How Lofty Language Muddies Your Message (and Kills Your Business)

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I have a confession to make. I think a lot of marketing and business lingo is a bunch of baloney. I feel like even some of the legitimate terminology could be just as easily described through everyday language. For instance, instead of referring to someone’s “core competencies,” why not just say “what they are great at,” or better yet “skills”?

I’m not here to debate the merits of individual examples of marketing or business terminology. I’m more interested in examining the potential fallout of using that loftier language, even the perfectly acceptable and necessary technical terms. It’s a matter of knowing when, and when not, to use it.

I generally like to boil things down to their core meaning. If you’re trying to convey a message, why run the risk of your audience not understanding any of the language you are using? This applies to any number of scenarios:The Marketing Consultant. For example, if you are a marketing consultant, you may want to impress your clients with all the fancy industry phrases in your arsenal. You think of it as a selling point to show how much you know about your industry.

The Employee. The same scenario as above, but you’re trying to impress your fellow employees, and most importantly, your boss.

The Business Owner. You run a business that involves technical language, and boy, do you know how to use it. Well, at least you think you do. But what if your customers aren’t technical? Just remember: you’re selling your products and/or services, not lecturing a Master’s-level college class.Of course, there is no one correct approach. Sometimes technical jargon is an intrinsic part of what you are doing. Just use your best judgement. The goal may be a simple compromise. If you’re in a technical business, but not everyone in your audience is so technical, keep the primary points of contact on your website (like service pages and product descriptions) as simple as possible. You can offer the more complex explanations deeper in your website for the technical folks.

That said, here are some of the potential risks of going overboard with your jargon:

People think you are full of you-know-what. Your command of industry language may impress upon some people that you are really knowledgeable… or they may think you are just blowing smoke. Simply put, using excessive jargon to show how much you know may ironically appear that you are incompetent. That may not be true, but perception is their reality.You sound like an echo chamber. In politics or the media, ideas are often mindlessly repeated over and over again inside an ideological bubble without regard to whether or not they are true. If you are simply regurgitating a mountain of fancy business or marketing cliches, your audience may believe you can’t think for yourself.

Are you an automaton? It can also look like you are lazily approaching each project with the same routine, rather than identifying the unique needs and challenges you are facing with each new project.You’ve just confused the heck out of your audience. Maybe your audience isn’t so cynical, and they are willing to accept that you understand how to synergistically leverage company assets to scale multiple verticals… but you may also get a blank stare. Not to mention, if your client or customer doesn’t understand what the heck you are doing for them, you’ve got real problems.

Your marketing efforts get ignored. There are also potential problems if you are doing outreach to the press or your industry’s blogger community. If you come at them with a bunch gobbledygook (that’s the technical term for nonsense), you may be greeted by silence… the absolute worst case scenario.As is the case in most things we do in life, moderation is the key. There are times when lingo can be used effectively. I especially like metaphorical language that helps convey your thought process in simple imagery.

For instance, some of us here at Webfor like to refer to certain accomplishments as “low-hanging fruit” which sounds better than “something that’s easy to do but has a positive impact.”

One of my favorites is “let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Sometimes you have to convince someone that their overreaction can have negative consequences. Instead of telling them they are overreacting, why not appeal to their natural aversion to harming babies? That’s something I hope we can all agree on.

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