Three Marketing Messaging Fails
Business owners spend lots of money on marketing, and we’d all like more people to respond to it. But so often, our marketing messages are just more noise in an already loud space.
If the goal of marketing is to connect with people, to respond, how can we do that more effectively? We don’t want to just give Facebook money, or to give money to the broadcasters–we spend to connect with our customers and to drive them to our services. How can we connect better?
The answer is really simple.
Stop using business jargon.
That’s it. Really. No inside language. No business jargon.
In our current marketing culture, it’s so noisy, everybody can do marketing. We have computers in our pockets. An instantaneous way to connect with customers worldwide. Because it’s easier than ever before, most people are doing it. This makes for an extremely noisy marketing space. And if you use jargon, you sound like everyone else.
This doesn’t engage your customer, and it doesn’t help them to pick you over all the other competitors.
It’s an easy mistake to make. Marketing teachers use jargon, so we start to think in that language. We think it sounds smart. We think that jargon will make us sound like the expert.
I just had a conversation today with a potential client who didn’t respond well when I described our process for clarifying his message. He wants to keep his industry jargon. But who is the audience? If his primary audience is industry professionals, then you can get away with shop talk. But if it’s the general audience, they don’t understand the meaning of the words.
When we talk to our customers through our marketing, we have to communicate in a way they’ll understand.
Stepping away from jargon is scary. The industry words are our front, our way to try to look bigger than we feel that we are. We’re afraid people will see us as imperfect, and then we feel paralyzed around the perfectionism. Jargon is a way to compensate for feeling less than we think we should be.
But great businesses don’t need to posture, and they don’t need jargon. Look at one of the most successful businesses of all time: Apple. One of their breakout products was the iPod: one thousand songs in your pocket.
They could have called it an mp3 player–those were already available at that point. But no, they said, this is for you. The iPod. It’s your music in your pocket.
Eliminate jargon in your marketing.
Let’s look at three examples of marketing fails because of too much jargon.
Healthcare Industry Fail
The healthcare industry spends a ton of money on marketing. Here’s an example of one slogan I found: “We’re an accountable care organization focused on value-based care.”
But what is an accountable care organization? Is it that they’ll hold bad guys accountable for health care? Or what is value-based care? Is that heart-centered? Or moral values?
Here’s the formal definition of accountable care: “Accountable care is where providers, hospitals, and doctors join together to manage the overall health of a certain group of people. This coordinated approach will cut down on errors and repeat visits and lead to better outcomes and lower cost healthcare.”
And here’s the definition of value-based care: “Value-based care is focused on the treatment itself. Procedures are efficient and a good use of dollars, cutting out waste.”
So, knowing those definitions, what if the marketing slogan said this? We are a coordinated team of independent medical providers focused on efficient processes, better care, and lowering your cost.
Financial Industry Fail
The financial industry also has a ton of jargon. Here’s an example of a billboard in Spokane, Washington: “We are a not-for-profit cooperative. Join our circle.”
My best guess is that this is a credit union, and they want me to become a member. I have an idea of what not-for-profit means. The members are the co-op, right? Or is it a bank with cooperative locations?
Here’s the formal definition of a not-for-profit cooperative: “A not-for-profit vs nonprofit relates to how money flows back into the community. A tax-exempt nonprofit organization can distribute profits to members or investors. While a not-for-profit is based on a member’s participation.”
Let’s revise the slogan, then. “Our profits don’t pay a bunch of investors, it returns to our community members. Become a member.”
Clarity will win every single time. Up against big marketing dollars, you can win in against competitors by being more clear than they are. The product with the clearer message will win.
Professional and Business Services Fails
The third industry that is full of jargon is professional and business services. Since we all have different industry jargon, I’m going to highlight ten words that show up all the time, regardless of industry. If you use any of these words, cut them out and add in language that is clearer.
- Industry best practice
- Outside the box
Print out your website, or if you have something in-print, circle all the instances where you use jargon. Rethink how you’re presenting your message.
I like to use the example that jargon is a slippery bowling ball. When you’re talking about your services, it’s like handing your customer a bowling ball. When you use jargon, you’ve just added a layer of Vaseline on that bowling ball, and now you’re handing it to them. It’s going to drop on their foot.
When your customer doesn’t understand your idea, they can’t respond to your idea.
When everyone uses these buzzwords, they aren’t clear. We can stand out and be different by being clear. When you’re more clear than the next guy, you’ll win.
It can be hard to see jargon by yourself. Our business sits two inches away from our faces all day, every day. We know our work, we know the industry, and we understand the shop talk. We have “the curse of knowledge.” It’s impossible to see our business for the first time.
It may help to bring in someone who can look with the eyes of a beginner. They can point out which phrases are confusing, what doesn’t make sense.
Or we can help! We’re a StoryBrand Certified Guide. We can offer you a free consultation about what’s working in your marketing and where the jargon is cropping up. Visit us on Facebook or Instagram: @WDwalrus. Or if you’d like to schedule a phone call or meeting, visit clarifymywebsite.com.
Help your customer understand the great work you do. Keep it simple. Keep it clear. Avoid jargon.