Kill The Weasel Words

Weasel word (n)a word used in order to evade or retreat from a direct or forthright statement or position,

Merriam Webster

Two sales reps walk into your place of business, each selling a software program that can help you manage leads. Each one wants to close the deal and has prepared a pitch to get you to buy-in.

Sales rep one says like this:

With this leading lead management platform, you can expect significant growth in your department. In fact, many of our clients experience a substantial increase in not only the number of leads but the number of conversions.

Sales rep two prepares a different pitch:

Our lead management platform has been featured in Bloomberg Businessweek and has made Inc. Magazines ‘Top 10 Acquisition Management Tools” for the last five years. Our customers experience, on average, a 50% lift in qualified leads and a 40% lift in conversations.

Kill The Weasel Words in Your Website Content: Convert Faster- weasel words should be used sparingly

Assuming product features, capabilities, and price points are all the same, which sales rep would you choose?

If you’re like most people, it’s going to be sales rep two.

Why is that?

The second sales rep didn’t just tell you they were selling a leading product, they gave you tangible proof of what made it a leading product. When it comes to proof of impact, they didn’t just tell you that leads increased, they told you that qualified leads increased by 50% AND that those leads actually lead to a 40% lift in conversions

There are enough vague and otherwise empty claims floating around the internet. When you rely on them in your marketing and sales content, you’re just placing your business in the middle of a crowded room.

The answer? Do your best to avoid useless, vague, weak, or otherwise meaningless words and stop weaseling around.

4 Weasel Word Tendencies to Avoid

1. Anonymous Attributes

Experts say, research says, evidence suggests

It’s great to pull in expert testimony, but phrases like “experts say” or “research suggests” mean little if the reader doesn’t know much about the expert source. When sharing stats and leveraging the title of “expert,” it’s best to pull in an actual resource.

🚫Experts recommend switching to energy-efficient products to cut back on seasonal cooling and heating costs.

The EPA recommends switching to ENERGY STAR qualified products to cut back on seasonal heating and cooling costs.

2. Outcome Generalities

This product helps improve, we’re committed to your success, it can cause significant issues

At face value, there’s nothing wrong with using those phrases, but it’s what you do after the fact that can label you a word-weasel. If you just leave it at that, you fail to give your audience or customer what they need — a real example of how your claim is true.

🚫We’re committed to your success and growth

Our team members are available to you 24/7 to provide

Kill The Weasel Words in Your Website Content Convert Faster- avoid useless words

3. Quantitative Cop-outs

Some, many, few, significant, etc.

Kicking these out of your copy all together is probably not likely, but if you find yourself using them frequently, then it’s time to reevaluate. If you can give your audience something more substantial, then do it.

You can usually do that by replacing those vague qualifiers with numerical references.

🚫Many of our clients feel that the onboarding process was fast and efficient.

  Nine out of 10 customers felt that the onboarding process gave them the information they needed to efficiently operate the system. Was fast and efficient.

4. Meaningless Value Statements

Cutting-edge, industry-leading, one-of-a-kind, etc.

When was the last time you heard about a product that was “cutting-edge” or a business that was an “industry leader”? My guess is that it hasn’t been too long since — whether it was in a grocery store or a business email. But how many of those claims are true?

If you have the right to claim the fame, as indicated by industry or consumer-driven rewards, then, by all means, flaunt it. But if you’re going to take the credit, make sure you have the credentials to back it up.

🚫 Try our industry-leading breakfast cookies that are loved by moms and kids alike.

In a survey of over 10,000 kids and parents, 98% of them found our product to be their top choice when compared to five of the most popular breakfast cookies on the market.

Think you’re guilty of weaseling out?

If you can’t answer these questions, you may be right.

  • What am I really saying?
  • Have I offered additional and credible support for my claims?
  • Have I moved from abstract (e.g., leading) notion to concrete (e.g., 90% of consumers prefer) example?
  • Does what I’m saying add any true value?

Kill The Weasel Words in Your Website Content: Convert Faster- use weasel words sparinglyIs there an exception?

I’ve spent the last seven years writing content for business and personal finance clients, and even as I wrote this piece, I knew that in some ways I was being a hypocrite. Sometimes, weasel words are necessary — a form of plausible deniability, if you will.

I’ll never be able to guarantee that you can boost your personal credit score in 60 days or less if you follow a few steps. Just because a company offers zero down financing or low-interest rates doesn’t mean you’ll qualify for them. Sometimes you need to hold on to a verbal loophole

Other weasel words, like “improved” or “better”, may be relatively useful in a pinch. For instance, you may not be able to list all new product features in a subject line, but “improved” can drop a hint.

When used sparingly and in the right context, weasel words can help your business deal with liability issues or limited copy space, but that should be a circumstantial or compliance-based exception, not a marketing rule.

 


 

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