Are You Suffering from Jargon? Ditch the Industry Speak and Open More Doors

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You know what you do, but other people don't. Ditch the jargon or risk losing your audience for good.

By Alex Zamorski (Founder, CalamusWorks & Illuminate Your Business)

Does this sound like you?

– You’re putting yourself out there and sharing your awesome service or products with pretty much anyone who will listen... but you’re not getting a great response.

– You attend the appropriate networking events... but get the feeling that people are just nodding along instead of getting what you’re saying.

– Your email response rate is pitiful… you might have more success shouting into space than sending out pitches.

This is an incredibly frustrating feeling, especially when you know that you have something really amazing to offer. You can’t imagine why people aren’t knocking down your door!

I’ve certainly been there. For a while I couldn't figure out why I wasn’t getting the responses I expected. I was diligently pitching and networking but things were not moving forward. People would smile encouragingly and then kind of drift away… It was alarming, to say the least!

Despite how beneficial I knew I could be to young companies, I realized that I wasn’t explaining my company in a way that they really understood. And if they couldn't understand me, how in the world would I help them communicate with their audience!?

The culprit? Jargon.

Jargon Kills Communication

Talking in “industry speak” happens to us all, no matter what field we’re in. It becomes our comfort zone when talking business and, before we know it, we assume everyone else is speaking our language.

For example, personal trainers are quick to talk about having a "stronger core"... when what we really care about is a flatter stomach.

Web developers can wax poetic about html or css but to the new entrepreneur that just wants a great looking, functional website, this means next to nothing.

Clothing retailers and stylists chatting it up about empire waists and wing-tipped collars might as well be speaking gibberish to those of us who prefer to work in yoga pants.

Jargon Loses You Customers

Confusion makes people walk away, for a few reasons:

  1. No one likes to feel stupid. So if you’re talking in a way that your client doesn’t understand, they’re likely to fake it and then disappear.
  2. If they don’t “get it” they’ll go and find something else that they do understand. It might not be the best solution to their problem, but at least they can least wrap their head around it.
  3. People are too pressed for time these days to take any longer than absolutely necessary to find a solution to their problem. No one’s digging in.

In order to get your ideal customers and clients—you know, the ones who desperately need your product or service—to hire you, it’s paramount that you are able to communicate what you do in a way that they will immediately understand. Take a look at your elevator pitch and ask yourself a few questions...

Be Clear, Be Honest, Be Approachable

Think about how you describe your business to others:

  • How do you describe what you do?
  • How do you describe your products or services?
  • Are you speaking in a way that is generally understandable, without all that heavy jargon?

Now think about it from your potential client’s point of view. Get into their heads and think about how they communicate their needs or wants:

  • How do they think about the problem?
  • What types of solutions would they already be familiar with?
  • When someone Google’s your solution, what words do they use?

If you’re stuck, talk with a few of your ideal clients and customers and simply ask them about their needs and wants. Then, pull all these answers together and use them to create a succinct way to explain what you do and what you have to offer.

Now test it out. Find someone outside of your industry, a friend, your mom, the mailman even, and run your new summary by them.

If they understand, you’re good to go! If they stare at you or start to back away slowly (again…), then you have some work to do.

How do you describe your business to people?

Image credit: Petr Vaclavek via Shutterstock.


About the guest blogger: Alex Zamorski specializes in helping small business owners and entrepreneurs shine a brighter light on their businesses. She is the owner of Calamus Works and is in the process of launching her new venture, Illuminate Your Business. Connect with her on Twitter: @AlexZamorski.