How to avoid "marketing-speak"
Acme Software provides best-in-breed solutions that enable seamless integration with enterprise Web 2.0 platforms…
Do your white papers say something like that?
How about your website?
If so, wake up! You’re subjecting prospects to deathly dull “marketing-speak.”
Marketing-speak is that flabby layer of nice, polite, meaningless fog that obscures the truth in so much content today.
Marketing-speak encompasses all the tired clichés and empty superlatives found in press releases, brochures, and sales letters.
But a white paper isn’t a press release, a brochure, or a sales letter.
Some people work hard to sound like everyone else. So using jargon and buzzwords is the safe choice, right?
Wrong. Using marketing-speak is a huge risk, in three different ways.
Risk #1: Marketing-speak won’t help you stand out from the crowd
The biggest marketing challenge for most companies is getting noticed. But how can you get noticed if you do everything the same way as everyone else?
Using the same tired phrases makes you sound, well, tired. Using the same buzzwords as everyone else makes you sound, well, just like everyone else.
Is that any way to get noticed?
Risk #2: Marketing-speak irritates prospects and wastes their time
An effective white paper helps a business person understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.
Marketing-speak doesn’t help with any of those aims. Instead, it slows readers down and wastes their time.
When every customer is a “stakeholder” and every problem is a “concern” and every bug is an “issue,” readers have to work to decode that extra layer of verbiage.
Any white paper that wastes a prospect’s time is gambling on their patience. That’s risky.
Many busy business people likely chuck that content, and turn to something that’s less of a brain-teaser. If that “something else” comes from a competitor, your company just fumbled away an opportunity to make a good impression.
Risk #3: Marketing-speak does not position your company well
You want to position your company as a trusted advisor. You want to help prospects to know, like, and trust you.
Instead, marketing-speak positions your company as a master of double-speak. It encourages prospects to ignore, dislike, and mistrust your company.
Is that really what you want? Or is that a risk too big to ignore?
The 3 R’s to end marketing-speak
What if you’re under pressure to stick marketing-speak into your white paper?
Reviewers—especially salespeople—may push to include the same tired buzzwords you’ve heard a thousand times before. That’s happened to me.
If so, try using the three R’s: Resist, Review, and Reword.
Resist: Push back by explaining the three risks. Remind your colleagues or client what you’re trying to achieve with your content.
Review: Get to the bottom of what the people pressuring you want to say.
Usually that’s some variation of, “We’re better than the other guys…” But when someone doesn’t know how to state that clearly and persuasively, they often fall back on jargon and cliches.
Reword: Restate the message in direct terms. Give examples to make abstractions more concrete. Cut through the fog to show what’s really there.
Practice the three R’s, and your colleagues or client will likely thank you when your next white paper actually gets noticed.
Empty marketing-speak terms to avoid
Here’s a list of some choice phrases in marketing-speak, and what I suspect these mean in plain English.
Remember: Your prospects are using their valuable time to decode your marketing-speak… and they might come up with the translations shown in this table. Then where would you be?
|Marketing-speak||Translation into plain English|
|Best-of-breed||I'm telling you, we're the best!|
|Breakthrough||Not everyone has this yet|
|Concern||Bug, complaint, disaster, emergency, fail, problem|
|Cutting-edge||Not everyone has this yet|
|Disruptive||This will put tons of companies out of business|
|Enterprise-class||It's B2B: we want to sell it to other companies|
|Evolutionary||This will put a few companies out of business|
|Global||Our website lists 4 offices (so what if 3 are sales peoples’ homes?)|
|Groundbreaking||Not everyone has this yet|
|Intuitive||Only takes a few hours to figure out|
|Issue||Bug, complaint, disaster, emergency, fail, problem|
|Knock-on effect||Soon you have to buy add-ons and upgrades|
|Leading||Just one of the pack|
|Leading-edge||Not everyone has this yet|
|Nearshoring||Sending jobs to somewhere in the same time zone or on the same continent|
|Next-generation||Not everyone has this yet|
|Next step in evolution||This will put a few companies out of business|
|Offshoring||Sending jobs to somewhere where people work for less|
|Onshoring||Bringing jobs back home after offshoring failed miserably|
|Outside the box||No one else thinks this will work|
|Paradigm||The same old business-as-usual|
|Paradigm shift||Not quite the same old business-as-usual|
|Premier||Even more impressive than “leading”|
|Proactive||Professional + active = proactive! Neat, huh?|
|Revolutionary||This will put tons of companies out of business|
|Right-sizing||Layoffs, staff cuts, could involve offshoring|
|Robust||Comes with a 90-day warranty; in software, you get the next minor version that fixes a few bugs free|
|Seamless integration||Only takes three weeks to get working|
|Secret sauce||The one thing we do differently from everyone else|
|Secure||At least it was the last time we checked...|
|Stakeholders||Anyone who ever heard of us: analysts, bloggers, business partners, customers, employees, friends, journalists, managers or shareholders|
|State-of-the-art||Everybody has this|
|Strategic alliance||Acquisition, buyout, merger, squeeze-play, takeover|
|Synergy, synergistic||1+1=3, right? Get it? Huh, get it?|
|Take it to the next level||We're not sure where we're going, but we definitely want to sell more|
|Thought leadership||A fancy way to say what everyone else says|
|Transformative||This will put a few companies out of business|
|Unique||Not everyone has this yet|
|User-friendly||Only takes three days to figure out|
|Very unique||Even more rare than one-of-a-kind|
|World-class||Anybody who is anybody has this|
Jargon can be useful, within limits
Every profession and every trade uses certain terms to mean something precise. This is called “jargon.”
Used properly, jargon saves trained professionals time and makes sure their messages are exact.
The problem is when jargon spills over to the outside population, those who lack training or insight to use it properly.
Or, there’s a problem when people like journalists or copywriters use language in a slap-dash fashion, coining new phrases without any precise definition.
When the latest buzzword gets picked up by salespeople and thrown around by executives, it starts to become empty, meaningless, and flabby.
So now that you understand the risks of using marketing-speak, and some of the worst examples out there, you’re going to avoid it, right?
Does this list miss any choice words that you’ve banished? Do you disagree with any of these choices? Please leave a comment below.
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Great list, Gordon! Looks like a lot of them say the same thing, don’ they.
Love your translations! Thank for the smile Gordon.
And please, somebody volunteer to kill “go to the next level”. What that means to me as a buyer is, “You have no idea where I am now or where I’m trying to go and neither do we, but it sounds good.”
Thanks for this Graham, and when you get time…take care of that “next level” where ever it is:)
Hey Danica: Thanks for your input. We’ve added your word to the table.
Here’s one to add …
Synergy/Synergistic = improves efficiency and collaboration amongst workers
Damon: Thanks! We’ve amended the table to include your word.
Thanx for the tips…..but how about adding words (or phrases) such as:
“…create more buzz and cement more sales.”
create more buzz – build up the noise to drown out the facts
cement more sales – envelop what you really want in dead weight
I fear we are our own worst enemies.
Ouch! Thanks for the reality-check, Phil. I’ll reconsider those phrases in my nameplate on this site. I agree that “cementing sales” is a somewhat strange phrase. Can you think of an alternative?
Nice one, Gordon. A few more for the bit bucket:
Secure – At least it was the last time we looked.
We’ll help you go viral – But don’t mention that Internet trolls and viruses are generally ok if they kill their hosts.
Very Unique – Even more rare than one of a kind.
Good ones. I’ve added a couple to the list.
Here’s one: knock-on… what?
Thanks Ashwini, I added that to the list!