Your Buzzwords are a Buzzkill

Buzzwords, especially in the high-tech industry, have got in the way of our ability to communicate. In a need-it-now age where every word matters, we’ve created an industry language that puts style before substance.

Acronyms, abbreviations and hybrids crowd corporate mission statements and product documentation, all in the name of saving time or standing out. And because jargon use breeds more jargon, this collection of buzzwords continues to grow.

Buzzwords exist for a reason.They are shortcuts that allow people from common backgrounds (typically an industry or company) to communicate quickly and rally behind ideas.

Nearly every industry has its own lingo, which employees adopt for internal conversation. But when these internal shortcuts bleed out into external communications with our customers, it creates a major problem.

Buzzwords are easy, convenient and popular. However, if you’re looking to better serve your customers -- it’s time to ditch the buzzwords.

Here are a few reasons why:

They Alienate Your Customers

Few things are more frustrating than talking with someone who goes out of their way to use overly-flowery language. There’s nothing wrong with having a robust vocabulary, but it's good to know your audience.

You speak with your office colleagues in a different manner than say, your friends at the bar. The same should hold true for businesses.

Buzzwords might save time and build common ground when speaking with other businesses. For your customers, these terms may come off as a bad inside joke. If they don’t know the context, it’ll go right over their head.

Companies build up walls of words to differentiate themselves from the competition. What they fail to realize is that it’s the customers who pay the price. Like a secret password to a childhood clubhouse, buzzwords are the barrier to entry unless you know the industry lingo.

Often, companies see these buzzwords as a way to carve out a micro-niche for themselves. You might hear: “Oh, you are a multi-platform solution? Well, we happen to be a platform-agnostic solution!” Chances are these companies deliver very similar services, but they’d love for you to believe they are different. But more often than not, buzzwords meant to differentiate end up distancing and distracting customers.

Speak with the customer, not at the customer. Customers likely use a few key words to describe your company. These are the words that matter. They convey how the customer perceives you. Listen to them and try to incorporate them into how your company presents itself.

A product description shouldn’t need a glossary of the latest in industry-speak. So as a rule of thumb, if your customers need to search Wikipedia to understand your value proposition, you’re likely using too many buzzwords.

They Weaken Your Brand Messaging

Companies use buzzwords for branding in the same way that a middle schooler might use a thesaurus for an English essay. It’s often excessive. And while it can result in a smattering of interesting, uncommon words, the true message gets lost.

So while convivial might mean the same thing as happy, when's the last time you used convivial in conversation? Happy gets the point across. Treat brand messaging the same way. It’s not an opportunity to show off your $10 words, it’s an opportunity to relate to the customer.

Words don't define your company, but your ability to deliver value for your customers does. If the words you use cloud your value, then you lose sight of what your company stands for.

“Actions speak louder than words” -- build your brand on actions and trust, not smoke and mirrors. Buzzwords, while timely and sometimes exciting, are a flash in the pan. If you include them in your brand messaging, you’ll constantly be cycling out your language as buzzwords die off and new buzzwords come to life.

Examine your brand messaging with a critical eye. Take a piece of content (company mantra, product description, etc) and break it down into its most basic components. The goal is to distill your message down into what is truly necessary. Make it simple enough that you could describe it to someone outside of your industry.

Let the power of making a strong, confident statement take the place of cheap, mass-marketed buzzwords. In the end, if you’re worried about not standing out because your pitch isn't flowery enough, it’s not the pitch that’s the problem, it’s the product.​