How to create a working tagline for your business

How to create a working tagline for your business

If I asked you to create a brand new working tagline for your business or service right now, what would you create? How would you write something meant for your special audience, that could pull in new customers? Do you even know what the heck I’m talking about?

Would it be something like Nike’s “Just Do It”? Or maybe something like Apple’s “Think Different”?

Honestly, hopefully neither.

“What?! Why are you bashing these famous taglines?” I’m not actually. They’re okay taglines.

For them. Not for you.

See, Nike launched their “Just Do It” campaign in 1988 when they were already doing nearly $900 million in business a year. They could have said, “Purple Broccoli!” and made it a worldwide phenomenon. (Okay maybe not.)

Aspirational/inspirational taglines like that aren’t going to work well for you and me. (By you and me I mean anyone who’s not running an international, billion dollar company everyone already knows about.)

Taglines that do work vs. taglines that inspire

The taglines ultra-famous companies use don’t primarily serve to convert new customers. They serve as reminders. By repetition in TV commercials, billboards, radio ads, etc. these taglines seep into the consciousness of the consumer. That breeds awareness and, they hope, affinity for the brand and income.

But that’s not where most of us are, though, right? That’s not supposed to be insulting…I’m not calling you small potatoes. It’s just a fact that most of us are still primarily in a growth stage. When you start a business or launch a product, and for quite a long while afterward, you are mostly interested in three things:

  1. Discovering potential new customers
  2. Letting those people know how we can help them with our services or products
  3. Getting them to trust us and buy from us

And that’s where “Just Do It” and “Where Vision Gets Built” (Lehman Brothers) just kind of…well…suck.

They don’t mean anything to a new customer. If you plopped either of those taglines on a brand new website, the customer would go, “Huh?” They wouldn’t take action. They wouldn’t find interest boiling up inside them. They would just hit the Back button and – swoosh – disappear. (See what I did there?)

What we need is a working tagline that actually does a bit of marketing for us.

Introducing the working tagline

When someone ends up on your site for the first time, it’s likely they’re trying to solve a problem.

They’ve got bad breath, poor profitability, they gas out when they run, they can’t cook, they’re overweight…whatever it is they’ve got a problem. They searched Google for a solution and here they are on your site.

If you do things right, there’s a big fat tagline right there on your site that says something to grab that guy by the eyeballs. Right when he needs it most. Something like:

“End bad breath forever.” Not a beautiful or inspiring tagline, but I’ll be damned if that’s not gonna interest the person with gnarly breath.

“Take 5 minutes off your next half marathon.” Inspiring? Not at all. Problem solving? Oh yeah!

“Your spouse will actually like the next meal you cook.” Award-winning tagline? Not even close. But is it effective? Can I get a hell yeah?

How to create a working tagline

We’re going to make you a really strong, effective tagline in a few easy steps.

  1. Write down, at any length, what you do for customers.
  2. Trim that down.
  3. Trim it down some more.

The first step is to make a big fat list of what is it that you do for your customers. What problem do you solve for them? Why do you exist in your business?

Just write all that down on a piece of paper. Make it as long and wordy as you want and don’t worry about grammar or any of that college crap.

Example: “What I really do is make websites for people. Those people will then have a professional home on the interwebz. They’ll look more authoritative, earn more trust, get more customers, and hopefully make more money.”

Yeah, that would make a super crappy tagline, but it’s a perfect beginning and we’re not done yet.

Now make a slimmer version: “I make websites to help people look better, get more customers, and make more money.”

And now an even slimmer version: “Look better online, get more customers, and make more money.”

Another version that is nice and slim: “Ugly websites rarely make money. How does yours look?”

Those would work. Perfectly fine taglines. The visitor instantly discovers what it is you do and how it can benefit them. It might not land you a huge contract, but that’s okay for now. Remember:

A tagline isn’t supposed to sell the customer. It simply opens the door to discussions.

Real Tagline Examples

A strong tagline exampleMy friend Jason runs a site called StrengthRunning.com. His tagline is “Get stronger, stay healthy, and race faster.” That’s right there in the header under his logo, where new visitors tend to look first.

And there is another version of that tagline which appears next to his newsletter sign-up area.

Good tagline example

Geico has a great tagline. “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance.”

It’s not poetry, no. But it wins anyway by telling you what they do (insurance), how long it’ll take (15 minutes), and what the benefit is (save 15%). It’s perfect.

Compare that to Allstate: “You’re in good hands.” Not great. Literally any service company in the world could say that and they’d probably be lying anyway.

Or State Farm: “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” Where? In my house? Get out of my house, State Farm, nobody invited you!

Or Met Life Insurance: “Have You Met Life Today?” Puke. This barely qualifies as a coherent sentence much less an effective tagline.

Some tagline warnings

There are a couple mistakes that people make over and over when thinking up new taglines. Don’t do these things:

Tonal mismatch

The tones of your tagline and your business/product have to match.

Don’t be cute and fluffy if your business is more techy. Don’t try to be hysterically funny when everything else you do is dead serious. Don’t sound techy when you’re doing something organic. If you get confused simply remember the following:

Your service or product exists to solve a problem. Point your tagline in that direction and you’ll be fine.

Cleverness

Don’t be clever. Cleverness makes people have to think and translate. That’s too slow, waters down the message, and makes you look like you’re trying too hard. People will mumble bad words under their breath if you ignore this advice.

Go for clear, concise, and straight to the point.

Homework

If you need a grand new tagline or want to tweak your existing one, here’s what to do about it!

  1. Make a big ol’ complete list of what you do for people and how you can help them.
  2. Slim it down.
  3. Slim it down some more.
  4. Keep slimming until it’s concise and tells the customer something beneficial.
  5. Ask your friends and family to read it over and watch their faces. If they frown, you need to clarify the tagline some more.
  6. If anyone says, “Ah, that’s funny/clever,” while reading your tagline, go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done.

That about covers it. If you have any questions or comments get in touch.

Let me know how it goes. I would love to hear some examples you come up with and I’d love to feature them in the post.

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