6 Messaging Mistakes and What to do Instead

Just because you can…doesn’t mean you should, especially when it leads to all kinds of mistakes or regrets.  Life and work are full of “can” but what about the “should”?

  • Yes, you CAN run a 10k muddy obstacle race without training, but will your body work for you the next day?
  • You CAN party like you’re 21, but will your body retaliate by feeling 81 the next day?
  • Heck, you can even disassemble your laptop (or **ahem** four-wheeler that’s still not working in my garage 6 months later) to “fix” it, but are you prepared for the puzzle of leftover screws and parts that just don’t seem to fit anywhere?

And then, there’s copywriting. Just because you CAN write your own copy, should you really? even as a copywriter

The art of copywriting is like assembling a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle (or four-wheeler) where each piece represents a unique facet of your brand, audience, and strategy. Lose one piece, and the whole picture might just not make sense…or the engine might not work right.

Sure, you can get a few sentences together…and sure, it might read well…

…but sometimes you need extra eyes to make it land just right…to poke holes in any disconnects. Or another set of hands and brain(s) to help you find the best way to express yourself…even if you feel like you should be able to do it yourself.

What’s the risk? Well, a muddled message, a bemused audience, and potentially a dent in your sales. Ouch.

My friend Maria Thompson calls it the Spandex rule — and it’s EVERY-freaking-WHERE. So here are several messaging mistakes and what you can do to avoid them.

Just because you can write your own copy doesn’t mean you should.

No matter how good of a writer you are, it can be so helpful to have someone else to bounce ideas off of and point out the obvious things that you’re simply too close to notice. Like the fact that you have a really cool story you’re not using or that there are holes in your story or messaging. Or that you have some incredible positioning opportunities you’re not even aware of.

Just because you can serve just about everyone, doesn’t mean you should try to speak to them all at once.

A focused, targeted message designed to hit a specific vertical or demographic will have the right people standing up and saying HECK YEAH, THAT’S ME, TAKE MY MONEY. But only if you speak to their needs and motivations. So don’t broaden or cheapen your message to the point that by speaking to everyone, it attracts no one.
But if narrowing it down is hard, you can phone a friend.

Just because you can pivot often, doesn’t mean you should.

Here’s the thing. Everyone in business pivots — because we don’t operate in a vacuum. The world out there is constantly changing, and with it your customers and their buying behaviors. Not to mention, most small business owners I know are always trying new things. Your business today probably looks different than it did 1, 2, 3, or 4 years ago. Even without the pandemic, the world has changed. And that’s okay. It’s fine to test new offers and try new things with one caveat…it should resemble your messaging and business model, or else you’ll confuse your audience.

Let’s pick on me: As a brand messaging strategist and copywriter who has been in the market for-basically-ever, everything I’ve ever done has been related to marketing and messaging. So that’s my anchor. Sometimes I might teach copywriting strategies, others I might play with new services or audiences, and still others bridge between done with you and done FOR you services. As long as I stick with marketing-messaging adjacency (is that a word? it is now), it won’t feel too weird.

On the other hand, if today I’m a copywriter, next month I’m a hair stylist, and six months later I’m a travel agent, I’m probably creating some significant brand confusion and mistrust. Personally speaking, I don’t want to work with a copywriter that’s been bouncing around and will keep bouncing around. I want to work with someone who is committed to the craft and the space.

Just because you can be clever and catchy, doesn’t mean you should.

KISS: Keep it simple sweetheart.

Avoid the jargon wherever and whenever you can. And avoid getting too clever whenever and wherever you can. This is one of the most common messaging mistakes because it leads to buyer confusion and often unnecessarily overcomplicates your marketing. The only time this rule doesn’t stick? When it’s Voice of Customer or your audience’s language and jargon.

Just because you can help people do amazing things, doesn’t mean you should promise it.

Here’s the thing. If most people get great results, awesome, fair to talk about them. But if those are the outliers, then it’s better to underpromise and overdeliver. Talk about typical results first and then it’s okay to pepper in a few AWESOME bits, but focus on what’s normal. Above all, you want to be honest and set expectations you can meet. Whether it means sales, delivery time, or something else– you save yourself and your customers a lot of heartache and potential mistrust.

Just because you can follow “best practices,” doesn’t mean you should.

So, best practices are there for a reason. 100%. But the reality is there is no one-size-fits-all solution. And anyone telling you otherwise is a giant red flag. So take all the expert advice with a grain of salt. If you’re DIYing your messaging or marketing strategy, take a close look at where your audience hangs out and what they want most, and then use that as a lens to filter through the best practice to find what fits your business. THEN filter it again to figure out what feels right/authentic to you. Focus on those things first.

Just because you can use AI, doesn’t mean you should.

I was skeptical about generative AI early on. 100%. And I’m still cautious of it, but it’s a tool– a great tool, but a tool nonetheless. And I’ve found some really cool ways to use it to strengthen my own copy. Here are a few things I feel strongly about AI especially as it relates to messaging mistakes:

1. AI is a powerful tool, but it’s only as good as the prompts and the brain behind the prompts. If you feed it crappy prompts and feedback, that’s what you’re going to get out.
2. You should rewrite everything that comes out of AI. It’s great for idea generation, but it’s an originality nightmare with some consistent phrasing that flags it as AI.
3. AI doesn’t have YOUR unique perspective. It’s what I love about thought leadership — AI doesn’t come up with original ideas… so it can’t replace YOUR thoughts…it can only help you fill in some blanks…and even then, take it with a grain of salt.

The bottom line in these messaging mistakes?

Just because you CAN, doesn’t always mean you SHOULD, especially when it comes to crafting your business message.

Battling with your copy? Muddling your messaging? It’s okay to pass the pen to a pro to avoid those messaging mistakes. For your brand messaging, for your web copy, and yep, even for your thought leadership.

If you’ve been thinking about working with me for a VIP Copy Dash (my offer that gives you an almost final version of your brand messaging or website copy so you can push it across the finish line), and wondering if it’s right for you, here’s what I can tell you.

The VIP Copy Dash is PERFECT for badass, driven entrepreneurs, coaches, and freelancers who have a solid idea of their offer and who it’s for but have been:
–> STRUGGLING with getting the copy just right
–> PROCRASTINATING the writing part
–> FEELING STUCK because there are a few holes in the offer-audience fit or how they talk about it and they’re desperate for some clarity

If that sounds like you, and you’re not sure if you need a VIP Day to take things to the next level or a more in-depth project, let’s talk.

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