Post updated, May 2023.
Oi, business owner! You can’t hide, I can still see you (and your clichéd phrases). If it makes you feel better, most businesses barf up hackneyed lines all over their website.
Without doing extensive research (I’m so lazy), I can’t answer definitively but you can have my opinion based on my experience as a business writer as to why we love tired wording.
Old habits die hard.
(A great title for the Die Hard film franchise—a missed opportunity.)
I think all these clichéd phrases are a hangover from early sites.
(The Hangover was a terrible movie.)
Some organisations find it difficult to shake off their stuffy sensibilities. Even when they want to change things up they still lean towards playing it safe. Back in the 90s/00s, the rules were clear: speak corporate professional jargon. The word ‘professional’ has become synonymous with dull. B2B copy is almost legally obliged to be uninteresting.
This is probably why organisations have been spewing this shit across their web pages for years. They assumed it was what their clients wanted, trouble is, not many bothered to ask their clients what they wanted.
This guff lingers on.
Marry business blurb with ‘industry best practice’ and you’ve got yourself some of the worst content imaginable. As business owners, we’ve unwittingly created a terrible template for business copy.
B2C content swerves this problem.
You can relax the tone when you’re writing for public consumption. Those folks can get conversational and no one faints at the audacity.
FYI: conversational writing is lovely for SEO. Thanks to applications like Alexa and Siri, voice search makes up 20% of the pie on mobile devices. Think about that before you write like a corporate robot.
Talking directly to the customer and speaking to them as a sentient being is pretty standard when you’re selling soft drinks and gravy granules. And yet we (for reasons unknown to me) treat other businesses like they were another species of human—a professional personality vacuum in a suit.
It’s so dumb.
Examples of B2B clichéd phrases.
“We’re delighted to announce…”
Leave this to the couples who post about the birth of their spawn on social media. You know the ones, they’re local ‘celebrities’ who believe Facebook gives a shit about what they’ve managed to genetically produce. Sure, that waiter you slept with in Ibiza, back in 2009, wants to know.
No one in business is delighted to announce anything. And I’ll fight anyone who says they are. (I’ll pay someone to fight on my behalf. I don’t like to mess up my hair.)
“We’re the market leaders.”
Oh, well then, take all my money, if you’re the market leader, why would I go anywhere else?! Every goddam business says they’re the market leader, industries are full of ‘em.
“We are passionate about customer service.”
If you have to say you’re a thing, you’re probably not that thing. When the budget shop, B&M Bargains pops the word ‘luxury’ on their liqueur chocolates you know they lie. And I can confirm that the chocolate is of poor quality and the booze inside is lighter fluid.
“We pride ourselves on…”
This phrase is usually followed up with something about customer-focused whatever. It really is another skin tag on the arsehole of business webcopy.
“We’re an innovative and agile company.”
I don’t even know what that means and that’s the trouble, no one knows what this stuff means, including the prospects you’re trying to attract. It’s corporate fluff. Clichéd phrases are such because they’re overused. And after time they lose their meaning.
I landed on a website the other day and found this on the homepage:
“We are the people who provide advanced, cloud-led digital transformation solutions.”
(IT companies LOVE solutions, no?)
I said “transformation solutions” over in my head and was still stumped. It’s so vague. It’s something I imagine Matthew Kelly might have said on Stars in Their Eyes—“What a transformation solution!”
“Our Mission Statement…”
These really are a cesspool of business bullshit. I guarantee you won’t get half a sentence in without seeing the word ‘empowering’. Listen, potential clients don’t care to read an entire page dedicated to your ‘core values’. Your business copy should already scream your values. What makes you get out of bed each day should be evident in every aspect of your business.
Businesses say they’re different.
But they’re not really. They’re the same as every fucker else in the industry. Trying a new approach means taking a risk so they end up staying exactly where they are. Which is in a safe uninteresting place overrun with clichéd phrases.
Go and look at your competitors’ websites.
I guarantee you won’t be impressed. You’ll be lucky to see the basics covered, such as decent grammar and spelling. One of the reasons for this is most still don’t hire professional writers. If you do, you’re already doing something different.
Everyone is a person.
Aside from the AI bollocks we keep hearing about, we’re still flogging stuff to other breathing humans. Yes, you might have more stakeholders (god, that’s another awful word, isn’t it?) if you’re a business selling to other businesses, and the investment might be greater but people decide to use your services—not a faceless organisation.
When I create copy I see my ideal customer as a single person.
Approaching branding and in turn, copy like a B2C business does seems radical in a B2B setting. But it always comes back to the same thing for me: personality types. I don’t focus on the businesses within my target industry. I think about the personalities within the area I’d like to attract.
Food for thought.
If, like me, you’re a bit of a business maverick, craving something other than clichéd copy, click here and hire me.
I’m a freelance business content writer at The Sarky Type®. My thang is SEO-informed blurb that sets your words on fire (ablaze with LOLs and engagement not to be confused with real fire that destroys everything in sight. Metaphors are better when they don’t require explanation. Note to self).