For most business clients, thoroughness is a virtue. It's part of the attention to detail that enabled them to become successful in the first place, a reflection of their dedication and discipline. Often, though, these instincts can bog down the client's marketing message. And it takes some artful persuading sometimes to get the client to buy in to the less-is-more concept.
Think about the process that takes place when you're working with the client. It starts with you coming to an understanding of the client's business needs. Once you've written your copy, you present it to the client for review. This is followed by revisions based on client feedback until finally you get an approval. And all this takes place solely between you and your client(s).
So, who is missing from this dynamic? How about the reader, the person we actually want a response from?
Most clients are excited about their work, and they are experts at what they do. And because they have egos, their natural impulse is to communicate the benefits of their business in a way that they would respond to, which is very thoroughly and in great detail. It's your job to keep the reader in mind at all times. It's your job as the writer to make sure that only the content that serves the purpose of meeting the client's business needs gets through. A big part of your role is to make sure that the reader is represented in the back-and-forth that takes place between you and your client.
One of my favorite examples of copy that is too thorough comes from the hospitality industry. Thankfully, this is becoming less and less common, but ten years ago, it was easy to find an ad or brochure for a hotel that would list among its amenities "Color cable TV," usually as one of a long list of bullets. The last time color cable TV was a considered a "nice" hotel amenity was some time in the 1980s but this bullet point persisted until recent years, even though the most vile, bedbug infested hotels in the worst neighborhoods had color cable TVs in each room. But every time I tried to take it out, the marketer always wanted to put it back in. And I challenge anyone to persuade me that a color cable TV resulted in even a single additional room booking after 1983.
It may take some skilled negotiating to convince your client that their instincts to be thorough and detail oriented is a disservice to their marketing message, but as the writer, you have to do your best to make your case.
Marta Kagan's "Bonafide Marketing Genius" Blog
Andre Sanders' "Running Without Condition" Blog
Jessica Sneeringer's "Mal-Diction" Blog