In marketing your small business, word choice matters

By Mark G. Auerbach

I was at the deli counter of my local supermarket chain the other day, and a grain salad with fruit called out my name. The “store made” sign made me want to take this lunch home, but I’m one of those diabetic skeptics who worries about sugar levels. I asked the clerk about the ingredients. She said “grains and dried fruits.” I asked if she had an ingredient list. She didn’t. I said, “But, it’s “store made” so someone here must have made it.” She said, “It’s made in a store, but not this store.” End of sale. False advertising? No. Bad choice of words? Yes.

Most of us are so careful about how we craft our messages on social media, using best business practices, and the best search-engine-optimized algorithms. But, we tend to forget how important language is when crafting signage, print materials, and our broadcast patter. Okay, you can’t really craft your broadcast patter when you’re doing a live interview, but you can choose your words carefully.

[amazon_link asins=’161448502X’ template=’ProductAd’ store=’succeedingi0d-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’690e0f8a-9710-11e8-8870-1d47def8626b’]Your language and copy choices should have what I call the “AIDA Effect.” (You can decide if it’s Verdi or Elton John.) A = Attract the reader’s, viewer’s, or listener’s attention. I = Interest them in your product or service. D = Make them desire it. A = Make them take action. That’s what good copy in the lines of SEO does.

Adapt the AIDA Effect to your brochure copy, your print ads, your website, and radio and TV. Remember, with the latter, you have the impact of audio and video, and a photo or sound byte can be worth 1,000+ words.

If you’re doing it live, practice the buzzwords and phrases you want to use, so they sound natural. Make sure you can pronounce the names of your products and services, and say a phone number or web address clearly. If you’re one of those people who pops their “Ps or hisses when words begin with an “S,” get comfortable with alternates. Remember to breathe, and not in the middle of your product name.

[amazon_link asins=’0814432514′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’succeedingi0d-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’87b00228-9710-11e8-83d5-f11a3a4b62fc’]A radio mentor taught me that the best way to get rid of popping Ps is by practice. Hold the palm of your hand an inch in front of your face, and say, “Peter Piper picked a peck of purple peppers.” You’ll feel the popping Ps. Practice un-popping them by inhaling some on the “P.” As for the hiss of the “S”, you can reduce that by substituting a soft “Z.” Of course, when you’re wearing a body mic, these issues are reduced.

Some resources for better copy:

Dictionary: My go-to is always Merriam-Webster.

Thesaurus:  I swear by Merriam-Webster,

Rhyming Words: RhymeZone offers rhyming dictionary online.

Pronunciation Guide to Names and Places. Voice of America:


Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn.


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