Are You Speaking a Foreign Language to Prospects?

by Melody Brooks on August 22, 2011


Guest post written by Melody Brooks, one of Sumer’s master web copywriters

When you communicate with your prospects, you need to use language they understand, especially if they are new to your industry. One of the biggest mistakes I see companies making is filling their websites, sales brochures, and white papers with industry jargon.

I’m not saying you should never use jargon, and depending on your product or service, jargon may be necessary. However, if you’re in an industry that is not particularly technical, such as wedding planning, you’ll see improved conversions and longer website visits if you reduce jargon. Unfamiliar terms tend to intimidate prospects because they don’t understand them, and they’re uncomfortable with that lack of knowledge. There’s no connection, so they click away from your website—and you’ve just lost a potential sale.

How do you know if you’re using too much jargon? The following questions will help you determine if a revision of your marketing materials is in order.

Are you B2B or B2C?

If you sell business to business, or B2B, you can get away with slightly more jargon than a company that is business to consumer, or B2C, because typically your ideal client is familiar with at least some jargon.

For example, if you sell dialysis machines to clinics, a certain amount of jargon is expected because the medical field is technical. If you’re a travel agent, your client typically won’t know or care about industry jargon, so reduce or eliminate it.

Who is actually reading your materials and making the buying decision?

Using the dialysis machine example above, are physicians or clinic personnel making the buying decision, or is a buyer in the corporate office reading your materials and making recommendations to someone else? Because you don’t know, your materials need to speak to both audiences: for technical specifications and benefit to the patient, jargon is acceptable, but when you explain benefits for the company such as cost-effectiveness, reduce the jargon to only what is necessary.

A travel agent normally doesn’t need to speak to two separate audiences like the dialysis machine company, so industry jargon should be kept to a minimum to make the prospect feel connected and comfortable with the company.

Do my ideal clients understand what they’re reading?

Even when you think your copy is clear, compelling, and concise, it may not be. Don’t be afraid to ask clients and prospects to help you refine your message. Ask them whether your copy speaks to them and motivates them to take action. If it doesn’t, ask them why, and then listen to them—it will be one of the best lessons in marketing you’ll ever receive.

Does your copy have too much jargon? If the answer is no, are you sure?

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