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Jargon doesn’t make you appear smart or sophisticated. In fact, it can be exclusionary

What Are You Saying?

March 1, 2023
Communication is the basis for everything we do – and every group, every industry has a particular language. Sometimes language gets in the way of communication.

True story: Once I worked with a business owner who, when angry, uses the word "sh^t" as a noun, verb, adverb, and exclamation. In his mind, it is a word that connotes urgency.  During crisis meetings, if he made a 20-word statement, 14 of them would be sh^t. I vividly recall writing down the other six words and then asking for clarification, because the remainder of his message made no sense. It was impossible to understand the subject of his sentence. He’d often complain that staff did not do what he directed, but you cannot blame other people when you communicate thoughts without clarity.

When you use jargon, your message can be just like that. Complicated. Convoluted. Unclear. Lost in the fervor of communicating the urgency or applicability of your solution.

What is jargon? There are certain words that belong to specific industries. Knowing them and using them makes you feel like you belong, it shows you are part of the group – an insider. But, sometimes people (and marketing departments) get so caught up in sounding as if they understand the industry or audience that their message actually loses its meaning. That’s jargon. And jargon can obscure the truth about the product or service you provide.

Do you do this? During sales meetings? On your website? In your emails? It may not help your message. It actually may hinder the exact people you hope will find your solution from knowing about it.

Complexity doesn’t make you or your company look smart or sophisticated. In fact, it can be exclusionary to the exact people you are trying to reach.

Communication is the basis of everything. Even search engines (Google, Bing, etc.) and ChatAI are based on human communication patterns. Specifically, Google’s algorithm means that Google is trying to help answer the questions that people have asked. Marketing’s job is to tell the right story to the right people.

If people can’t find your company’s solution because the channels (website, social media, ads, press outreach) leading to your message don’t have the information they are searching for – you have failed. Maybe you didn’t understand your audience. Maybe the communication about your brand wasn’t clear. Maybe the complexity of the industry jargon did not connect with the audience. In any case, you did not answer the people’s questions about their problem.

Someone who cannot synch an invoicing system to production data may not know they need ERP (enterprise resource planning) – they just know they need a software solution. If someone needs a furnace to operate more efficiently, they may not consider a refractory rebuild – they just know they want a hotter furnace. A plant that needs more employees may think they need to recruit more or offer a higher starting wage, aka, a hiring problem… not realizing that a retention specialist could help to reframe the company benefits and adjust the on-boarding program to improve retention.

Each of these situations would be closer to resolution if the sources communicated their problems in ways that resonated with their audience, maybe in snappy one-liners like:
-  It’s hard to invoice when you don’t know what was made. With ERP, you trace every step from order entry through production, to shipping and invoicing.
-  Let us heat you up! 10 reasons why rebuilding beats new build for furnace refractories.
-  What if you could retain more of your talent? Let us show you how improving retention beats more recruiting.

These types of messaging could be put in blog posts, articles, or videos – anything searchable. (Even repurposed into an email!) Search is the most powerful marketing tool out there. But it doesn’t work without clear communication.

The truth of the matter is that business problems are usually communication problems. Internal communication issues can lead to process issues or even communication exclusion, even inadvertently – never reaching the stakeholders involved. External communication issues may range from not understanding audience needs to not connecting with the audience’s problem, or even not understanding how your solution applies to their problem. Even that off-tone social media post or billboard was a communication problem. The solution to solving your communication problem may be as easy as simplifying your perspective.

I’ll leave you with a clearer message from Steve Jobs, one of the best ‘thought leaders’ of recent times: “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean, to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Alexandria Trusov is the Global Marketing Director at Alpha Resources and a B2B marketing consultant to manufacturers and other B2B companies. Contact her at [email protected] or visit www.truinsightsconsulting.com.

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