When Harry Met Reality: There is no “Best” and you are not the “Only”

I have an embarrassing confession. When I first stumbled into writing marketing copy 20 years ago, I quite often made use of the words “best” and “only”.

I liked them for a lot of reasons:

  • I was lazy
  • It was easy
  • I was under the impression that it’s hard to get sued for using superlatives because they’re usually such a vague or obviously ludicrous claim.

Now, I scrupulously instruct our writers to avoid these types of sweeping claims unless we’re talking about a niche sub-market or specific use-case where we truly feel that our solution is objectively and clearly exceptional. However, even in the startup world, this is quite rare.

Hollywood Lies.

Why are we so obsessed with the unrealistic pretense of “best” and “only?” I blame romantic comedies.

Despite repeated dollops of celluloid telling us differently:

  • Sitting at a bar drinking with a lost and angst-ridden look on your face will not result in your true love running in, finding you and telling you breaking up was all a big mistake. In reality, you’ll probably just get plastered, possibly make a fool of yourself, and definitely feel terrible the next day.
  • Waitresses don’t speak in witticisms, pizza delivery guys don’t get laid on the job, and most of us don’t look that great naked past age 40.
  • “The One” is a lie. With all due respect to my gorgeous and wonderful wife of 10+ years, with whom I happily plan on growing old(er) — six billion people live on this planet. No doubt there are several compatible ones out there for each of us.

Movies are just entertainment. We know this. We accept this.

And Yet.

When it comes to positioning a product or writing marketing copy, we all want to pretend that our brand is “The One.” The ONLY one. But it’s rarely true and usually demonstrably false. In fact, there are very few product or service categories where you’ll find a single best solution for virtually all buyers.

Real Love.

With that in mind, it just makes sense that we drop the romantic pretense and focus on being honest. A better claim would be: “We might be the right fit for you and your needs. Let’s find out.” And that’s where content marketing comes in.

The Charm of Plausibility.

Take off your marketing hat for a minute and think about interviewing a job candidate for your organization. Maybe you need some help with your new marketing automation initiative; someone who can write some copy and/or understands basic SEO. You’ve got two candidates:

Susan: She says that she has experience with Eloqua, is good writing marketing copy, and interested in learning SEO; but isn’t comfortable with public speaking and hasn’t done much event organization.

Ted: He announces that he’s good at everything MARCOM related. Marketing automation? Sure. Copy? Writes it a mile a minute. SEO? He’ll get you top ranking. Web? Do you want him to design, write or just build the site? He’s on it. Events? He could organize the event AND be the main speaker. What’s he good at? Everything.

Don’t be that guy. Even if Ted’s references claimed he was good at everything, you still wouldn’t believe it. You’d hire Susan instead, because you can reasonably believe she can do what you need done.

“If it’s too good to be true; it probably is.”  Your prospects have internalized this phrase as well as you have.  Limit your claims to where truth and your prospects’ requirements and aspirations overlap. Anything more works against your brand.

Focus on Trust. The Sale will Follow.

Prospects have a lot of information available to them: online reviews, LinkedIn and Facebook friends who are easily polled,  and corporate social tools. Focus your marketing claims on simple truths — because when your marketing and customer reviews match up, you create a fast path to a sale.

When your claims overreach (even on features or issues that aren’t important to your prospect), fear and doubts are raised. This is a bad thing.

You’re not the Best. You’re not the Only. And that’s Ok.

This isn’t a romantic comedy. You still might be the perfect match for your prospects. Or at least close enough to close the sale.

Light-hearted proof that there’s more than the One:

Rich Quarles

Rich Quarles

Rich is a marketing strategist focused primarily on startups, technology, and financial services. He has advised startups that have collectively returned almost $2 billion to founders and investors. Rich founded glassCanopy in 2001.
Rich Quarles

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