How being too-polished is hurting your sales (And how to fix it)

Bullshit meter

Your bullshit meter is as good as its ever been.

You want to know why?

I totally blame this on the lawyers and marketers that have polished copy, headlines, and subject lines so much that they don’t really say anything anymore.

Here’s what I mean.

I got an email today with this headline: “Get bold with dramatic choices with striking print tops and bodacious dresses.”


That’s a bit too salesy for me.

Worse, it sounds like what everyone is saying about their print tops and dresses.

The problem are the adjectives: “striking” “bodacious.”

Adjectives make you sound salesy, desperate, and like you’re trying to put lipstick on a pig.

A much better headline: “Bring on the compliments.”


We just used a noun to get straight to the point of why you would would wear a striking print top or a bodacious dress in the first place!

Can you see why it would convert better?

Do you see how your challenge is to cut through the BS meter? Thanks Don Draper.

Here’s another example from my local convention and visitor’s bureau’s homepage:


Welcome to Denver, where 300 days of sunshine, a thriving cultural scene, diverse neighborhoods, and natural beauty combine for the world’s most spectacular playground. A young, active city at the base of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, Denver’s stunning architecture, award-winning dining and unparalleled views are all within the walking distance from the 16th Street pedestrian mall. Upscale shopping awaits in Cherry Creek, while Denver’s seven professional sports teams entertain year-round.

They are trying to be everything to everybody.

They sound like every-other-town USA with no distinct reason to visit Denver.

Who’s up for a re-write?

The Mile High City

Welcome to Denver with 300 days of sunshine, 22 craft breweries, jumping-off point to 29 ski areas, including Vail and Aspen, Peyton Manning leads the Denver Broncos among our 7 pro sports teams, a 22-mile bike path cuts through the city so you can enjoy Denver by bike, with a stop at Cherry Creek Shopping District, Denver’s own Magnificent Mile, for outdoor eating, shopping, and a Farmer’s market every Saturday. Need a date night? How about theater for Broadway shows or Red Rocks Amphitheater one summer night to hear one of our hometown bands, One Republic or the Fray, play under the stars.

Doesn’t that give you something more to go on?

Do you now see Denver as a sports town for outdoor enthusiasts, with just a touch of culture? We conveyed that without saying “a young active city.”

I didn’t even have to mention we legalized weed in Colorado!

Here’s how to get specific

Want to boost your sales, donations, memberships, and subscriptions? GET SPECIFIC about your product, service, or mission!

It’s really that simple.

Here’s how to be specific:

  • Describe tangible items, for example “breathtaking views” could be replaced with “You can see Pikes Peak over 60 miles away from Downtown Denver.” Or, “stunning architecture” could be replaced with “a rock climbing wall your kids can enjoy for free at REI’s flagship store.”
  • Use numbers – especially in measurable outcomes
  • Tell your reader the exact emotions and desires you’re targeting, for example, “your heart will break,” or “you’ll fall in love again all over,” or “this will crack you up” or “have you ever had the piss scared out of you?”
  • Use real-world terms and scenarios, like the rewrite I just did above.
  • When in doubt, use a verb over an adjective to boost your noun. In fact, let’s just declare that whoever dies using the fewest adjectives wins.
  • Either way, buck-up and use strong nouns and verbs, for example: the infant gurgled, the goat bleated, the toddler shrieked, the bandit plundered, she’s 82 and just squandered her life savings.

I sat down to writer this post to support your email marketing but decided mid-way through, it applies to everything, not just emails.

Uh oh.

I didn’t mean to say “eeeeeeeeeeeverything…” I really meant to say, that this “get specific” rule applies to your emails, website, landing pages, direct mail, brochures, annual report, Facebook posts, Tweets, and conversation.