Buzzwords Are Killing Your Marketing



“I’m in search of a robust solution provider that will provide the dynamic synergies we need to make a paradigm shift as we visualize and try to decouple from the uncertain landscape of an hyper-competitive environment.” Said no one ever.

If our prospects don’t talk like that, why do we?

It’s a valid question, even if the quote above is a bit of an exaggeration. Why don’t we simply use plain English to better communicate why prospects should pay attention? The fact is, business buzzwords are the clip-art of the marketing world.  You and your prospects deserve better.

Buzzwords are a problem everywhere – from taglines to web copy to white papers to presentations. And we can’t just blame business school or hearing too many presentations from big five management consultants.  Buzzwords have crept into general business and marketing vocabulary for the last few decades.  Like ivy growing up a brick wall, if it’s not cut away it will keep happening.  People think it sounds smart and strategic. Younger team members will model it if management uses it.  If the sales team is doing well, they may think their success is due – in part – to decks full of multi-syllabic business-babble.

Far from being a hallmark of success, buzzwords can get you in trouble before you even get to the table. It can keep prospects not noticing you because they have no idea of the value you provide.  On the other end of the sales cycle, it could be one of the reasons why you came in second on what would have been a game-changing deal.  Let’s explore why.

First, we’ve discussed the concept of the sales moment and that people think in pictures. It’s a simple but important concept to sales and marketing: people visualize concepts in their brains, and when they are shopping for anything from camping gear to a new accounting system they are playing what brand marketing expert James Connor calls “a movie of unmet needs” in their head. They have an idea of the solution and they are searching for a match.

The problem is, buzzwords are rarely part of that movie of unmet needs.  They are just words, jumbled together and incapable of helping prospects truly understand or visualize the solution.  We can’t agree on the definition of some, let alone visualize anything if they are strung together or overused.  They certainly don’t communicate with clarity.


Avoid The Obvious

The list is long, so here are a few examples – particularly relevant to tech companies.

  • Innovation – It sounds great because everyone loves innovation.  That’s the problem, the world is full of innovation and everyone’s talking about it.  Because of that, it’s more effective to describe or show how it’s innovative.  Otherwise you’re just one of the crowd.
  • Synergy – Never use this.  People cringe inside when they hear the obvious, overused buzzword.  You can describe what you mean without using this word, and people will have a better visual picture.
  • Scalable – Everything is scalable these days. You need to describe this in more detail for people to understand what that truly means.
  • Disruptive – Use this only for investor pitch decks if your product is actually, demonstrably disruptive.  Prospects don’t start shopping with the idea that they want something disruptive. Prospects have a mental picture of the solution and need to see your product as a match.
  • Solution – When everything is a solution, nothing seems unique. Best to consider the problem you solve, or what the end state is like so you can be more specific in your marketing material.
  • Enhance, optimize, holistic – these are overused and not visual enough.


Know What the Words Actually Mean

Some words are important, but the concept is lost if not presented properly and visually.  Here are some examples.

Strategy / Strategic
This is one of the most important words in business, but it’s overused and misused all the time.  Strategy is defined as the plan for how a business will gain a competitive advantage.  Don’t use the words “strategic” or “strategy” if you don’t specifically intend to talk about competitive advantages.  Be able to justify your thoughts on it based on your understanding of the competitive environment.  The bottom line is, your can’t simply say something is strategic to make it sound good – you have to explore that idea.

ROI / Return on Investment
It’s better to illustrate this with specific numbers than simply describe it.  One company I know tracks ROI over all customers and can reasonably say that their clients earn $1.73 for every $1 spent on their services. That’s approaching 75% ROI, and it’s the kind of ATM machine you would use every single day if you could.

This means that money was saved within a process.  It could involve costs related to time or people, but ultimately it’s about saving money.  It’s another concept that is best illustrated specific examples rather than just a single word.


Words That Need More

Quality, Cost-Effective, Expertise and the like.  There is a whole set of words that get used over and over again, so the challenge is, at what point do you look exactly like your competition?

Said another way, what does quality achieve for your prospect?  How does it make them feel?   How do you make something cost-effective?  What does your prospect gain from your expertise?  These kinds of questions get you to where you can have marketing messages that are more specific and compelling.

If you read to this point and thought, “Ruh roh!” you are probably realizing your company has a problem with buzzwords.  The good news is, we’re here to help craft messages that make sense to your prospects and help you make valuable connections. 


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