Kung Fu Secrets of B2B Copywriting: Don’t Tell Me, Show Me

David explains his favourite copywriting tip: “Don’t tell me you’re funny; tell me a joke.”

The bitter truth is this: sometimes, marketers lie. Your customers know it. And that means any adjective you might use about your business is meaningless – even if it’s true – unless you back it up.

You’re professional? Affordable? (Heaven help us) passionate? Blah blah blah. Your competitors say exactly the same thing, and whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter at all.

So: don’t tell me. Show me.

It’s the thing I tell clients and would-be writers more than any other is “Don’t tell me you’re funny; tell me a joke.” Here’s a short video about it, from a presentation in Penryn, Cornwall in 2015.

There’s a summary below, but the short version is: hunt down your adjectives. Lock them in a darkened room and growl at them like Jack Bauer, until you figure out which ones you can actually prove.

Here’s what the video says (pretty much):

Talk is cheap, basically.

Anybody can say: “We’re professional, we’re friendly, we’re reliable, we deliver everything on time, we’re affordable.”

Anybody can say that. And your customer knows it.

All of your competitors are saying it — whether it’s true or not. Saying it doesn’t give you any advantage, and it’s just: “Wah wah wah! We are passionate. We are passionate about pipe elbows. We are passionate about sandwiches.”

Google these words in this order: “we are passionate about”…you’ll get back 68.1 million responses.

People are claiming to be passionate about 68 million different things. And they’re not. You know they’re not. Nobody’s passionate about sandwiches.

So, if you are using a lot of adjectives about yourself or your company in your writing – if you are using “we are excellent”, “we are professional”, “we are exemplary”…

Don’t tell me — show me.

Don’t just say: “it’s affordable” — how affordable is it?

Don’t say: “it’s big” — how big is it?

Don’t say: “We’re great!” — show how me a quote from a customer saying how much they loved the experience. One of your customers talking about you weighs ten times as much as anything you might say about yourself anyway.

And it’s not just in what you say. It’s the content and it’s the writing and it’s the marketing that you offer.

Don’t say: “We are experts in this.” Write me a guide on how to do it.

Don’t say: “We are helpful and we’ll make sure that you’ll not forget anything.” Stick a checklist on your website.

Don’t say you’re helpful. Be helpful.

Don’t say you’re an expert — share some knowledge. Show that you’re an expert.

Don’t tell me you’re funny. Prove it.

Tell me a joke.

Want more copywriting tips?

Check out the next video, and find out why there’s no need to fear using apostrophes.

(Or watch the full Kung Fu Copywriting playlist here.)


David served as our Creative Director for almost eight years, before establishing a standalone practice focusing on B2B creativity and copywriting training and guidance. We continue to work closely together, with David supporting our clients as an associate as and when needed.

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