There’s one marketing task every MSP owner runs into at some point: writing about their own business.
Whether they need to provide written copy for the “About Us” page for their website, create a blurb for an online directory listing, or describe their MSP in a local press release, IT company owners repeatedly find themselves in a position where they need to put words to the ideas in their head.
This poses a unique challenge for the DIY marketer. Firstly, writing is one of the most complex and nuanced skills on the planet. I’ve been writing professionally for almost 20 years, and I spent a great deal of that time learning and perfecting the art. As Stephen King said, the writing skill comes from writing — there’s no other way to get it. You’ve got to put in the keyboard time to get better. (In fact, the industry standard is that you’re not supposed to call yourself a ‘professional copywriter’ until you’ve got at least 15 years of actual experience behind you).
The second part of this challenge is that most MSPs don’t know what to say when they actually sit down to write their blurb. This is where brand strategy comes into play — because without a brand, there isn’t much clarity on what you’re actually trying to communicate. No amount of skill can overcome the need for an actual message or story to wordsmith onto the page.
That’s why we’ve run into so many poorly-written blocks of text in our years in the channel. Not because MSPs aren’t trying, but because this task seems so simple that it’s not given due consideration. While there are shortcuts and “tricks” that many people tend to use when writing about their business, they usually result in lackluster or even confusing copy.
That’s what we’re going to talk about in this article. Avoiding the pitfalls so you can produce quality copy when describing your business. Before we get into that, let me list out the places where you might use the kind of copy we’re going to discuss:
- The “About Us” website page
- The company description on a directory listing
- Your social media business pages
- The source/subject descriptions on a press release
- Your sales slicks or information sheets
- Anywhere you’re trying to describe your company in a short paragraph
With that clarified, let’s take a look at some of the most common writing sins that we see:
Stating the Obvious in a Complicated Way
The first “trick” or shortcut that most MSPs use seems to be driven by this thought process:
I need to describe my company, but I need a whole paragraph. I should just pad out the word count with a bunch of adjectives and details.
In short, the MSP doesn’t know what to say other than “we’re an IT company” so they have to figure out how to stretch four words into a paragraph. There’s a tendency to want to inflate that idea as well, making the simple concept of “IT company” sound as cutting-edge as possible.
That’s when you end up with sentences like:
We’re an innovative and responsive IT service provider that delivers forward-looking technology, software, and hardware to businesses who want to get the most from their technology investments.
This probably looks familiar to most of you. The bad news? When you translate this horribly overwritten sentence it just means “we’re an IT company”.
When an MSP resorts to this kind of writing, they’re taking very simple ideas and making them harder for the reader to understand them. This is not ideal. While it seems like adding all of those adjectives (innovative, responsive, forward-looking) makes the idea better, it simply adds friction to the reading process because those adjectives by themselves don’t mean much to the reader. How are you innovative? Do I just take your word for it?
It’s also counterintuitive to the idea of reaching that desired word count. Toss those adjectives and start building value by actually talking about the ideas. Instead of tacking “responsive” on as dressing, add a sentence like: “We’re among the most responsive IT providers in the area because ______ and our SLAs of _______ speak for themselves.” Now you’ve turned one worthless word into an entire meaningful sentence.
Playing with the Thesaurus
This one drives me nuts. Using “big fancy words” does not make bad copy better. As Samuel Clemens said, “Don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do.” Veneering over poor writing with elaborate wording is one of the surest signs of bad writing. Don’t fall into the trap by whipping out the thesaurus.
Off the top of my head, the biggest offender in this category is the word “utilize”. MSPs love using the word “utilize” as a synonym for “use”. Stop! There is nothing wrong with the word “use” in 99% of the cases where you’re making that substitution! All you’re doing is adding two unnecessary syllables that bring nothing to the prose.
Putting the Reader Last
Communication becomes infinitely harder when one fails to take their audience into consideration. Instead of thinking that information delivery is your objective, think of your reader as the objective. (More precisely, having some effect on your reader is the goal here.)
Informing someone that you’re an IT company is easy. As shown before, you can deliver that information in four words. “We’re an IT company.” Done.
The rest of the challenge is to keep the reader engaged enough to read the entire blurb, convey some value that they find relevant to them, and make sure they remember you. Again, this is much harder to do when you don’t have a brand strategy, but shoving in a bunch of text that’s meaningless to the reader is not a workaround.
Too Much Backstory
Backstory is the standard fallback when IT providers don’t know what else to say. They talk about how long they’ve been in business, how their family has been in IT for generations, and how their first office was in a suburban garage.
By and large, this information is meaningless to your audience. You can incorporate these kinds of details into a larger brand image, but in a vacuum, these facts are irrelevant to someone who is shopping for an IT company. They’re actively looking for value. Subconsciously, they respond to emotional engagement. Long backstories rarely flip either of these switches.
Let’s Look at an Example
The following is an actual example of an MSP’s directory listing copy:
At NAME we specialize in delivering responsive information technology services and optimization of business operations for small/medium sized businesses. Our core strength is providing value and return on investment through the use of innovative information technology solutions. With a 24/7 centralized help desk we are always here when you need us. Our business continuity solutions help clients by providing innovative network design, backup/disaster recovery solutions, security solutions compliant with regulatory agencies, responsive services and proactive monitoring. With our knowledgeable staff and experience of over 19 years servicing the REGION we design IT solutions that enhance and help your business run the way you want it to. We’re not just IT people we’re business owners too.
- Mentioning the period of time they’ve been in business. (Mentioning, not building a long story around it.)
- The statement “We’re not just IT people, we’re business owners, too” is a stab at building rapport on common ground. Not a bad idea, but it’s sort of obvious because…they’re talking about their business. But since it’s the most human-sounding statement in the entire block of copy, I would put this idea at the beginning, not the end, and build the rest of the text around it.
- The idea of stating “Our core strength is providing value and ROI” is good, but it doesn’t go anywhere. “through the use of innovative information technology solutions” has no meaning to the reader and sounds like the same canned text every MSP uses. If they can end that sentence with some statements of unique value — how are they really providing exceptional value? — it would work.
- There are unnecessary, clumsy adjectives — and the same ones are used more than once. “Innovative” shows up twice without any context. “Responsive” is used twice, but strangely not in the sentence where they talk about being responsive.
- Too much focus on the solutions. Every IT company has these, so they either need to omit them or find ways to talk about how their version of these solutions are better.
- It reads like a machine wrote it. People are going to read this, and I’ve never heard of a person sitting down to enjoy a pamphlet of stereo installation instructions.
- The actual relevant information delivered in that paragraph could be boiled down to two manageable sentences rather than seven huge ones. That’s a sure sign of overwritten copy.
- There is barely any mention of how the solutions or ideas actually benefit the reader. It’s all about the company, not the audience.
- Numerous grammatical and punctuation errors. (If you want your business to be taken seriously, at least use the correct punctuation on your marketing copy.)
Writing is a skill that takes time to perfect, but you get better every time you do it as long as you take it seriously and learn the rules.
Sometimes the first encounter a consumer has with your business is a small block of copy that you’ve written. Do you want it to be a confusing mess? Good enough? How about exceptional? Marketing is the voice and soul of your MSP and you should treat it accordingly. Taking the above recommendations into consideration the next time you write about your business will help!