How to make it work in your marketing

Jargon: how to make it work in your marketing

'Confused' in American Sign Language

‘Confused’ in American Sign Language

Have you ever been told that you shouldn’t use jargon in marketing or sales presentations?

Yes? Me, too. But as you may have guessed from the title, that’s not the position I’m taking here.

The thing is, when you’re selling to a technical audience, you need a certain amount of jargon to explain quickly and clearly what you’re offering. And if you fail to use the same phrases and acronyms as everyone else, then you’ll sound like a real outsider.

But if you get it wrong, jargon creates a divide between you and your customer, making them feel at best confused and at worst ignorant and frustrated.

Write for the right people

Different people want to know different things about your product or service. That’s why it makes sense to create different content for people with different levels of experience,  in different sectors or job roles:

  • Use different language for different audiences. Never start writing until you are clear who your audience is. If possible create different documents and presentations for different audiences – and  to achieve different sales/marketing outcomes.
  • Make document titles meaningful. If you are writing a technical document full of detail and jargon, then give it a title that sets expectations right.
  • Point people to alternatives. Make sure your website offers people content at different levels. If this page is just focused on business benefits, where can I find some technical detail?

Explain yourself

  • Clarify your meaning. When you do have to write for an unknown audience, structure your paragraphs in a way that clarifies terminology without being patronising. For example, “Based on Z-Wave, the new standard for wireless home automation.”
  • Explain the implications. Even if someone knows what is meant by an acronym or technical term, they may not understand the significance of it. Rather than just spelling out what it means, elaborate on why it’s included here. For example, “We are ISO27001 certified, so the security of your financial data is never left to chance.”

And finally

  • Remember you’re the expert. Chances are, you know more about your products and services than anyone else. This tips the balance of power away from your customers and can make them feel uncomfortable. So make sure you use jargon judiciously, so that customers feel part of the same clique, never being talked down to.
  • Get feedback. Before you finalise that important document or presentation, and before you announce your new website, ask a few friendly customers for feedback. Make sure you word your question so it is all about your writing, not their knowledge.

With this in mind, take a fresh look now at your website; perhaps also a recent sales presentation or proposal. How do they stack up? Is jargon working for you or against you? I recommend that you strike while the iron is hot: If you can make the time to sort it out now, then do so. And if not, then find someone you trust to do it for you.

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