Would you like to purchase a waste disposal sanitation system — or a garbage can?
Similarly, most of us would probably search online for a “microwave,” assuming vendors would realize we were interested in an oven and not the properties of radiation.
Sometimes, though, companies fall into the trap of getting caught up in their industry’s jargon and technical terms, even when they’re marketing to the general public.
The general public, on the other hand, tend to talk more generally. You know, like everyday people.
This matters for a brand, particularly a small-or-medium sized one, because it can lead to a lot of lost marketing effort.
It comes down to this: if customers feel like they have to translate what you’re trying to say, they are likely to wind up talking to one of your competitors instead.
A disconnect between your company’s vocabulary and that of your customers can happen almost by accident.
In the early days, when you were first developing your products or services, you might have been particularly close to customers and getting their feedback on what they needed to address their pain points. You might have even shared the same pain points yourself, which inspired you to launch the company in the first place.
The job of any vendor, however, is to do all the homework on behalf of the customer to create something that will provide value. That means your organization may have to absorb scientific or arcane ways to describe the components or elements of a product.
When it comes time to develop your marketing strategy, though — no matter what channel you use to raise awareness or drive demand — you have to leave that terminology behind. It won’t impress anyone.
Instead, you have to put yourself back into the beginner’s mindset of your customers, who might be approaching the problems your products solve for the first time. They want simplicity and clarity.
Here are some of the most straightforward steps to double-checking your marketing copy to ensure it won’t cause any furrowed brows among your target market:
There often isn’t enough room in a post on platforms like Twitter to describe products and services in anything other than concise, easy-to-grasp words. Even on Facebook or Instagram, people tend to talk in a way that’s similar to how they sound in real life. Social listening is a great window into this world.
Besides making sure your marketing copy doesn’t sound off, social media listening may lead you to discover some short forms, abbreviations or even metaphors customers use to talk about things in your product category you’ve never heard before.
It may take a while before you fully realize customers are confused by the way you talk about the products they want, but one early warning sign will probably come as you monitor how your digital content is being found in search results.
A good search engine optimization (SEO) strategy begins with looking into a wide selection of keywords that customers are entering into search engines like Google. Then, by looking at the competition for various keywords and their value, you figure out which ones to weave into landing pages, blog posts and other marketing assets.
Depending on the SEO or marketing tools you use, in some cases you might enter the more technical terms that are known to industry experts and see suggestions that are easier for customers to digest.
Don’t limit yourself to what’s being said on social media. Also look to how bloggers write about your industry, or how it’s covered by those working in newspapers, magazines and even broadcast outlets. Journalists are trained to communicate in ways that will be easily accessible to audiences, so follow their lead as appropriate.
Of course, professional journalists aren’t the only influencers. There may be those on Instagram, YouTube or even TikTok who have mastered the parlance of the masses. Even if you don’t see any differences in the words they’re using, pay attention to how they might distill the essence of a product or a customer's need down to a hashtag. You may be able to use those hashtags in your marketing as well.
There may be some instances where two words seem to be equally popular in describing something you need to talk about. You can choose to go with what your gut tells you, but your odds of success are much higher when you go with what the data tells you.
A/B test your content whether it means creating multiple landing pages, variations on social media posts or just studying the impact of switching out keywords.
One especially good channel for these kinds of tests is email marketing: you can easily get a sense of what kind of vocabulary resonates by seeing the difference in open and click-through rates on messages to your customers.
One of the only constants of language, like so much else, is change.
When it first emerged, for instance, we all talked about “social media.” Today, people might shorten that down to “social.” Sometimes a medium of communication becomes both a noun and a verb — think about how people talk about “texting” instead of “sending an SMS.”
Similarly, you should be increasingly vigilant about your marketing vocabulary the longer you’re in business. Use your best customers as a litmus test to tell you if your content sounds authentic and human.
Talk may be cheap, but losing customers due to marketing that sounds like a turnoff is not. Make sure you convey what’s important in a way that not only attracts customers’ attention, but makes them want to keep the conversation going.