What to avoid when writing professional services copy
Choosing the right language is perhaps the single most important component of writing effective professional services copy. Nonetheless, many professional services firms continue to fall into the trap of using ‘sales-speak’ to bolster their website text.
Broadly speaking, sales-speak is a tool which uses features of language, such as adjectives, superlatives and jargon, to promote a product or service. Such language has a negative influence on copy and how it is received by potential clients, particularly in the world of professional services. Reliance on sales-speak can lead to making false and empty claims which hurt, rather than enhance, the credibility of professional services firms. Moreover, sales-speak is very generic and does not target a specific audience. Knowing your audience is the key to knowing what type of language to use when writing copy. Here are some types of language to avoid at all times when writing professional services copy for websites, and some alternative copywriting tips for enhancing your firm’s engagement with potential clients.
Filler phrases such as “excellent customer service” or “market-leading” are littered throughout many examples of professional services copy. These phrases are not just highly overused, they are also highly generalised to the extent that they often lack substance, leaving potential clients uninformed and asking questions, such as “How is your customer service excellent and which services is your firm market leading in?”
By contrast, the most persuasive copy is that which makes credible claims, backed up with specific examples of experience and success. They might include relevant statistics and case-studies, and credentials such as qualifications and awards. Testimonials can also be a powerful tool for enhancing credibility, if utilised correctly. Avoid using testimonials like “the team at [company name] are excellent in all areas”, as these could be labelled as exaggerated or empty praise. Testimonials should highlight the benefits a client has experienced from your advice and expertise. Avoid clichéd words such as “solutions”. They are uninformative and overused, and are consequently disrespectful to your audience. Achieving clarity in your copy is also essential in engaging potential clients with your firm’s brand and services. Keep grammar and punctuation simple and easy-to-read, instead of attempting to be flashy or salesmen-like, as this might lead to potential grammatical and structural errors which might give people a poor impression of your firm’s competence. In addition, the overuse of adverbs and adjectives can be distracting and make complicated, specialist copy even more difficult to understand for clients. Avoid using capitalised words and exclamation marks for emphasis and instead simply demonstrate your expertise by what you are discussing.
Another method that can be used to enhance clarity is to break up copy into multiple segments with meaningful headings, making it easier for potential clients to locate the information that is of interest to them. Short bullet-point lists can also be useful to present services in a more digestible manner, but these lists should not be used as a substitute for good website text, as this suggests that the firm is not competent enough to write meaningful and detailed copy.
Understanding your target audience is particularly important when it comes to using specialist terminology, sometimes known as ‘jargon’. On one hand, using specialist terminology in copy to promote expertise is essential for businesses that work with other businesses, as these types of clients will seek firms who can provide solutions and services that are very specific to their business needs. On the other hand, jargon is generally less effective when it is used in copy aimed at potential clients outside of your industry, who might be seeking the services of, for example, of a family lawyer or tax adviser.
Instead of using acronyms, use the long-form of the name, unless the acronyms are very well known, such as HMRC.
Avoid saying good you are. Leave that to others and simply explain your services and demonstrate your expertise to potential clients. Third party endorsement is always more effective than talking your own book.
Writing effective professional services copy means writing for your target audience, and the language must reflect this. Avoid the overuse of words and phrases that are too general or sales-like, but also avoid the use of industry terms. Avoid flashy or very complex grammar and sentence structures. Copy that is simple, articulate and easy to read is a clear indicator of your professionalism and expertise.