Death to Buzzwords, Not Your Audience

Last week, I connected with a former colleague on LinkedIn.  As I checked out his profile, I noticed that he was now working for a new technology company. Not only had I never even heard of the company before, but the name of the company also didn’t clarify the products or services offered. Now my curiosity was piqued, but once I tracked down the company's LinkedIn page to learn more, I was really disappointed.

After skimming the company overview, I realized I still couldn't pinpoint the company's specialty. Perhaps I just missed some keyword or brief, defining statement and read it again, this time more painstakingly.

It didn’t help.

Over the years as an entrepreneur and business leader, I have become increasingly frustrated with what I call 'marketing speak', or excessive use of buzzwords and jargon on websites and in marketing collateral. Brimming with pretentiousness, this intellectual vanity is counterproductive to the fundamental reason we engage in this process at all: to make targeted leads aware of our business, and to generate sales.

To illustrate my point, below I have inserted the actual company overview from LinkedIn which inspired this post. I have changed the name of the company to protect the guilty.

Company Communications is a leading provider of cloud-based, multi-channel proactive customer communications solutions designed to transform the way organizations communicate throughout the customer life cycle to build trusted, lifelong and profitable relationships. Clients can leverage Company Communication’s proactive customer communications offering and expertise in designing, executing and optimizing communications strategies to engage in relevant customer interactions that deliver long-term business value.

You can see from this excerpt above that although all the words make sense, you are still left confused and with no clear understanding of what this company actually does. How do you think the audience feels?

Use the Simplest Terms Possible

Whether I am creating marketing material or drafting an outbound calling plan, I am a strong proponent of stating the absolute basic explanation of your company’s value proposition as soon as possible, and then building out a more detailed explanation of the finer points later in your copy or conversation. Ask yourself, if targeted leads only read the first line of this copy, what would I want them to know? Then as you continue, build out a more detailed picture of your company’s capabilities.

As we read the example above, we still do not know if this company develops software? Is this a telecom hardware solution? Do they provide consulting services?

They are somehow involved in the process of communicating with customers; that is the only certainty that can be gleaned from a once-over of their LinkedIn description.

Kill the Marketing Buzzwords

In the above example, there are 65 words. Of these 65 words, I would suggest as many as 21 are unfortunate buzzwords and useless jargon, like:

  • Leading provider
  • Multi-channel
  • Solutions
  • Transform
  • Customer life cycle
  • Build trust
  • Lifelong
  • Relationships
  • Leverage
  • Proactive
  • Offering
  • Expertise
  • Executing
  • Optimizing
  • Strategies
  • Engage
  • Relevant
  • Interactions
  • Deliver
  • Long-term
  • Business value

Obviously, some of these words are needed and appropriate, but exercise caution in overusing them. Challenge yourself to use more simple and straightforward language to create better understanding within your targeted audience, which should always include clients and prospects.

If you think you've written a great piece of copy, read it aloud to someone not involved in the business and ask them to tell you what it means. Or better yet, ask your sales team to give you their input on your copy. Does it pass the 30-second sniff test? Is it sales-worthy, inspirational, or compelling? Or, does it reek of alienation and confusion that will kill your intended audience with boredom and irrelevance? Allowing customer-facing sales team members to rate the copy will give you a better perspective before launching it out there for the world to see (and possibly ignore). Great salespeople can be adept at translating 'marketing speak' into real language and layman's terms that perform better in the real world.

Your customers will appreciate your sincere attempts to connect with them by speaking to their needs and interests - not merely flinging empty, feel-good rhetoric at them. They will be able to quickly identify the bottom line, and they will thank you for it. 

Mike Faherty

Mike Faherty is the Founder & CEO of ProSales Connection, a sales and marketing firm based in Houston, Texas. ProSales Connection specializes in helping B2B and technology companies grow through sales appointment setting and outsourced inside sales programs.

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