"Everyone knows that" and "Everyone writes this way"

13 replies
Someone close to me is selling her house, and she sent me a link to the realtor's description. After I asked her if she wanted some feedback, we had a conversation about it that to me illuminates some of the thinking barriers copywriters come up against with clients.

Me: There's a lot of fluff in the description, like the first sentence, which is feel-good but doesn't contain any information. The whole writeup didn't say anything about the kinds of families your house would be best for, like that the upstairs suite would be perfect for an au pair, in-laws or an older teenager wanting their own space. And the way it was organized - going room by room or area by area, instead of starting with the highlights.

She: All the realtors write this way.

Me: That doesn't make it good.

She (after a hesitation): True.

Me: There were some terms in the description that I didn't understand, like "chair rails."

She: Everyone looking at houses knows what that is.

Me: Are you sure? And people are going to buy a house or not because the dining room has chair rails? I don't think it really conveyed the big picture of the strengths of your house.

For this house, it all turned out to be moot, because the house sold the first day on the market to someone who (long story) didn't even see the description.

What about these two objections - how often do you hear them from clients?

1)"Everyone writes this way"

2)"Everyone knows that"

Your comments?

Marcia Yudkin
#everyone knows that #everyone writes this way
  • Profile picture of the author joe golfer
    I feel like I've had that same conversation hundreds of times. This is a classic example of why there is so much generic writing out there.

    The BS I see over and over from pros and amateurs alike:

    - No proof. Statements are made "willy nilly" with no proof to back them up. If there's one thing you should learn from Gary B., it's the importance of proof.

    - Stats with no real source. You'd be amazed at the number of stats thrown around, often by reputable sites, where the original source is vague, not credible, not valid, or doesn't exist. Before long these questionable stats become "fact" by being quoted many times. Marketers are some of the worst offenders. Here is an example:
    Tweet it, Blog It, Repeat It, 60,000 Times: Truthiness Achieved

    - Lazy writing full of buzzwords and industry jargon, but little in the way of useful information -- very common on ecommerce sites.

    - Clients who say they "want to show their personality," but in the end retreat back to boilerplate writing that sounds exactly like every other business in their niche.

    The last point is so common across so many industries, I'm convinced you can grab decent market share in most fields relatively quickly by just building a brand with no other advantage than a vivid personality and creative positioning.
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  • Profile picture of the author laurencewins
    I would love to meet "everyone" as he/she seems to be everywhere at once and is a workaholic.
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  • Profile picture of the author neshaword
    Our job is to write, but our duty is to warn a client about all elements a proper content should include. Unfortunately, it all comes down to â€"my money, my rules.” This is the moment when I say, yes Sir, how would you like me to express your thoughts, you’re a genius and I truly admire you. Every now and then there are clients, who say, do your thing you’re a writer not me. Then, I don’t take an advantage of the situation, but rather suggest a couple of alternatives. Again, these guys are grateful and we work as a team. You’re a lady with an attitude and I respect that. I know you’ll disagree, but this is my real-life experience. Stubborn clients think they know all the best, that’s not my problem. I warned them about the consequences in a very polite and professional way. They insist on my way or the highway. I don’t wanna lose a client, therefore, yes sir, on your command, my words march…
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  • Profile picture of the author gingerninjas
    Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post


    What about these two objections - how often do you hear them from clients?

    1)"Everyone writes this way"

    2)"Everyone knows that"
    Isn't it refreshing when we see something a little left of centre and unique in marketing material that jumps out and grabs out attention?

    Frankly "Everyone write this way" and "Everyone knows that" sounds like laziness on the realtors part to me.

    I know we are exposed to way more content and copy than most and I can't help myself by read and critique every tiny morsel of copy that is in front of me but isn't there something amazingly exciting about turning caution to the wind and being a little unique.

    To answer your question, I am all for seeing examples from clients about what they had in mind, however, they are all aware that my aim is to put a unique spin on the content so that is jumps off the page and gets the target audience to act.
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  • Profile picture of the author RickDuris
    Not to sound cocky at all, but my clients know what good copy is. That's why they hired me.

    If you have to educate your prospect or client about what good copy is, I can't tell you what's wrong, but my opinion is something is off.

    For instance, I wrote a NATIVE AD about two months ago that right now has about 10,000 shares and untold likes...



    Now granted, there was some help in the form of boosting the post (in other words, it was a sponsored post,) but the fact was it did very well. People don't share unless the content is good.

