I find it very hard to believe that anyone who hears a sentence like, “We need to collaboratively enhance out-of-the-box niche markets after bleeding-edge outsourcing,” or, “Let’s objectively facilitate low-risk high-yield technology without an expanded array of solutions,” will understand it from the get-go. When someone starts using such overly complicated business jargon in their everyday vocabulary, even dictionary.com can’t save you from your confusion. And yet, corporatespeak remains prevalent in offices everywhere. The problem with this language is that it isn’t clear. It takes simple concepts and makes them nearly incomprehensible by embellishing plain language with fancy words and phrases. As a result, your inter-departmental jargon is disrupting your digital content outputs, or more simply how you talk at work is infecting your creative.
Your Business Jargon is Confusing Your Customers
It is inevitable that the way that you speak with your coworkers will bleed into the way you speak to customers. This cross-contamination isn’t limited to one-on-one interactions, either. Your in-office language infects every piece of copy you put out. Suddenly, the words that you once used only in team meetings are now popping up all over your website, the pages of which become riddled with phrases like “core competency” and “quality vectors”, leaving visitors more focused on trying to figure out what you’re saying than becoming convinced that they want to purchase your products or services.
To your customers, all of that overly technical corporate jargon is just a whole bunch of gibberish that they’d much rather avoid than spend the time trying to understand via Google search. I get it — people think that big words make them sound smarter. They think that if they can showcase their broad vocabulary, consumers will be impressed and want to become customers. But in reality, if those big words mean nothing to your target audience, then using them doesn’t convey your knowledge or the value in your work — it conveys nothing at all.
Writing Copy That Makes Sense — to Everyone
Businesses need to recognize that their customers are not their coworkers — they don’t have the in-depth knowledge of someone within your industry and at the crux of what your company does. This means that there needs to be a fundamental shift in your language when you transition between communicating internally and externally. Here are a few tips on how to write copy that your customers will actually get:
- Learn your audience – Consumers want to feel personally connected to their brands, which means you need to accommodate their wants and needs. When you take the time to thoroughly learn your audience, you’ll be able to recognize how they like to communicate and be communicated with. This information will enable you to speak to your customers in their own language and establish the basis of your 1:1 relationship.
- Don’t fake it ‘til you make it – It’s great to use your consumer knowledge to better communicate with your customers, but that doesn’t mean you should try to be something you’re not. When you try too hard to sound like your target audience, it can come across as inauthentic and even offensive. The goal isn’t to blend in with your customers, it’s to convey your unique message in a way that’s easy for them to digest. It’s your job to find a balance between being yourself while also considering the consumer’s perspective.
- Break down complex jargon – For some of the more technical, industry-specific terminology, there is no plain English substitute. That’s okay. If you find yourself in a situation where using complex jargon seems unavoidable, make sure to follow it up with a clear, straightforward definition to simplify your copy and ensure everyone has a common understanding of what you’re trying to say.
- Look at the competitive landscape – If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to figuring out how to best explain your brand to consumers, looking at the content of your competitors can give you a pretty good jumping off point. Visit the websites and social media of both the best and worst-performing brands in your industry and take note of the way each company expresses its value. These observations will give you some ideas about how your audience wants to be addressed.
- Use bite-sized messaging – Just because you know everything there is to know about a particular topic doesn’t mean your customers need to. The more information you try to squeeze into your communications, the more you’ll lose the overarching point you’re trying to make. To avoid overburdening your communication, keep economy of language front-of-mind by identifying one purpose for each customer touchpoint and then using that purpose to articulate the corresponding messaging in one to two sentences.
Don’t Try to Tackle Your Copywriting Alone
Because writing is easy, everyone thinks they can do it. For decades, brands have been trying to reach consumers using language that only their coworkers will get. Thanks to Silicon Valley, the practice has become pervasive in nearly every industry, making it a habit that much more difficult to shake.
As an insider, it’s extremely challenging to maintain an objective point of view on whether your brand is speaking to consumers in a comprehensible, natural way. Sure, you can make adjustments here and there, but this issue isn’t quite that easy to surmount. The only way to really solve this problem is by having an agency write your copy. A good agency will put more effort into learning about your audience and what they’re expecting from you. The result will be communication that fits your brand, engages your audience, and doesn’t sound like a tongue twister.