Cliches are hurting your business

Dec 31, 2023

Stand out by steering clear of cliches, as they make firms seem generic and may push clients away.

Anyone who follows me on LinkedIn knows that I frequently rail against the use of cliches by AEC firms. It just seems like a never-ending stream of “cost effective solutions providers” out there who are “pivoting” as they become better “story tellers” out of a desire to achieve “authenticity.”

The problem with all this business-speak is twofold. First, you sound like everyone else. Secondly, you run the risk of turning off some of those who make up your audience (i.e., clients and potential clients).

When you sound like everyone else, you are actually making it difficult for a client to hire you – unless your fee is lower than everyone else’s. That’s not the position you want to be in. Believe it or not, “plain speak” is a differentiator today because the use of cliches and glowing accolades from marketers in our business is so out of control.

Now as far as turning off your audience goes, you may say, “Zweig is crazy. He is making a big deal about nothing – this stuff does nothing to me.” But you can’t look at the world only through YOUR eyes. You may not be inundated with this drivel like some of those who read proposal and qualification documents all day are. They could be more sensitive to it than you are. So why run the risk?

Maybe it is time to look at all of your marketing material – your website, your social media posts, your brochures, and qualification documents – so you can see how rampant this problem is. Clean it all up.

And while you are at it, check for use of acronyms with no explanation of what the initials stand for. We already have way too many firms whose names are initials. I sat in on a Zweig Group M&A consulting meeting the other day and was awestruck by all the firm names made up of initials – I couldn’t keep them straight. Also check for situations where you can substitute two syllable words for four syllable words. You will make everything easier to read and understand. You will differentiate yourselves over your competitors. And you won’t alienate anyone you want to do so business with.

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.