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  • Kendra Lisum

How Jargon Can Sink Your Business

If they don't understand what you're selling, they won't buy.

Once upon a time I was a Health Unit Coordinator. I managed schedules, coordinated patient requests, and recorded official documents.

I had to go into patients’ rooms to collect information, and if you know anything about hospitals, you know that there are people in and out of your room all day long. I’d flash my badge and announce that I was a health unit coordinator and...

...they’d give me a blank look.

You know why?

Because no one knows what a Health Unit Coordinator is!

But you see, when you use fancy words or technical jargon to describe your services and the benefits of those services, you can expect blank stares.

Sometimes we use the jargon of our chosen profession for a couple of reasons:

  • to appear the authority on the subject

  • because we’re so deep into the weeds -- we know so much - that it can be hard to step outside of that and realize no one else knows what we’re talking about.

Neither of those things are bad in and of themselves. We all want to appear professional. We all want to share our passion and knowledge of a subject, and sometimes we can’t help but forget what it’s like to be an outsider.

But remember: if your prospect doesn’t immediately understand what they’re buying, they won’t buy.

We marinate in our subject day in and day out, so it’s only natural that we have a hard time stepping back to view it from a 30,000 foot level. But in advertising, this is absolutely essential.

Think of it this way: let’s say you saw me on the street and immediately knew I was the right audience for your product or service. You run over to me, “m’am! m’am!” Bleary-eyed, i look up from my phone, wondering who the Crazy is. You start to tell me about your product but my phone dings, pulling away my attention...

Would I understand what you just told me?

I look up at you once again, and you start over -- and my phone dings.

That’s what it’s like when you’re advertising.

When your ad pops into their feed or flashes across their screen, your prospect is in the middle of doing something like messaging their stalkery ex-boyfriend to stop drunk dialing in the middle of the night because the buzzing phone scares their geriatric cat who pees a little when he scitters from the room.

Think of your most recent ads.

Are they clear and easily understandable?

If they're not, rework them. And rework them again.

Of course some prospects may be familiar with the vernacular of your industry. But that doesn’t mean they want to read big, jargon-heavy words like vernacular. Not when they can read smaller, easier-to-digest words like lingo or...well, words.

Can you ever use jargon? Sure. With a few stipulations:

  • don’t use jargon unless it precisely communicates your meaning

  • if 95% of your audience will understand it, you can use the jargon

  • if you have to use it, explain it

What This Looks Like

Don’t tell me you’ve got the latest 200 mm F2.8 GM OSS full-frame telephoto

zoom lens - tell me you have the latest photographic equipment that enables you

to capture photographs from across the street of my drunk ex-boyfriend sneaking

over my privacy fence.

Don’t try to impress with me big, industry-specific words -- impress me with the benefits of your product communicated with clear, concise words.

Need some help? Let’s work together to find the best way to communicate your expertise. Contact me today!

Oh, and what is a health unit coordinator? A receptionist. In fact, a damn good receptionist. And why was I coming into your room? To collect information for your new baby’s birth certificate. 💕👶

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