    Now, my client knows what good copy looks like, but what he doesn't know is WHY this native ad took off like a rocket.

    THOSE are the questions I get. The "I don't get it, Rick. Why did this work so well?"

    And then the obvious question right after that...

    "Can we do it again?"

    P.S. Now you may say "Rick, why are you writing articles? I thought you were a copywriter?"

    Answer: Because on FB, one of the best ways not to look like a sketchy direct marketer is to first send traffic to a quality article which THEN links to your sales letter.

    However, in order to be able to write a quality article that converts, you have to use everything you learned in copywriting school.

    The majority of article writers may be able to write a content-rich article, but they don't know how to get the reader to click through to the sales page.

    And if you can't do that, you can't get traffic that will ROI at a reasonable cost.
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  • Profile picture of the author angiecolee
    I have that fight constantly at the day job, where some partners within the building think listing features and a hot price automatically sells the thing.

    A big lesson was learned with LED bulbs and how you have to know what the customers need and how they use the product in order to sell.

    Because with LED a person doesn't really need to stock up, do they? It doesn't burn out the way traditional bulbs do. Once they've converted, they won't be in the market for LED bulbs for several years, and by that time the tech is likely to have gotten even better.

    So no, common knowledge is not common.

    In my case we kinda had to let some of the more vocal opponents of good direct marketing strategy crash and burn before they started taking our recommendations seriously.
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    • Profile picture of the author Gallag97
      Originally Posted by angiecolee View Post

      I have that fight constantly at the day job, where some partners within the building think listing features and a hot price automatically sells the thing.

      A big lesson was learned with LED bulbs and how you have to know what the customers need and how they use the product in order to sell.

      Because with LED a person doesn't really need to stock up, do they? It doesn't burn out the way traditional bulbs do. Once they've converted, they won't be in the market for LED bulbs for several years, and by that time the tech is likely to have gotten even better.

      So no, common knowledge is not common.

      In my case we kinda had to let some of the more vocal opponents of good direct marketing strategy crash and burn before they started taking our recommendations seriously.
      common knowledge is common to those who are constantly exposed to the environment which they consider common.
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      • Profile picture of the author angiecolee
        Originally Posted by Gallag97 View Post

        common knowledge is common to those who are constantly exposed to the environment which they consider common.
        Truth, in part. Though in my situation, the buyers were unaware of reason for the lack of sell-through. Buying patterns play into this - should be common knowledge for retail buyers as well as marketers.
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  • No one ever hung wallpaper in a gallery, an' I guess you gotta convince people about the power of their pre-copy space.

    That might mean rewritin' the brief.
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  • Profile picture of the author wordsandthebees
    Ahhh 'everyone'! Thank goodness for creativity that copywriters aren't 'everyone'!

    Unfortunately, though, this goes back to "the customer is always right" for me.

    Once I'm familiar with their brief I'll have a chat with the client and let them know the general direction that I'm thinking of heading in with their copy. I'll always let them know that they'll get 'stuff not fluff' from me which includes strong statements that provide readers with information, and not waffle.

    Once they have the first draft, if they really don't like my style or approach and they want what 'everyone' else has then that's what I'll give them for their final draft. Of course, they're not the expert but in my few years in the industry, I've learnt that it's much less painful to let it go and give them what 'everyone' else has if that's what they really want.

    It often leaves me wondering why they'd pay a professional copywriter if they can just copy and paste from 'everyone' else however copy is so personal that you're never going to please them all, so that's where I just get them to complete the sign-off and issue their invoice!
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  • Profile picture of the author RonGold
    Just go with your gut feeling.

    A writer knows what a writer knows!
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  • Profile picture of the author Raydal
    This happens when the prospect hires you already knowing what the copy
    suppose to look like. In other words, you are just a transcriber of their ideas.
    In fact, they would have done the job but they don't have enough time.

    -Ray Edwards
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    • Profile picture of the author onehalf
      Originally Posted by Raydal View Post

      This happens when the prospect hires you already knowing what the copy
      suppose to look like. In other words, you are just a transcriber of their ideas.
      In fact, they would have done the job but they don't have enough time.

      -Ray Edwards
      I totally agree. There are trade language and industry terms that you have to consider in writing a sales copy. This is also the reason why some clients hire a copywriter who is experienced in writing for a particular niche or topic.
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