Like a committee-designed horse that looks like a camel, a small-business Web site can end up as a hodgepodge of thoughts, words and pictures, some of which don’t belong there.
Printing-industry executive Jeff Haden lists 10 words or phrases that should never appear on a small-business Web site — and if they do, should be removed. Here are Haden’s no-nos:
1. “Innovative.” Just about every company claims to be innovative. Most aren’t. A company doesn’t have to be innovative to be successful. But if the company is truly innovative, show the visitor. Describe products the company has developed. Describe processes the company has modified. Give the visitor something real — then he or she will know the company is truly innovative.
2. “Service provider.” Everyone who meets a need is a service provider. “Service provider” says nothing. If the company sells gas, tell the visitor it sells gas. If the company designs commercial office spaces, tell the visitor it designs commercial office spaces. If the company is an Internet service provider, fine — otherwise, use plain language and tell the visitor what it really does.
3. “Proven track record.” Almost every company has a track record. It may be good, it may be bad, but everyone’s track record is proven. Give facts and figures instead. Share on-time performance rates, or waste percentages or under-budget statistics. Let the company’s track record be proven by its achievements. No achievements yet? No problem; then the company doesn’t have a track record, either.
4. “Unique blend of…” the KFC recipe may be a unique blend of herbs and spices. Otherwise, someone, somewhere, is also doing what the company does. The company may do what it does a little better than others, but it isn’t unique. Describe why the company’s efforts are better.
5. “World-class.” Usain Bolt: world-class sprinter. Lindsey Vonn: world-class skier. Makes sense — but what is a world-class company? Who defines world-class? The fact that the company provides (or hopes to provide) products or services to a global customer base doesn’t mean it is a world-class company.
6. “Collaborative approach.” The company won’t just decide what’s right for the visitor and force him or her to buy it? Wow! If the company’s process is designed to take the visitor’s input and feedback, tell him or her how that works. Describe that process. Show the visitor exactly how he or she and the company will work together. Don’t just claim it.
7. “Outstanding customer experiences.” Providing an outstanding customer experience is important; if the company doesn’t, it will fail. The problem with this term is it describes a general phenomenon. How will the visitor’s experience be outstanding? Tell the visitor what can be expected that will make his or her experience so outstanding.
8. “Dynamic.” That promise to be “vigorously active and forceful” may cause a visitor to prefer to stay away.
9. “Myriad solutions.” This phrase is everywhere. It appears the intent is to say, “Boy, we do a lot of stuff.” To some it comes across as, “Basically, we’ll do anything you are willing to pay us to do because we haven’t figured out our business model yet.” Some companies might actually provide myriad solutions. If the company is one of them, break those solutions down into categories, list the categories, and then describe each one somewhere else. But don’t talk about solutions. Tell the visitor how the company will solve his or her problem. “Solutions” has become a buzzword and is therefore meaningless.
10. “Results-oriented.” Adjectives are great, but only if specific, directly applicable words describe exactly what the company does. Use plain language, avoid generalities, and skip the hyperbole. If the company paints houses, don’t say the company is a “leading provider of exterior and interior surface renovation, repair and beautification services.” Say the company paints houses and tell the visitor why he or she should trust the company to do the job better than other companies. Potential customers — and the search engines — will like the company’s online efforts a lot better.
Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about management as he worked his way up the printing business from forklift driver to manager of a 250-employee book plant.