Most of the big brands out there spend millions of dollars to develop their marketing messages, usually with the help of an agency. Then they use them on every platform: T.V., print, outdoor, and internet.

Here are a few you’re probably familiar with:

  • “A Body For Every Body” – Victoria’s Secret
  • “Save Money. Live Better” – Walmart
  • “Impossible Is Nothing” – Adidas
  • “Eat Fresh” – Subway
  • “Just Do It” – Nike

I have strong feelings about these taglines. Most of them bug me. In fact, I don’t know how some ever got approved!

Let’s compare two taglines from the list above

Only if you were living under a rock for the past 20 years would you not know that Victoria’s Secret sells lingerie. But imagine for a second that you don’t have a clue what they sell.

What would “A Body For Every Body” say to you? It certainly wouldn’t tell you that Victoria’s Secret is the place to buy sexy lingerie, right? You’d wonder, what do they sell there? Bodies? Pass.

On the other hand, I think Walmart’s tagline “Save Money. Live Better” is brilliant. Clear and compelling (and in use since 2007). Twelve years with a tagline – very unusual!

Here’s Why Walmart Wins & Victoria’s Secret Loses

Walmart is totally clear about their ideal customers. The message is, shop here and not only will your money go a lot further, but your entire life will improve. as well.

The Victoria’s Secret tagline is simply confusing. It’s not clear what they are trying to say and to whom. It’s up to you to figure it out.

It’s likely your brand is not well-known to the general public. You probably don’t have a multi-million-dollar marketing budget, either. But you still need a marketing message, right?

Don’t Make Them Think

When I first started working in online marketing, I was very fortunate to find a little book titled, “Don’t Make Me Think”.

Although it was first published way back in 2005, its lessons are as pertinent as they were then.

The premise of the book is this: if your marketing message is confusing and if your audience has to struggle to figure out what you do and if it’s a fit for what they want, they’re going to leave your website and find what they need somewhere else.

Here’s a quick exercise for you: go to your own website and take a glance at the home page. See it through the eyes of your ideal customer. Is your message crystal clear or is it confusing?

I have helped tons of businesses refine their marketing messages and I learned a lot along the way. Here are two tips that will help you write better marketing messages for your business (on a budget of $0).

2 Fabulous Tips To Write Better Marketing Messages For Your Business

Tip #1: Apply WIIFM (“What’s In It For Me?”)

So, you’re passionate about your business and you want everyone to know how awesome it is. Your website home page explains why you started your business, displays your mission statement, and contains a laundry list of your offerings.

Listen. Your ideal customers do not give a you-know-what about any of it.

The only thing your ideal customers care about is this: Do you get them, do you have a solution to their problem, and if you can you deliver it.

So, your job is to quickly answer, “What’s in it for me if I stay on this website for more than a split second?”

Walmart’s message says, “Shop here and you’ll save money and live better.”

Does your message answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” If not, start thinking about how your best customers describe their problem what they want more than anything in the world, instead. See if you can massage that into a new brand statement.

Another great tip is this…

Tip #2: Use Their Words, Not Yours

This trick makes it much easier to write marketing messages. The key here is to avoid what I call marketing-speak like a plague. Marketing-speak is boring, overused phrases such as “full service” and “personalized”, for example, or trying to be so clever that your message is just confusing.

Adidas’ tagline “Impossible Is Nothing” is an example of marketing-speak.

Most businesses end up with marketing-speak because they interpret what their customers want, instead of really listening to how they articulate what they want.

However, if you use your customers’ exact words (verbatim) in your marketing, you’ may be surprised at what can happen.

I have a client who owns a power washing business. He built his company to be the most successful in his county, but he was desperate to improve his company’s marketing message.

He has big goals for this year, but he knew his tired old marketing message would not help him get there.

We worked together for six weeks. During that time, we identified his ideal customer, created detailed prototypes, and through interviewing his clients and his salespeople were able to create a brand message that has helped him increase sales by 40% so far this season.

This stuff is powerful!

How to use your customers’ words in your marketing messages:

  • Dissect your customer testimonials and pull out the juicy bits – they are a treasure trove of great stuff for your marketing messages.
  • Listen intently during sales conversations – if you’re doing things right, your sales conversations are more like interviews. You ask a lot of questions. So, next time, listen carefully to the answers and don’t be shy about taking notes. Write down precisely what each prospect says (if he or she is your ideal customer, that is). Try not to use shorthand or translate her words into your words.
  • Interview your best customers – don’t try to guess what your ideal customers want, ask them!!
  • Talk to your salespeople – they’re in front of customers all day long.

Last year I had a large website project for a long-established manufacturer. There was no useable copy to repurpose from their old site so I had to start from scratch. I interviewed everyone in the company who was customer-facing – receptionists, inside salespeople, and outside reps, too. It was uncanny…I heard the same phrases and sentences over and over. I incorporated them into the company’s brand messaging and it’s working like a charm!


If your ideal customers instantly recognize that you get them, you have the solutions they need, and you promise to deliver, you’re on your way to transforming prospects into customers. Say goodbye to marketing-speak and hello to truly effective marketing copy.