Saying it doesn't make it so: Back up your claims.

In my work as a marketing copywriter, I've gnashed my teeth many times over the challenge of creating compelling, credible copy based on vague claims that aren't backed up by specifics. I don't like writing copy that I wouldn't be convinced by. Claiming that your company, services or product are the best thing since sliced bread means nothing.

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Says who?

I've seen a lot of companies throw around superlatives in their marketing materials.

"___ is the leader in X,Y, Z" is a common blurb I see on websites. How do you set out to prove a vague claim like that?

The "about" page for IBM says it is "the world's most forward-looking company." (I can think of a few other prominent companies that might take issue with that claim, but beyond that, it's an awkwardly worded superlative, which is unusual for IBM, which has done some really entertaining storytelling about analytics in the past.)

Descriptions like these are disingenuous and sloppy. There are, after all, no unbiased organizations out there evaluating companies and then handing out awards for the "Greatest" or "Most Forward-Thinking."

I glanced at the highest-level web pages on the Microsoft and Apple sites, and both companies appear to have overcome the temptation to call themselves the "most" or "greatest" anything, and instead do what I think makes sense and holds more sway: They focus on specifics about what they have to offer.

Get creative

It's not always easy to get hard numbers to quantify success. In an ideal world, you could go out to sales appointments armed with stats showing exactly how much (in dollars or percentages) you helped your last client improve their online sales – or whatever other goal you set out to reach.

In the absence of that sort of proof, what you can do is convince your current clients to vouch for your value. Testimonials matter –  as long as they're attributed to specific people, that is. (If you get a great quote, but your client then says, "But, hey, can you just say this is from 'a client'?" their value drops off exponentially.)

Go courting

At the beginning of a project, go ahead and mention how much you'd appreciate it if your client would be willing to tell the story of your mutual success once all is said and done.  Better yet, if your kind of work can be measured, ask at the get-go if they would be willing to share some hard before-and-after numbers that you can use in your marketing.

I've  worked for companies who were squeamish about asking clients to be quoted in marketing materials or in web content, and I understand that some clients may not want to go there for confidentiality or other reasons. Every situation is different, and you have to make a good judgment call.

But I think some companies are too timid about asking, losing great opportunities.

If you say it, prove it.

In short, resist the temptation to be "The Leader In ..." when you create your identify and sales pitches. Don't say anything you can't back up with client/customer testimonials, hard numbers or some other form of proof that you really are better than your competitors.