One of the key success factors of entrepreneurship is the ability to communicate. An entrepreneur needs to be able to communicate their business concept, their offering, and their value in quick and succinct way. Perfecting this message is one of the best things an entrepreneur can do for their business.
A common trap that I see entrepreneurs fall into is what I call the “embellishment trap.” It is a dangerous and tempting trap. When entrepreneurs sit down to write out their message, either in an advertisement, a business plan, a letter, or even an email, they are excited. They throw in all of these extra words to show their excitement. And some of them, just come across as stupid.
Why do they come across as stupid? Four simple words:
I have to admit that there are a lot of other words an entrepreneur can say to come across as stupid, check out my post on “10 Phrases to Delete from Business Plan NOW “ but for our purposes here, I really want to only focus mostly on these very annoying four words. (You caught that I hope.)
The primary reason I don’t like these four words in entrepreneurial situations is they don’t MEAN anything. They do not indicate any kind of hard data or actual fact and often times, you will write yourself into a trap.
Example: Our mulch consists of mostly recycled compost.
Immediately, my mind asks – mostly? What else is in there? What is mostly? 51%? 99%? There is an immediate reason not to trust the claim. Tell me what mostly means. Otherwise, you are causing doubt in my mind.
Example: Unlike our competitors, we are very committed to our customer’s satisfaction.
Hmmm, so by this you mean…what exactly? It tells me nothing. Are your competitors only partially committed to their customers? Not likely. What makes you so VERY committed – tell me the actual difference in procedures.
Example: We are really confident in our sales force.
Classic favorite. My response: Oh? You are really confident? As opposed to what? Just kinda confident? Give me a break. If you are REALLY confident should I just immediately believe you? Not gonna happen. Tell me about the REAL sales force and why I should be confident in them, I don’t really care how really confident you think you are.
Example: We only have to reach a 10% return on our marketing investment to be profitable.
You ONLY have to reach a 10% return? Does that mean you think that is easy? Often times, it is never as easy as you think it is. You come across sounding naïve. Or does that mean you are lazy? After you get the 10% return, are you going to stop working then? Either way the reader takes it – you sound stupid.
Entrepreneurs are excited, I get it. But using words like mostly, very, really, and only are the equivalent of talking to a valley girl from 1983 who can’t stop saying ‘like’ or ‘totally.’
This is an extreme example, but I’ve seen this type of language in business plans:
Our product, MOSTLY used by medical professions, is a product that doctors REALLY use. We have received a VERY positive response from those that have tested it. MOST of our testers said they would REALLY use it. In order to reach our sales projections, we ONLY need to secure agreements with 15% of the doctors in our area.
Would you buy it after that? I wouldn’t.
This week take a look at some of your language that describes your company. Do a little “Find” search and see where these words pop up. Don’t worry, no one has to know, it will be your little secret strategy. You may even find yourself laughing at your use of them. You may also uncover some holes in your language that you hadn’t noticed before.
Mostly though, really try to only use these words very rarely. They suck. You will too if you use them.