As a business owner, you know that it can be difficult to differentiate your business from your competitors. You’re constantly looking for new and interesting ways to make your business stand out.
You may find yourself writing copy a sales collateral or website design project, and for some reason, you keep falling back on certain words or phrases to fill your product or service descriptions. There’s a good reason for this.
Just as we do on social media, or in certain social circles, the professional community popularizes words and phrases that they see as “hip.” These phrases become part of your “professional vernacular,” and inevitably end up in your marketing collateral.
The question is, are these words helping you differentiate yourself? It’s more likely that they are only working to dilute your message, adding it to the sea of people who are all shouting the same “groundbreaking” words at their potential customers.
The Dreaded Gobbledygook
In 2007, David Meerman Scott published The Gobbledygook Manifesto, shining a light on poorly written marketing content everywhere. Ten years later and the gobbledygook has changed, but the practice itself hasn’t.
To Scott, the problem was obvious, writing in his manifesto that “Because these writers don’t understand how their products solve customer problems, they cover by explaining how the product works and pepper this blather with industry jargon.”
If you can successfully explain how your product can solve your potential customer’s problem, or fill a need that they have, then you won’t need words like “innovative.” In fact, gobbledygook words will only work to hide the true value of your product or service offering.
Do you use Gobbledygook?
Curious if you’re guilty of writing gobbledygook into your content? Try this exercise:
- Go to your “About Us” page on your website, or similar verbiage in your print collateral.
- Copy your “elevator pitch” statement into a word document (you do have some form of an elevator pitch statement, right?).
- Remove your company name from the statement and replace it with Company-X.
- Print the statement out and take it around with you for an informal survey.
Can a friend, colleague, employee, or customer identify Company-X as your company from this statement? Can they accurately explain to you what Company-X does?
Let’s look at a real-life example. I pulled this statement directly from a current corporate about us page:
Through innovative, reliable products and services, talented people, a responsible approach to business and global citizenship, and collaboration with our partners and customers, Company-X is taking the world in imaginative new directions.
Can you identify the company? Can you explain the point or meaning of this statement? The company is Samsung, and to be fair, the paragraph before this reads much better:
For over 70 years, Company-X has been dedicated to making a better world through diverse businesses that today span advanced technology, semiconductors, skyscraper and plant construction, petrochemicals, fashion, medicine, finance, hotels, and more. Our flagship company, Company-X Electronics, leads the global market in high-tech electronics manufacturing and digital media.
Now, that’s a pretty good elevator pitch. You can at least make an educated guess that Company-X is Samsung. So, why did they follow it up with such a gobbledygook-laden non-statement? Who knows, but it’s a great way to illustrate Scott’s point.
So, How Can You Avoid Gobbledygook?
You’ve probably got a good idea of what gobbledygook is at this point. The question remains, how can you avoid it?
Scott offers sage advice on this front as well, writing “Here’s the rule: when you write, start with your buyers, not with your product.”
Start by creating one or even multiple buyer personas that describe, in as much detail as possible, your target customer. Once you have successfully segmented your target audience into appropriate buyer personas, then you can focus on clearly communicating how your product or service solves a problem or fills a need that they have.
Your marketing should be structured in a way that focuses on their needs at a high level and then allows them to narrows down on specific pain points. Being too broad at the higher levels is where you will often find yourself reaching for meaningless adjectives to fill the void.
6 Time-Tested Gobbledygook Words to Avoid
In the ten years since Scott introduced us to his concept of gobbledygook, the buzz words have changed, but some have withstood the test of time and continue to plague the professional world still today.
Weather dated or not, avoid these six words in your marketing content, no one wants to read them:
- Innovative – Defined as “featuring new methods; advanced and original.” Innovative has become an oxymoronic indicator of an uncreative writer. It distracts from your point, don’t use it.
- Cutting Edge – There is nothing wrong with using this term if in fact, your product is truly cutting edge. The sad truth is that the majority of the time, cutting edge is used to describe a product or service that is decidedly not cutting edge. That makes it a lie, so don’t use it.
- Outside The Box – By the time Taco Bell co-opted this for their “Think outside the bun” campaign it had become meaningless. Its very existence screams “we conform to non-conformity.” Don’t use it.
- Robust – If we only from where the term robust crept into our lives. Using it only indicates that your catalog of adjectives is less than, well… Avoid if possible, or maybe if you’re describing wine.
- Unique – The over-used cousin of cutting edge, unique should only be used for offerings that are truly unique. Avoid unless truly unique.
- Leading provider – Unless you’re willing to back this statement up with something other a data point that indicates that you lead your industry in some obscure quantitative area, just steer clear. If you are going to use it, back it up with the data after every use, otherwise it’s worthless.
When it comes to creating marketing content for your company you should follow three simple rules. If you do, you will find yourself creating clear and concise messages that resonate with your target audience.
- Focus on the buyer, not your product or service
- Be clear, not clever
- Keep it short
Try writing, or re-writing, your company’s elevator pitch with these principals in mind. Then rerun the experiment we described earlier and see how it works out for you. Was your message more clear and concise? If not, rinse and repeat, or employ the expertise of MARION’s outsourced marketing services so that you can optimize your business operations.