The hardest thing in copywriting for websites and marketing material is eliminating the jargon and phrasing things in a way that has meaning and impact on prospects.
I say it’s hard because if you’re doing the writing yourself and are proficient in your industry, then chances are your choice of words has been forever altered.
I always find it kind of funny when I meet someone at a networking event or some business event and they tell me what they do. If I’m in the mood for a little bit of fun I might ask, “Oh, so what does that mean?” Invariably, they are stumped. My favorite response is when they start off with, “You know…” and then repeat what they just said—but speak louder or slower as if I can’t hear or don’t understand English.
As we grow more comfortable or proficient within our industry and spend most of our time with people from our industry, we get language lazy. We speak in a code of acronyms, lingo, and abbreviations. However, when we chat or speak with an audience not in our industry, it is a bad idea to assume that they understand even our most popular terms. In fact, it can be considered rude because you inadvertently are making them feel stupid or ill informed.
What can you do to change this?
I usually work with my clients by creating a three-column spreadsheet. In the far left column is what they call things. In the middle column, we write what it is or what it does. In the far right column, we list the results clients can expect. That far right column is where the rich language lives. Those terms and expressions are what clients and prospects can relate to.
Another option, especially in an industry that is technical or complex, is the creation of a glossary. Those glossaries do a lot for marketing and sales efforts, not to mention offering some nice link bait. Glossaries help newbies to an industry get familiar with it. They also help the non-technical buyers get comfortable, and speak volumes about your customer care and service. (Ever wish that lawyers would do that?)
I’ve even gone so far as to encourage clients to include a small glossary at the end of their proposals, just to be certain that clients understand what they are purchasing. It is a nice touch and I have gotten great feedback when implementing this section.
So the next time we meet at an event, be prepared to explain what it is you do in a way that I might actually understand it, and be able to relate it to how it might serve me. And keep it jargon-free.
Mardy Sitzer is a certified inbound marketing professional and president of Bumblebee Design & Marketing. Since 1993, Mardy has been delivering creative and innovative marketing solutions. An avid reader of all things internet and marketing, she also writes blogs, articles, and web content for industry magazines as well as for Bumblebee’s clients. She is an adjunct professor at Fordham University and instructor at Rutgers University teaching social media for business. Follow her on Twitter or email her at email@example.com.