Follow the Leader

Photo credit: David Spinks / CC By 2.0

Photo credit: David Spinks / CC By 2.0

When you read marketing materials, you find that many companies claim to be "leading providers" of something or other. This phrase spans all industries. Here's a quick sampling gathered from the Internet:

  • "MetLife is a leading provider of insurance and other financial services to millions of individual and institutional customers."
  • "Targus Group - Leading Provider of Laptop Cases, Bags and Accessories"
  • "DaVita, Inc., a Fortune 500 company, is a leading provider of kidney care in the United States."

Most often companies claim to be a leading provider, not the leading provider. After all, a company purporting to be the leading provider of a market would need to support the assertion with factual data, such as the highest sales numbers.

Even true leaders seem to trot out this lazy claim without a second thought. There are 24 million Google results for "leading provider." With all those leaders, who's following?

More importantly, do consumers ever respond do this stuffy wording? Does anyone consciously or unconsciously gravitate to the products or services of self-appointed leading providers? It's not likely.

In the first example, if MetLife were looking for a quick solution for getting around the phrase, it could replace "is a leading provider of" with the word "provides" all by itself:

  • "MetLife provides insurance and other financial services to millions of individual and institutional customers."

By making the change, the company would:

  • Replace a weak linking verb ("is") with a strong active verb ("provides")
  • Improve concision by eliminating four words
  • Avoid tired phrasing that doesn't resonate
  • Communicate more directly

Now that sounds more like a leader.