Fifty Five and Five

How to write IT marketing content without the jargon

  • Don’t use jargon when selling products & services
  • Potential customersare easily confused
  • Avoid having an ego-trip about your content
  • Forget about detailed feature lists
  • Focus on clear benefits to the end user
Over the last couple of months, I’ve been compiling our definitive list of the best inbound marketing efforts among enterprise IT companies in the Microsoft Partner Network. We’ve analysed the websites, blogs and social feeds of over 25,000 companies, watched their YouTube channels, discussed the layout and navigation of their sites and drawn up a list of the very best for IT marketing, the crème de la crème, the cream of the crop.

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Generally speaking, the marketing efforts of Microsoft Partners are pretty good. Most firms have decent websites, interesting Twitter feeds and most have a semi-active blog to tell the world about what they do, what they think and what’s new with them. However, I’ve also noticed one specific problem that appears time and again: jargon.

Unfortunately, jargon pervades the world of enterprise IT more than almost any other. It’s there protruding on landing pages. It’s there when companies describe their products. It’s there when they describe themselves – ‘About Us’ sections shrouded in incomprehensible tech talk. And,frankly, we don’t like it. There are so many times I’ve rolled my eyes reading descriptions like:

  • “Our APIs integrate seamlessly with your
  • “An innovative cloud solution that delivers smart results”
  • “A dynamic permissions enabler”

If your company is struggling to ‘cut to the chase’ and talk about itself in clear, plain English, you’re missing out on customers, on selling your brand and building relationships with leads. Jargon’s a problem, but in today’s post I’m going to help you bust it.

What is jargon and why is it a problem?

Jargon, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing. A definition from Oxford Dictionaries puts it like this:

“Special words or expressions used by a profession or group that are difficult for others to understand.”

When professionals use jargon, it’s a little like using shortcut language. It saves a lot of time and, as long as everyone understand the meaning of the words, it makes things a lot smoother. Without jargon, everything would take about ten times as long – imagine how boring it would be for biologists if they had to describe specific biological processes in detail each time instead of just using the ‘jargon’ of their profession:

“We were doing an experiment with randomly bred cats to test the presence of one or more variant forms in the population”

For fellow biologists, however, it would be easier to simply use the ‘jargon’ term (polymorphism, in this case). The same goes for enterprise IT marketing. When you’re talking with colleagues and other professionals at conferences, of course you should use jargon. However, when you’re trying to sell your products and services to potential customers (not all of whom spend their days with heads buried in IT blogs), all you’re going to do is confuse them. For example:

  • S.W.A.T Team – What does this have to do with the military?
  • Cloud Solution – An umbrella?
  • Hybrid environment – A place where people drive electric cars?

Without prior knowledge, jargon confuses people, and when people are confused it makes them feel insecure. And would you buy a product from someone who seemed to be saying “you’re not clever enough”? Jargon’s also a problem because it’s just a waste of space. No one reading your marketing copy is going to understand what you’re talking about – their eyes glaze over meaningless words and leave none the wiser. As we’ve said before, great content marketing is about storytelling – write like a human, not a robot.

When your web content is in front of peoples’ eyes, that’s a rare opportunity for them to learn about you and find out who you are. If you bamboozle them with a load of incomprehensible tech words, they’ll move on. What a waste of a potential lead!

So, how can you write enterprise IT marketing copy without the jargon? How can you write about complicated products without confusing your leads? And how can you translate the words you use day-in, day-out to plain English that the non-technical buyer is going to understand?

Speak to non-expert colleagues and friends One of the easiest ways of finding out whether your marketing is making any sense is to speak to non-expert colleagues. Any larger company will have them – from your site manager to your finance execs. Ask them to read your description of the product and give honest feedback. Does it make any sense? Could they tell you clearly what the product or service is, what it does and what’s involved? If not, you need to do a rewrite.

If you work for a start-up where everyone understands the jargon and uses it every day, it might be best to seek some outside perspective. Ask a friend to read your content and tell you if they really understand it or not.

Kill your darlings

When you write about stuff – and especially about products and services you’ve spent months or even years honing and finessing – it can be hard to edit it down. You have a very clear idea of what your company does and you want the world to know about it. That’s great! However, you need to avoid having an ego-trip about your content – you risk writing lengthy, jargon-packed content which will mean nothing to uneducated readers. There are a couple of ways of ‘killing your darlings’, including:

  • Asking a third party to ruthlessly edit your text
  • Focus purely on your audience – what do they want? What do they need to know? What do they want to find out?
  • Edit, edit and edit again. Constantly ask yourself if the words are saying things in the most concise way possible, eliminate any repetition and ensure your points are clear and stick to the rule of ‘one paragraph, one point’.

Forget about features

It’s been said before, but all too often enterprise IT marketing is overly focused on writing detailed feature lists. Tech experts tend to expect other people to be impressed by the number of petabytes of data their product can crunch in X amount of time – forgetting that a ‘petabyte’ is a meaningless word to most people.

Marketing enterprise tech products in the B2B space has to be focused on the benefits of your product to the end user. While the IT manager at your target company might be impressed by your product’s features, his or her CEO and business colleagues will also be involved in the buying process, and if they can’t immediately understand why they should buy your product, they’ll pass you by. And this is why you need to focus the vast majority of your content on the benefits it will bring them. By benefits, I mean things like:

  • How much money will it save them?
  • How much time will it save them?
  • How much more productive will it make them?
  • And how will it make them look better to their colleagues and help them beat the competition?

Superlatives and hyperbole may make you and your product sound impressive, but they do nothing for showcasing the true value of your offering. If your marketing helps the buyer picture how much better off they’ll be because of your product or service, however, they’ll start making that mental journey towards buying your tools.

So what? So what? So what?

If you’re struggling to turn a feature list into compelling copy about the benefits of your product, use this old writer’s trick – ask “so what? So what? So what?” By repeatedly drilling this same question, you get a better idea of what the actual benefits of a product or service are. Let’s see how this might work:

You customise SharePoint intranets. So what? Well, it means companies have a personalised intranet. So what? It means that the intranet is always branded. So what? It constantly reminds employees of where they are. So what? It makes them more engaged with the company.

Voila!

You’re now able to write more compelling service descriptions, something like “our customised SharePoint intranets boost employee engagement”.Along the same lines, this can be a useful method for describing a complex or complicated product by asking “Which is?

Which is? Which is?

Along the same lines, this can be a useful method for describing a complex or complicated product by asking “Which is? Which is? Which is?” Let’s see how it works:Let’s see how it works:

You sell Dynamics CRM. Which is? A Microsoft Customer Relationship Manager. Which is? A kind of tool that lets you get an overview of who your customers are and shows all the contact you’ve had with them. Which is? Really useful – it means you avoid duplication, you don’t forget about leads and means you build long-lasting relationships with them.

Having drawn out exactly what the product is, you can once again highlight the benefits in plain English. Something like: “Dynamics CRM helps you build strong and long lasting relationships with customers”.

Big words don’t make you sound clever

All too often, people hide behind big complicated words when marketing technology. However, your readers will most likely be able to see through the bluster; if you can’t describe a product simply and concisely, it kind of suggests you don’t fully understand it either. As Albert Einstein said:

“You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.”

So, focus on speaking in plain English, on being approachable and understandable and think about how your product or service is going to benefit your readers. Ultimately less is more and your content will be so much better for it.

Len Williams

Len Williams

Len was the first full time writer to join the company, and speaks three languages (four if you include 'Microsoft').

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