Are Pouncing Puppies Pooping on Your Audience?

This week’s Special Edition Wednesday brings us Karen Swim of Words for Hire. Karen is a skilled marketer and her positive attitude is positively contagious. We can’t think of a better way to start the day than reading her words of wisdom.

You pace nervously outside the conference room door.  Inside waits an audience of prospective customers. You researched, prospected, cold called, and bought advertising and now they are here waiting for your big presentation.

Lights, Camera, Action

It’s time. You take a deep breath and open the walnut doors. Hundreds of faces look up with anticipation as the room goes silent. You clear your throat and turn on the presentation screen. Your audience waits for your introduction and you press play.

The bright shiny screen fills up with pouncing puppies. You smile and pause anticipating their warm and fuzzy response. The room remains silent. You quickly hit next and words fly in from the right hand side of the screen. You again pause allowing your audience to read your clever wordplay. You look out to a sea of confused faces and knitted brows.

Chairs push back from the table as people began to leave. Some are angry, and others silently lurk away. No one talks to you or looks at you and soon you are presenting to an empty room.

Respect them or lose them

If this were an actual live presentation, and you were fast on your feet you could adjust and recover from a slide or joke that falls flat but this is your website and when you tank, people simply leave.

Your beautifully designed website must do more than look pretty, it must be functional, and if you are a business on the web that function is to win you customers. So how do you that? Use your words.

Keep it simple…

Your website is your salesperson. It is on 24 hours per day. It cannot adjust on the spot or use warm chatter to ease into a conversation. It must be on and ready to answer questions the moment a visitor walks through the door. Your graphics, photos and words should clearly convey your message, not confuse or dissuade your customers from trusting you.

Too many businesses make the mistake of trying to sound important without telling customers in plain language (whatever language that happens to be for you) what they do. It sounds so simple right? If you’re a plumber, doctor or pet sitter your website visitors should know that instantly. Yet, we think that’s too simple so we write copy like this:

ABC company is a consortium of seasoned and dedicated professionals in a multitude of disciplines offering customers’ unparalleled solutions to everyday challenges.

For an added touch of warmth, we put up a stock photo of important looking people holding briefcases and staring blankly into the camera. Or if we’re going for transparency we put up a photo of Homer our dog so that our audience knows we’re just like them.

While the words above are definitely English, it may as well have been written in Sanskrit. What does the company do? Your visitors expect to find that out within seconds and if it’s not clear chances are many will leave. Only the committed super sleuth will navigate through additional pages to discover the secret mysteries. Most of your visitors will just not be that into you.

Marketing is not an exercise in confusing your audience. It is a discipline in which you know their wants, needs and preferences and you communicate your solutions to them in language that they understand. Forget cute, clever or coy, that may work for big brand companies and super bowl ads but in the real world where you’re slugging it out with a thousand competitors you need to be clear.

Karen Swim is a Business and Marketing Consultant who helps clients to connect with their target audiences in clear and simple language. She loves puppies but never exploits them in marketing efforts. To learn more, visit


  1. says

    Pouncing puppies pooping … say that 3 times fast :-)

    One of the biggest challenges I think we all face is describing what we do. WE know what we do, but we just do it. But explain it to someone else? Whew, it’s hard.

    For my website, I hired a professional copywriting company. I wrote a rough draft and then they kept asking questions until they understood my business well enough to write about it.

    Another method I use is to try and describe what I do to my daughter. She’s ruthless! She just keeps coming back with “I don’t understand” until she does get it.

    It’s a tough exercise, and you have to be prepared for some frustration, but well worth the effort.

    Thanks, Karen. Excellent post.
    .-= Eliza’s last blog post… The (Mis)Adventures of Mike: Mapping out business processes =-.

  2. Rose says

    Genius. Sheer genius! I don’t know how many times I’ve seen people write papers or copy or letters that try so hard to be impressive that they’re unintelligible. Thanks for a great reminder about the importance of understandability.

    I think I made up that last word. Just for you. 😉

  3. says

    @Eliza, lol, it is a tongue twister! You were smart to hire a professional to write your copy. It is very difficult for people to write effectively about what they do. When working with new brands or rebrands, one of the questions on my intake forms asks them to describe their business to a 5 year old. It’s a funny exercise but makes you distill it in language that even a five year old can understand.

    @Rose, LOL! I love made up words and they definitely add personality, it’s the real words strung together that do not make sense that get to me. It’s surely a bad sign when you read something once, scratch your head and think, “Huh?” Lol. Note to self: don’t write head scratching copy.
    .-= Karen Swim’s last blog post… What You Need to Know about Business in 2010 =-.


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