what functions you offer – only what problems you solve, and not how you do it. You can usually group all your services into a few categories of solutions to their problems, which has two benefits. One, it avoids the word blindness effect of a long list and two, it’s more appealing to them because it shows how your services solve their problems.

Local. Just as in “Family business” above, I can well understand why you might think that stressing the word “local” is a good idea because it differentiates your business from the Big Cheeses. However once again, this is not necessarily a perceived customer benefit … especially now that the big national and international companies are drilling their branches down to much more realistic local levels. Where you CAN score for a perceived customer benefit – depending on the nature of your business – is on how you use your local knowledge to help customers get the best value. This would apply to businesses like estate agencies (real estate brokerages), taxi companies, building (construction) trades, garden designers, architects, etc. “Because we’ve been in XXXXtown for XX years, we know exactly where to source the best quality and value for your new home / journey / house extension / garden plants / etc.”

Name of company as title. Unless the name of your business is VERY well known in your locality, drop it down a peg or two and instead create a title or headline that focuses on what you do that can help / entertain / massage / de-stress / etc. the readers who are potential customers. Much as you are proud of your company name, once again it is not normally perceived as a benefit to customers unless you have (in the UK and some other countries) a Royal Warrant, or your name is Coca Cola. Lead your ad with a benefit-focused headline instead, and put the company name and logo, etc., elsewhere.

Professional. This is another one of those words which has been overworked to death and – sadly, because of that – has become a bit of a nonsense. Interestingly, the bottom-line meaning of “professional” merely means getting paid for what you do! Better words, which are more likely to be perceived as offering benefits to customers, include:

  • expert
  • skilled
  • highly-trained
  • qualified
  • capable
  • accomplished
  • proficient
  • talented

If, say, you’re a trades person with a number of industry qualifications, by all means show them in your ad – but box them off as a side element that backs up your main message which should focus on how you solve customers’ problems. Prospective customers are impressed by qualifications, of course – but their first needs are problem solving.

We pride ourselves. Oh, please … this phrase appears many, many times in local advertising all over the UK and I daresay, many other countries in as many different languages. But your customers don’t care. They only care about what we can do for them. If you want to express pride in a way that can show how it benefits customers, ask some existing customers to give you short testimonials (and they have to be genuine!) In a print magazine or local directory these have to be very short, but you can edit them down as long as you don’t write them yourself. If you use video on your website, video testimonials can be very effective. You can also use email interviews to get testimonials from existing customers, so all they have to do is fill in answers to your questions. For more on how to get good testimonials, click here and also here.

What other words and phrases are over-used and should be replaced in local advertising?

Please share your thoughts and suggestions right here in the comments!