Jargon gets between you and your customer and it’s one of the biggest challenges in marketing messaging today, regardless of industry.
As I’ve written about before, jargon is not just a disservice to your customer; it’s a marketing and sales problem for you that shouldn’t be ignored. It can kill clarity and your differentiation, and that’s a huge issue in a sea of noise and ‘data’ today.
Jargon happens for a number of reasons. One is language. Refer to this well-done recent post from Social Media Today on zapping jargon by choosing simpler language. We slip into jargon because it’s easier than putting in the time to choose the right words. Yet, it hurts us. Eradicating jargon from your messaging takes work yet the results are worth it.
The other reason jargon creeps so easily into marketing is because we don’t know our “story.” When companies have a clear, compelling and differentiated human story they are proud of, they have no desire to kill it off with marketing-speak that sounds like everyone else. The most important antidote to jargon is a compelling story. There is no substitute for doing the hard work that gets to the heart of what we do. Clarity is your burden, not your audience’s.
Think Like a Kid
To get clarity on your story, explain what you do to a friend or to your mom. Would you explain it in cryptic language? Probably not. Better yet, explain your message to a child. Children are often smarter than we are; when they don’t understand they often call us on it. As adults, we’re so jaded by jargon we often don’t stop and ask for clarification. We just don’t care. That’s part of the problem – customers won’t work hard to decipher your code, and they shouldn’t have to. They simply ‘tune out’ because your crap-ocalypse is just more BS than they can handle.
Your Human Headline
To get back on track, ask yourself, “What is the underlying human challenge (not the business value) that my company solves?” Let’s use an example to peel the layers of messaging. For example, if your company offers cloud-based data services, you might start out with “we provide businesses with enterprise-scale, cost-effective storage solutions.” This is your business value. It’s a layer of messaging, yet it’s not even the most important layer in your arsenal.
Besides using “solutions,” among other buzzwords, it doesn’t answer the, “why do I need a solution in the first place?” question. Think: Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. The business need answers, “How do you solve problems in my business? You either have to enable business opportunities, enable efficiencies and/or reduce costs. In other words, you are dealing with a profit equation: Profits = Revenues – Expenses. The human challenge underlying the business need is what human beings are trying to accomplish that requires cloud-base storage in the first place. A focus on “cloud-based this and that” can cloud your messaging!
A Human-Centered Example
So, peeling the layers even more, we might find that cloud-based storage is critical to the business because it enables employees to securely access business data anytime, anywhere, any way they need. The human need, then, is “freedom; the freedom to access secure data anytime, anywhere, anyway.” That is the key story: freedom of access. The business value is of ‘cloud’ is how you deliver. When you have answered that human need, you don’t need jargon because your message is clear. Cloud isn’t your differentiation; it’s how you deliver; cloud isn’t the solution. No one has a “cloud” problem; they have information access issues!
Now putting this together you have:
Companies used to have to choose between data freedom and data security. Not anymore. We enable companies to safely and easily access their data – anytime, anywhere – securely. So you can get data you need when you need it in a secure way. By the way, because we deliver via cloud, we’re cost-effective, too.
Hear the difference when we first focus on the human headline, not the business value?
4 Steps to Jargon De-Tox
When you feel the insidious marketing jargon-o-saurus raise its head, follow these steps, ASAP:
1. Get to the human need – the heart of your story – and communicate this first
2. Get clear on your business value. This becomes a back-up point to the human need
3. Eliminate buzzwords from all messaging language (if a simpler word will do; use that)
4. Watch pronouns. If you are using “I,” “We,” “the company,” “Us,” “our,” more than “you, your, their, customers,” (which is focused on your audience, not you!), flip the ratio (Notice the “you” in our final product above versus the focus on we and our?).
5. Bonus step! Take a deep breath and keep it at. The results are worth the work.
Get rid of the jargon-monoxide poisoning™ in your marketing before it kills your business.
How do you keep jargon out of your marketing?
I’d love to know! Email me at kathy(at)keepingithuman(dot)com.