Top 20 B2B copywriting cliches

by Tom Albrighton 12 October 2009 Copywriting, Popular

Stuck for the right way to communicate that USP in your marketing collateral? Cut out and keep this handy guide and use it whenever you need to think out of the box going forward.

1.    Solution n. No, I do not just write things for money. I deliver content solutions.

2.    Partnership n. We work with you, not for you. See also co-operation, relationship, working closely/hand in hand with.

3.    Proactive adj. Always trying to upsell the client in the name of ‘helping them achieve strategic objectives’? You’re a truly proactive partner. Always going the extra mile.

4.    Synergy n. What is released when two proactive solution providers work closely in partnership.

5.    Tailored adj. Configured to and shaped around your individual requirements, like that dent you’ve made in the sofa. See also bespoke.

6.    Flexible adj. Remember Access? He was ‘your flexible friend’. And, if you’re a B2B copywriter, that’s what this word is too. See also adaptable, scalable, futureproof, customisable, configurable.

7.    Robust adj.  You’re offering me a technical solution, are you? Well, I hope it’s robust. (Always puts me in mind of a chunky robot.)

8.    Innovative adj. No, it’s not just new. We are blue-sky thinkers, and we’ve been throwing some shapes. That’s how we deliver innovative solutions.

9.    Integration n. And how would you like that, sir? Seamless? Very good sir.

10. Strategic adj. Use it to say ‘big and clever’ without sounding like a six-year-old.

11. One stop shop n. Just like a department store, but with a diverse range of in-house capabilities instead of saucepans and jumpers. See also holistic, cradle-to-grave, comprehensive, under one roof.

12. Expectations n., pl. So, as a proactive, strategic partner, what do I do with these? That’s right – I exceed them. (Probably through continuous improvement.)

13. Key adj. Meaning ‘critical’, ‘central’ or ‘priority’, but shorter and snappier than any of them, and therefore done to death. (By me. I admit it.)

14. Added value n. The more I use it, the less sure I am what it actually means. Something to do with sums maybe, or tax?

15. Agile adj. Like a sure-footed mountain goat grazing on scrubby Alpine grass. Or a robust technology solution. See also responsive, flexible.

16. Modular adj. A modular solution is one that grows with you, supporting your strategic development. (Not one that wears Fred Perry and rides a Vespa.)

17. Dynamic adj. Everyone uses it. No-one knows what it means. Go on, define it. You can’t, can you?

18. RoI, Return on Investment n. Le roi est mort. Vive le roi! And long live this indispensable acronym too – it can make anything sound all financial and serious.

19. Competitive advantage n. Plough through 592 pages of Porter and get clear on what this actually means. Then stop using it. (Hint: it doesn’t mean ‘doing things a little bit better, quicker or cheaper’.)

20. Leverage vt. Yes, it’s a verb now, not a noun. Now leverage your core competencies and make the tea.

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  • lemondrizzle

    You say ‘cliches’, I say ‘manual’.

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  • Must confess to being guilty of the one stop shop, though I tired of it a long, long time ago…. I’m occasionally flexible, when it’s the only word that will do the job.
    .-= Ben Locker´s last blog ..Government jargon leaves human beings out of the equation =-.

  • I agree—mostly. As Ben points out, these clichés can sometimes be the only way of expressing a point in the shortest possible way.

    You also have to bear in mind that some of these clichés are the accepted way of talking/writing for some B2B audiences, so they may be unavoidable if you want to “speak their language” and sound familiar and approachable.

    That said, I’m all for normalspeak if at all possible.

  • Thanks for this. I’ve taken this all on board, and thanks to your pointers, my future copy will be a robust synergy of dynamic and modular solutions, tailored – yet flexible – to the strategic expectations of the partnership, providing innovative integration and a proactive competitive advantage to deliver an agile RoI and leverage the added value, which is, of course, key.

    I think I was just a little bit sick in my mouth.


  • RoI’s a necessary evil, although there is no excuse whatsoever for “synergy”.

  • The worst thing is lots of businesses want this type of language. Some of them think anything else is unprofessional.

    It doesn’t make you sound intelligent or professional; you just sound like every other unremarkable business.

  • An afterthought: What has annoyed me no end over the past few days is “secret sauce” favoured by far too many American marketing writers.

    If they want to sell me their webinars or white papers, why do they think they’ll succeed by invoking images of hamburger meals or dinner?

    Apologise for the OT.

  • Cliches [not to be confused with jargon] are lazy; meaningless; thoughtless and uninspiring. Considering the beauty and richness of the English language, the least we could do as professional communicatiors – wordsmiths and thier clients, is to express ourselves in less hackney terms.

  • Many of these have indeed become cliched, but there’s a lot to balance out when deciding on the vocabulary.

    As has been said, many clients really want this sort of terminology. In addition, you often have the trade-off: sharp, economical copy that gets to the point, or fumbling around with long-winded expressions to avoid a cliche?

    The SEO side also can’t be ignored. There were 201,000 global searches last month for “IT solutions”. Avoiding cliches potentially avoids hits.

    But these are flexible and strategic decisions and we should be pretty proactive in exploring them. Possibly in a modular fashion.

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  • Don’t forget to manage those expectations. Expectations run wild if not managed.

    Last time I had my expectations managed I was laid off. That’ll teach me to manage my own expectations, going forward.