We're pleased to present this guest post by Kathryn Roy of Precision Thinking. Kathryn shares her thoughts on why prospects struggle to understand what B2B companies are saying -- and offers a simple way to clarify messages.
In 2007, David Meerman Scott wrote The Gobbledygook Manifesto. Years before that, there was another list of Buzzwords to avoid. There was even a buzzword generator. B2B web sites aren’t using the top 50 buzzwords as much, but buzzwords still proliferate on these websites. It’s an addiction that we can’t break because we don’t realize when we are doing it. Your buzzword is my marketing category or value proposition. When I see category names that aren’t relevant to me, I see buzzwords. But when I see the category name I use for my market, it looks like the commonly used description. When I see broad unsupported claims made by others (spur innovation, get products to market faster, increase sales) I’m incredulous. But when I talk about what my product or service can do for you, I proudly tout our unsupported claims.
I’ll confess that I always dismissed psychology as pseudo-science. But lately I’ve become a huge fan of books that explain why we act irrationally. The experiments they run convince me they’re onto something. Influence talks about how familiarity breeds liking. In fact, the book describes an experiment where you show 2 pictures of a person to themselves and friends. One picture is what is taken by a camera – the view most people see of the subject. The other is flipped – showing what the subject sees in the mirror. The photographed subject will prefer the flipped (mirror) picture and the friends will prefer the normal photo. We prefer what we are familiar with.
We use our own lingo within our own company so much it becomes natural to us. We know what we mean by Small Business or Medium Business. We know what we mean by “socialize the change”. We know what we mean by “parametric search.” That these terms are meaningless or mean something completely different to our prospects doesn’t occur to us. We are blind to our blindness. We don’t see that prospects don’t see what we see.
In my eBook, The Seven Infectious Diseases of B2B Marketing, I describe Analyst Mentalpause as a condition where we assume our prospects are as on top of the lingo slung by analysts as we are. We’re usually wrong. There’s a simple cure: test. When clients tell me their prospects know their lingo, I just test the phrase or phrases and show them the results. They could do this test themselves. The short slices of prospect attention we can get are so scarce, we shouldn’t waste them by using language foreign to them.
When is the last time you tested your language?
p.s. Here's a recently updated buzzword list.
About the author: Kathryn Roy is Managing Director of Precision Thinking, a marketing and strategy consulting firm that helps B2B technology companies boost the effectiveness of their marketing and sales organizations. Kathryn has a humorous eBook on common marketing mistakes made by B2B companies.