Do you have a cutting-edge, ground-breaking new product/service which you wish to promote because it is poised to revolutionize turnkey operations for market-leading companies within the global infrastructure of… some industry? That’s great, but what does that even mean?
The over-use of buzzwords still runs rampant today. After constant over-use, those flashy words simply lose their meaning. For example, a very well established communications and technology firm (name withheld to be nice) describes one of their many products as “designed to unify multiple data center networks providing a more efficient, resilient, and lasting infrastructure for enterprise and service provider operations.” That means what now?
PR Blogger David Meerman Scott touched on this topic back in 2006 and his word’s still hold true today.
Your buyers (and the media that cover your company) want to know what specific problems your product solves, and they want proof that it works—in plain language. Your marketing and PR is meant to be the beginning of a relationship with buyers and to drive action (such as generating sales leads), which requires a focus on buyer problems. Your buyers want to hear this in their own words. Every time you write—yes, even in news releases—you have an opportunity to communicate. At each stage of the sales process, well written materials will help your buyers understand how you, specifically, will help them.
Whenever you set out to write something, you should be writing specifically for one or more of the buyer personas that you want to reach. You should avoid jargon-laden phrases that are over-used in your industry. In the technology business, words like “groundbreaking,” “industry-standard,” and “cutting-edge” are what I call gobbledygook. The worst gobbledygook offenders seem to be business-to-business technology companies. For some reason, marketing people at technology companies have a particularly tough time explaining how products solve customer problems. Because these writers don’t understand how their products solve customer problems, or are too lazy to write for buyers, they cover by explaining myriad nuances of how the product works and pepper this blather with industry jargon that sounds vaguely impressive. What ends up in marketing materials and news releases is a bunch of talk about “industry-leading” solutions that purport to help companies “streamline business process,” “achieve business objectives,” or “conserve organizational resources.” Huh?
When I see words like “flexible,” “scalable,” “groundbreaking,” “industry standard,” or “cutting-edge,” my eyes glaze over. What, I ask myself, is this supposed to mean? Just saying your widget is “industry standard” means nothing unless some aspect of that standardization is important to your buyers. In the next sentence, I want to know what you mean by “industry standard,” and I also want you to tell my why that standard matters and give me some proof that what you say is indeed true.
People often say to me, “Everyone in my industry writes this way. Why?”
Here’s how the usual dysfunctional process works and why these phrases are so overused: Marketers don’t understand buyers, the problems buyers face, or how their product helps solve these problems. That’s where the gobbledygook happens. First the marketing person bugs the product managers and others in the organization to provide a set of the product’s features. Then the marketing person reverse-engineers the language that they think the buyer wants to hear based not on buyer input but on what the product does. A favorite trick these ineffective marketers use is to take the language that the product manager provides, go into Microsoft Word’s find-and-replace mode, substitute the word “solution” for “product,” and then slather the whole thing with superlative-laden, jargon-sprinkled hype. By just decreeing, through an electronic word substitution, that “our product” is “your solution,” these companies effectively deprive themselves of the opportunity to convince people that this is the case.
Another major drawback of the generic gobbledygook approach is that it doesn’t make your company stand out from the crowd. Here’s a test: Take the language that the marketers at your company dreamed up and substitute the name of a competitor and the competitor’s product for your own. Does it still make sense to you? Marketing language that can be substituted for another company’s isn’t effective in explaining to a buyer why your company is the right choice.
I’ll admit that the gobbledygook phrases I chose are mainly use by technology companies operating in the business-to-business space. If you are writing for a company that sells different kinds of products (shoes, perhaps), then you would probably not be tempted to use many of the above phrases. The same thing is true for nonprofits, churches, rock bands, and other organizations—you’re also unlikely to use these sorts of phrases. But the lessons are the same. Avoid the insular jargon of your company and your industry. Instead, write for your buyers.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Take this practice to heart, professionals. The next time your describing your firm’s services or product to a potential client or the media, describe it in a way that clearly defines WHY your product is better. Don’t rely on buzzwords or jargon to give your product weight. Digest your message and communicate clearly. In the long run, you’ll gain more customers/partners and build stronger relationships with the press simply because your delivering the content interested parties want to hear.