In doing some research on a company, I came across some vexing examples of written communication. I begged the words to stop, but they laughed, gave me an inappropriate gesture, and rolled along anyway.
Here’s an example of their awe, if not headache, inspiring text (company name hidden to protect the guilty):
[Company] is the leading provider of web-hosted sales and use tax management services. [Company] mission is to provide end-to-end tax management solutions to businesses of all sizes and transform the sales, use and VAT tax process for customers with cost-effective state-of-the-art solutions. With its innovative, patented technology, [Company]helps companies from every industry eliminate the complexity of tax management by automating and providing accurate tax calculation, painless administration, effortless reporting and, timely remittance. [emphasis added]
Ugh. And there’s more:
Our Software-as-a-Service tax solutions integrate directly into existing workflow processes; eliminating the tedious work and complexity of calculating, collecting, reporting on, and remitting taxes across multiple jurisdictions. Offering integrations with more financial, e-commerce and point-of-sales applications than any other transactional tax solution on the market, [Company] is focused on providing the most convenient, accurate and affordable way for businesses to address all their statutory sales and use tax requirements. [emphasis added]
All the Company’s communications are like this. From the website, to case studies, to marketing materials, they each offer something equally painful for the reader.
But what can they do instead?
Luckily this lengthy, eye-gouging verbiage can be boiled down to understandable, and decidedly unlengthy ideas:
- Calculating sales tax from different counties, cities, and states is a waste of your time. Who wants to worry about math when you have customers to help?
- We take away that feeling that you’re missing something in your sales tax calculations.
- There are only a few options for you; calculate all these different rates yourself, hire one of your kid’s friends to do a semi-professional job, buy expensive software, or let us handle the whole thing for half that price.
- No more stress for you, no more worry.
- This is one less thing you have to have on your plate. We guarantee it [I didn’t see this anywhere on the site, but it’s a good idea].
The Bottom Line of Tragedy
Basically they need to let potential customers know that calculating sales tax is a pain in the ass, not really worth the business owner’s time, so why not let a fully automated service take over what they hate to do?
But this company would rather slip into techno-language and marketing-babble. Unfortunately, this malady is not a single occurrence. After a quick look at the company’s competitors, it seems all these “leading providers” use the same unpleasant language.
It’s not just the bad writing, they’re also unoriginal
What bothers me even more, more than the painful copywriting or endless talk about “solutions”, is the lack of any unique differentiators. I went to the top three providers in the sales-tax service field and not one could tell me why they were superior over their competition. Not one could show how they stood above and apart.
You have to tell your client’s story
You can’t just talk about benefits (especially not using silly marketing lingo) or your solutions. Instead you have to target your audience, speak to them, and then tell them a story about how their lifestory will improve. And the story you tell has to be unique to your company; it has to be cool, interesting, as well as relevant.
In the coming years there won’t be any way around this and any company who doesn’t start focusing on relationships and developing sustainable friendships will perish.