Here’s how to eliminate jargon and buzzwords from your marketing content.
I don’t remember exactly when I first heard “impact” used as a verb, but I took an instant dislike to it. It sounded too forced and aggressive, like it was trying too hard (plus I always picture the Deep Impact movie poster). Then came the constant “utilizes” instead of “uses.” And don’t get me started on “leverage.”
These buzzwords are everywhere in corporate life, and they naturally seep into our marketing content, especially in B2B. We use jargon as a way to show that we’re part of the club in whatever industry we’re in. We think it signals we belong.
The problem with using jargon in marketing copy is two-fold. First, your prospects and clients are not part of your organization. They might not use the same jargon, or worse, they might not understand it. Not understanding will lead to the feeling of being left out, which is the absolute wrong impression you want to leave with your marketing.
You don’t know who exactly is consuming your content. Yes, you have personas and plan to sell to Melanie the sales director. But maybe Melanie outsourced the preliminary research to her assistant or the new hire in the sales department, who isn’t comfortable with corporate buzzwords yet. Or Melanie has recently switched from working in nonprofits, where they have a completely different set of jargon. Or English isn’t Melanie’s first language, and she struggles to understand the message. There are endless reasons why using jargon is alienating.
Second, these corporate buzzwords are unnatural! Most of us don’t go home and say to our partners, “Did you utilize the last of the ketchup?” or “Should we leverage my parents as babysitters this Saturday?” It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? People don’t talk that way.
This unnatural language issue is most pronounced in marketing videos or ads. When we listen to a voiceover or an actor in a video, our brains expect it to sound like a person talking to us. Perhaps because it is. For a video to work, we want to feel spoken to directly. When a voiceover is telling you to “leverage best-in-class services to eliminate your disparate systems,” you tune out.
An effective B2B video needs to inspire your viewer to take action. People remember and take action on videos that leave them with an emotional response. My only response to hearing the word “disparate” is to yawn and open Twitter on my phone.
Simplifying language in marketing copy is easier said than done. We wouldn’t have to be fighting back against it if it were easy for us all to move on from jargon.
The joy of an outside opinion is that they force you to question all your assumptions about how to write your content. When you present them with a brief, a good copywriter will also ask you to explain what you’re doing in plain language. That allows them to share your message in a clear and concise way, without relying on the language used in the brief.
A copywriter also won’t be prone to use language that you overuse within your own organization. They work with lots of clients, and should bring a wider breadth of experience.
Giving feedback to an outside copywriter on word choice should always be a discussion. When we write scripts, we often get asked to shoehorn in certain terms the sales team likes to use. Be prepared for a discussion on whether those terms add something to the copy or not. Brand consistency is important but not everything.
We’ve all done it. Instead of starting from scratch when creating a brief for a new project, we take an old one and modify it. It saves time, and why bother rewriting a desired outcome when 80% of it is the same as last quarter?
Because copying and pasting perpetuates lazy language use. Copying and pasting from previous briefs or your website leads to repetition of filler terms like “driving impact.” (At least “impact” isn’t used as a verb.) These phrases sound like they mean something, but they’re mostly a lot of fluff.
Instead, force your team to have a conversation about what you want to express in these materials. Saying your message out loud is one of the easiest ways to start to eliminate the jargon, because you’re less likely to use it in speech. Write down what you say, not what you’ve written before. Then translate that into the external marketing message.
When you have a video script or other copy in a good place, show it to someone outside your company. Don’t just ask them “Does this sound good?” That’s subjective.
Instead, ask them to read the copy out loud and highlight any words they stumble over, find difficult, would never say, or don’t understand. You don’t have to change everything an outsider flags (if they aren’t the target audience, it’s ok for it not to speak to them perfectly), but it gives you a starting point for evaluating the language use. You can take that back to your team to discuss.
To truly speak to your audience, you need to recognize what their problem is and how your company can solve it. We find a lot of jargon or buzzwords creep into marketing copy right when you start to talk about your product or service. You have your standard way to describe what you do, and why reinvent the wheel?
When you focus your marketing content on your audience’s problems, you are forced to take a step back from talking about how awesome your company is. That can help you move away from the standard ways you describe yourself. It may also give you more content that focuses on people, not products or solutions. People are not “leveraged” or in “silos” — I hope.
The first step in all of these tips is simply to be aware of the jargon and buzzwords you overuse. Retire them, move on, and return to talking like a human being.