There's No Google Translate for Corporate Jargon

Everyone knows that the key to marketing success is throwing out big words and acronyms to make your company look like the leading expert to customers and prospects… right? Well, what do you do when their reaction, instead of awe, is to simply turn away?

Jargon: What Is It?

Jargon is the technical terminology or characteristic idioms of a special activity or group. This means that these certain words and phrases demonstrate a shared knowledge between members of these groups but are meaningless to outsiders.

Think of a time when you were at the doctor’s office, or the dentist, or in a meeting with a web developer. Chances are, you heard them say something that went straight over your head. That was jargon—and the confusion that went along with is prime reason to think twice before using jargon when communicating to folks outside your ingroup of expertise.

Defenders of jargon say it communicates specific concepts simply and clearly between ingroup members, such as colleagues, and maybe it has its place. But what if you are communicating to those outside of the ingroup? Simpler language avoids obscuring the subject for non-members like your customers and prospects. And, folks will pick up on your expertise when you clearly and concisely explain niche concepts in a way they can easily understand.

There's No Google Translate for Corporate Jargon

When you offer specialized software or a niche product, there’s a good chance your customers don’t know exactly what they’re looking for (which is why they’ve come to you!).

Throwing jargon onto your website or in front of your prospective customers can result in blank stares across the table (or screen), especially if they are looking for the easiest way to solve their problems. Are you really selling an agile, cloud-native, API-first solution to the critical workforce environment? Or are you helping companies schedule their staff better using the best-available tech?

Industry-specific differentiators are important, but your elevator-pitch should always be in plain language. So, what can you do to make sure your clients understand your products and services?

• Take your digital copy down a notch: Get to work on creating copy that is focused on the customer. While you may think uber-specific keywords are helpful, more basic alternatives that are more likely to come up in customer and prospect searches are going to have a higher SEO volume. In terms of search, Google is focused on the User Experience—are you answering what the customer is asking? If so, you’re more likely to show up at the top of the results page!

• But don’t talk down: While your prospects may not be as informed about your product or service as you, you don’t want to get too general! This is where research can be of help to find the sweet spot between too-specific and too-broad.

• Show and tell: Sometimes, people can adhere to an idea quicker if they’re given a visual representation of what you’re talking about. If there are some terms you just can’t water down, create a visual or interactive component, such as screenshots of your software, or product videos featuring one of your experts.

• Answer questions: You don’t know what your customers don’t know, so let them ask the questions! Having a resource center that defines your product or service, as well as an FAQ that answers common inquiries can help your prospects do the research that you may not be able to fit into your copy without clutter.

Code Switching

At the end of the day, there are always going to be words and phrases industries use with ease that we just can’t hurdle. So whatever industry you are in, take pride in being fluent in what is essentially another language! Just remember to do customers and prospects a courtesy by code-switching when in conversation with them.

Need some help translating your industry jargon? We’ve helped companies across all sects of B2B market their product in a way that speaks to their customers for over 30 years. Check out our blog on B2B Buyers for more of our expertise.

Last edited: 2/2/2023