July 29, 2016



My friend Terri used to say that one little word could make all the difference between a turn-on and a turn-off. She’d illustrate her point with the example of meeting a guy and he says “I’m in band,” or he says, “I’m in a band.” That single-letter indefinite article of “a” meant the difference between band geek or potential rockstar (and whether he was cool enough to get her phone number).

Likewise in marketing, word choices make a world of difference in how your customers perceive you. Often, the content of your message is unchanging, but how you choose to say it can have a huge impact.

For example, my family and I took a vacation to Squaw Valley this year. Given that it was near the end of summer, we called ahead to see if the pool at High Camp was open. The gal who answered the phone replied, “We’re only open on weekends through September.” Another reply might have been, “We keep the pool open on weekends all the way through September.”

The first reply, with that dry tumbleweed of a word, only, feels scarce. The message implies – we’re closing up, we’re over it, and we’re ready to get the heck out of here. The second reply feels generous – sure the season is ending, but we’re having so much fun, we wanted to extend that fun for just a few more weekends and you’re invited to the party.

Another great illustration is the way that hotels communicate the number of guests allowed in a room.  Some say, “No more than four guests allowed in a room.” Others say, “Up to four guests allowed in a room.” Either way you slice it, four in a room, but no more than feels stingy and up to feels open and inviting.

Scarce messages make the recipient constrict, both in their mood and their wallet. Abundant messages make people feel at ease, included, and excited. Think of it as feng shui of wordsmithing. When crafting both your written and verbal marketing communications, ask if there’s a way to have the message feel more generous while still maintaining the integrity of the content. Do so and you might just be as cool as a someone in a band.