Leaning on a cliche to convey meaning works against you as a self-marketer, salesperson, and relationship builder. This is especially true in your emails, marketing materials, and sales presentations. You know what cliches are, right? They're common analogies and expressions that have become dull and meaningless due to overuse. And when it comes to sales and marketing communication, meaningless is not your aim.
Here are 5 tips to avoid cliches: (Titles are for your amusement.)
1. The writing on the wall. Say what you mean, without flowery, superfluous language. Be specific. Clear, precise wording creates impact. Rather than starting your email or PowerPoint with the title, "You Have To Spend Money to Make Money," you could write, "The 2 Investments Every Business Owner Must Make Now." Which lead-in would keep you reading?
2. Haste makes waste. Cliches are relied on because they require little thinking. Thinking takes time. Most people, like your competitors, are lazy. (Maybe you are too.) Hard workers, who are smart, use their mind to their advantage. When you fail to inject knowledge and notion enriched thought into your writing, customers will interpret your words as twaddle. Take the time to re-think and replace cliches with mindful verbiage.
3. Cheaters never prosper. Cliches are essentially copying. Remember my most retweeted tweet: "The only company that ever succeeded by copying was Xerox. Be an original." I could have saved the fifteen minutes I invested to craft that quote and re-used the cliche, "Don't be a copy cat." However, I wouldn't have received the same windfall of retweets. (Follow my "cliche-free" tweets: @andyhorner)
4. Too much of a good thing. "He was dead" delivers more force than "He was dead as a doornail". Verbose descriptions diminish the significance and potency of your ideas and stories. Brevity is an attractor of admirers and an attribute of wisdom.
5. Throw them a curve ball. Alter a cliche to give it new meaning and capture your reader's attention. Instead of saying, "What goes around comes around," say, "What goes around doesn't have to come around." Now that you've piqued your reader's interest, elaborate.
BONUS TIP: There are no stupid questions. Think "Jeopardy." Phrase your cliches in the form of questions to give them new life, engage readers, and prompt reactions. The cliche "Let us do the heavy lifting" doesn't carry the same weight as "How much can you lift?"
When you're tempted to reach for a cliche, try one of these tips. It'll return to you - not in spades - but in respect, responses, and revenue.