B2B marketing shalt not speak in strange tongues.


It’s always nice to read someone else’s very solid argument in favor of some B2B marketing position I advocate. I had this experience last week when reading the words of Peter Helmer on the MENG Blend blog. His post “For an Effective Elevator Speech, Obey the Ten Commandments” discussed one of my favorite topics — words.

He starts out with one of the most classic examples of poor B2B marketing-speak I’ve ever read.

“We provide CMOs with best-of-breed, next-generation, scalable solutions that optimize revenue and enhance customer value. We act as a change agent empowering a paradigm shift using a value added synergistic approach that enables clients to take a deep dive.”

You’ll want to read his post as it provides great guidance for creating an elevator pitch and positioning a sales message. What I really connected with, however, was Commandment #8, which reads:

8. Thou Shalt Not Speak in Strange Tongues

Don’t talk in Consultant Speak. Use plain English. Avoid terms like “scalable”, “best-of-breed,” “next generation” and the like. These are meaningless buzz words. Smart, successful people don’t need to describe their work in highfalutin language. Your listeners won’t be impressed. They’ll think you’re showing off. That’s a sure-fire way NOT to get referrals.

Early in my writing career I was taught this instruction I still follow today. “Write to the lowest common denominator.” That is, write B2B marketing copy to fit the person with the least knowledge about your topic. The criterion I was taught to use was to write to someone with a junior-high school education level. I believe that is the level targeted by the Wall Street Journal. This writing approach will not insult highly educated readers. It will simply make a B2B marketing message something that communicates effectively and is easy and comfortable to read.

Here, for example, are some plain and simple substitutions for these highfalutin words:

  • Scalable — grows as your business grows
  • Best of breed — unmatched, market leader
  • Next generation — new, advanced
  • Optimize — improve the efficiency of, make more productive
  • Synergistic — works together, creates a team setting

B2B marketers should scan their Web sites, brochures, emails, data sheets and other materials for these words and find easier ways to communicate the points being made. The fact is, simple, straightforward language is the basis of successful communication.

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15 Comments

  • By Nick Stamoulis, April 25, 2012 @ 6:58 am

    If your marketing content is filled with industry jargon or phrases like this, your target audience might not understand what you are talking about. You don’t want to “dumb down” your content, but speak in a way that they can understand.

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