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Saying Goodbye to Corporate Speak

I spent nearly a decade in a corporate environment that was so “corporate,” you could barely sneeze without running it by legal. We didn’t talk on the phone, we “communicated telephonically” and frequently had to take touchy subjects “off-line.” We tackled issues down to the “granular” level and continuously worked to think “outside the box” to develop “integrated solutions” to put ourselves on the “fast track” to provide “deliverables” that “at the end of the day”… probably meant absolutely nothing to our customers. Couple that with a degree in PR and a Master’s in Business Administration and I am a reformed poster child of corporate/marketing speak.

Here’s the problem. Your clients and your customers don’t speak corporate speak, and more than likely are turned off by marketing speak. So, why do we subject them to it?

One of my favorite authors, David Meerman Scott writes about this in The Gobbledygook Manifesto. Scott argues too often writers and marketers ignore the fundamentals of what people want: To know what problem your product/service solves and proof that it works—in plain English.

Think for a second about your website, your marketing collateral, and any other communication you have with your customer. Take a deep breath and be honest—are you writing for you? Or for your customer?

If you aren’t sure, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does my material address a fundamental problem/need that my customers experience, and clearly explain how my product/service solves this?

Example: Think about this. Snuggie chose to “dialogue” with their customers by explaining a simple solution to a simple problem: You get cold—you use a blanket—the blanket limits you from what you want to do. Snuggie (the blanket with sleeves) solves that problem. Boom! Problem solved for $19.95.

  • Does my collateral reflect the WHY and HOW?

Example: I recently received an email offer from a tire company promising me “great deals if I act now!” The problem is, as a customer I would rather stick a fork in my eye than go sit in a car repair place unless I REALLY need it—and their language of hose fittings, synthetics, and tire technology is lost on me because I don’t understand the “WHY.” When I go to their site and they talk about the “brightly lit, colorfully merchandised showroom,” I am even more lost about the “HOW.” Had they told me WHY regular maintenance is important and HOW it can preserve the life of my car, I’d have been more likely not to “expedite the expulsion” of this message to my deleted file.

  • Does my material address the topics that people most frequently call, email, or Google about?

Example: If you are a plumbing company and 80 percent of your customers call only in the case of an emergency, are you emphasizing your 24-hour emergency service? At the point a customer is in an emergency, they don’t care about the latest technology or that you have the friendliest staff. They are blinded by their immediate need. A “comprehensive analytical analysis” should help you determine the messaging you should be focusing on. Make sure it is “in line” with what your customer is cares about.

If you answered “No” to any of these questions, there is a good chance you are writing for YOU, not your customer. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes—or, better yet—talk to them about what is important in their buying decision. In some cases, you may find that the corporate speak and marketing speak are a good fit for your business (there’s actually a reason “strategic approach” is included in the text on this site). However, understanding what kind of “speak” your customer’s relate to is one of the most important “action steps” you can take for your business.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to purge the word “leverage” from my vocabulary.