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, you’re subjecting your prospects to the deathly dull tones of “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 favorably
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 wasting their time to decode your marketing-speak… and they might just come up with the translations shown in this table.
|Marketing-Speak||Translation into Plain Language|
|Best-of-breed||I’m telling you, we’re the best!|
|Breakthrough||Not everyone has this yet|
|Concern||Bug, complaint, disaster, emergency, fail, problem|
|Cloud computing||The Web is the cloud, right?|
|Cutting-edge||Not everyone has this yet|
|Disruptive||This will put tons of other companies out of business|
|Enterprise-class||We want the Fortune 2000 to buy it|
|Evolutionary||This will put a few other companies out of business|
|Global||Our website lists 4 offices (so what if 3 of them are sales peoples’ homes?)|
|Go to the next level||You have no idea where I am now or where I’m trying to go and neither do we, but it sounds good|
|Groundbreaking||Not everyone has this yet|
|Intuitive||Only takes a few hours to figure out|
|Issue||Bug, complaint, disaster, emergency, fail, problem|
|Leading||One of the pack|
|Leading-edge||Not everyone has this yet|
|Next-generation||Not everyone has this yet|
|Next step in evolution||This will put a few other companies out of business|
|Outside the box||No one else thinks this will work|
|Paradigm shift||Not quite business-as-usual|
|Premier||We wanted to say something more impressive than “leading”|
|Proactive||Professional + active = proactive, right?|
|Revolutionary||This will put tons of other companies out of business|
|Right-sizing||Layoffs, staff cuts|
|Robust||Comes with a 90-day warranty|
|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 last time we looked|
|Stakeholder||Customer, employee, shareholder, analyst, blogger, journalist, friend|
|State-of-the-art||Everybody who’s anybody has this|
|Strategic alliance||Acquisition, buyout, merger, squeeze-play, takeover|
|Synergy/Synergistic||1+1=3, right? Get it? Huh, get it?|
|Thought leadership||A new way to say what everyone else says|
|Transformative||This will put tons of other 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||We want companies around the world to buy 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 my choices?Please leave a comment below.