Why words matter in business

by Julia Burns, LightningBug founder, copywriter

Unlike some elements of marketing, words are far from a nice-to-have.

They’re not something you can test to see if they’re a useful tool for your business (like white papers or infographics).

No, they are an inescapable part of almost every moment of our lives.

Whether watching a film or a presentation, reading a novel or a website, or even just letting our minds wander: we are awash with words.

Back in 1888, Mark Twain stated:

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter – ‘tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

This is truer today than ever. With so much content vying for our attention, we all instinctively know that the better our words, the more effectively we convey our message. It’s what we’re taught at school in English lessons, and it’s what we experience when we see great copywriting that entertains or convinces us.

Look at the informality and confidence in the tone of voice of the hugely successful email marketing platform, MailChimp. It demonstrates that they know what they’re doing and will make your experience as easy as possible – not simply improving your email campaigns, but also cheering up your working day. Each year, the annual report is actually worth reading. I still have a soft spot for 2012’s – how many B2B companies would allow sign-off on that opening photo? Their latest campaign (especially JailBlimp) is particularly worth taking a look at to see how a business-focused brand can experiment.

Another great example of words that work is the infamous copy-led V&A campaign revolving around the phrase “An ace caff, with quite a nice museum attached”. Towards the end of the eighties, the campaign led to a sizeable jump in visitor numbers which had been declining for five years – after all, wouldn’t most people rather go to a museum that doesn’t take itself too seriously?

Such creativity and carefully chosen language is unquestionably powerful, and data backs this belief up too. Research published in Harvard Business Review, for instance, reveals a euro invested in a highly creative campaign doubles the sales impact of a euro spent on a non-creative campaign.

Despite believing the right words contribute to commercial success, most people put little time aside to perfect their prose.

Even marketers rarely have the capacity to dedicate to it.

As a result, in my experience, the majority of companies use largely the same language as each other.

Of course, the two examples above were developed by exceptional creatives with entire marketing and advertising teams behind them. But there are ways that we can all improve the words we’re producing.

This blog, the LightningBlog, is all about helping marketers improve their words, so check back regularly or sign up here for our newsletter on how to write standout copy and content.

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