Industry jargon doesn't endear you to your customers - keep your writing simple

Why industry jargon is a risky business for your business

by | business copywriting, copywriting, headlines, jargon, response rate, selling

Share Share Here’s a random thing – and it links industry jargon to dentistry, so please bear with. My whole…

Here’s a random thing – and it links industry jargon to dentistry, so please bear with.

My whole face hurts. It really, REALLY hurts. Even the drugs with the red warning stickers on that say ‘Warning: May Cause Addiction’ don’t really touch the pain I’m in. As I rock from side to side like an injured animal, I wonder how much gin there is in the house.

Something is moaning, softly.

That something is me.

The dentist took an X-Ray.

He said he needed to refer me. Deep joy.

Remember who you’re talking to

I visit the endodontist. With a job title like that, you know this isn’t going to be pretty. As I wait to pay the consultation fee (also not pretty), I notice that the table in the waiting room is covered in cards.

Thank you cards.

There are lots of thank you cards, and they all mention ‘pain-free treatment’ and ‘saved teeth’.

This is, I think, what is called a good sign.

With a hi-tech dental microscope (who knew?) and live-feed video screen (Ew! No.), he hones in on my destroyed molar, prods it a bit and says he’ll write to me with the results. His voice is calm. There is plinky plonky music with the occasional dolphin call. My pain has subsided… for now.

Consider how your customer feels, right now

Three days later the letter arrives. It’s written on thick, cream vellum paper and lands with a satisfying ‘thunk’ on the doormat. It has been addressed by hand in black ink. It feels … expensive.

This letter will take the pain away. It will allow me to eat more than soup and soft, squishy bread. This letter is ‘The Solution’.

Except it isn’t. Not really.

Here’s the thing.

I am worried about my tooth (sleepless worried). I’m worried about the sheer amount of pain I have been in (comparable to stage two childbirth with not a sniff of gas and air).

I have – quite literally – a point of pain that I want to be taken away and solved quickly and yet, and yet … this letter, this much-anticipated letter with its three paragraphs of black glossy ink written in an elegant font on heavy vellum does not help.

Why not?

Because I don’t understand a word of it.

Pinpoint an emotional need

I understand the price that is quoted (ouch again), that I need root canal work, that I need to make an appointment – perhaps two – but I don’t understand what will happen, how – and why.

I have no idea what ‘considerable swelling in the buccal sulcus’ means (although I suspect it is linked to the fact that it hurts to brush my teeth).

Nor do I know what a ‘vertical crack distally’ is. It sounds like it needs ropes and crampons.

I’m puzzled as to what a ‘bonded core restoration in the access cavity’ might be – but I’m starting to think that I might need one.

But these facts are not taking my point of pain away.

They are, in fact, adding a whole heap of fear and confusion onto my point of pain.

This is not what communication is about.

The point of communication in all its forms is to transmit information from one person to another, preferably in a form that can be understood by both parties. What I have just experienced is the very worst form of endodontic ‘jargon’.

Non-comprendez? You’re not alone

Wikipedia defines jargon as:

“Terminology which is especially defined in relationship to a specific activity, profession, group, or event.”

Copywriters define jargon as:

“The reason why your prospects can’t work out what on earth you do – and (vitally) why they are not spending their money with you.”

Jargon is painful to the ear – and the pocket

Every business has its own jargon, its own obscure terms, and its own phrases. Jargon in some industries is a secret language or a quick shorthand for complicated concepts.

It has its place. But that place is never, ever in external communications.

Industry jargon? Clarity is key

Back to me, me, me and my delightfully swollen – if obscure – ‘buccal sulcus’.

The letter I received created a barrier. It created a barrier between me (the prospective patient) and the endodontist.

I wanted to know what is wrong in terms I can understand. I wanted to know why I have ‘considerable swelling’ and a ‘vertical crack distally’ and most of all – let’s face it – I wanted to know “Will it hurt?”

Make it simple

The need for a prospective customer to know just how a company or business can help them is true for every business out there.

We’re a selfish lot, we consumers. We simply want to know, what’s in it for us?

You may chat about ‘blue-sky thinking’, ‘end user perspectives’ and ‘accurate innovative employer empowerment’ in your meetings (I hope you don’t, but still…) but all your customer wants to know is what that means for him – in terms he can understand.

Industry jargon doesn't endear you to your customers - keep your writing simple

Ye olde copywriter’s pain point

Copywriters like to know about pain points – and I’m not talking about teeth here. Pain points tell us what your customers want you to solve for them. What is the problem that they have – and what is the problem they want to go away?

• Do you sell double-glazing? Your customer’s pain points include a cold house, crippling gas bills and snarky neighbours who wish they’d keep their end of the street neat.

• Do you fix people’s computers? Your customer’s pain points include long load times, the risk the data loss (precious photographs anyone?) and the frustration of dodgy broadband connections that cut out. Usually halfway through their Amazon order.

• Are you an endodontist? Your customer’s pain points are physical agony (SO much physical agony) – and mental anguish. How much is this thing going to hurt?  What will happen after I sit down in that big leather chair? How much will it cost?

Industry jargon? Over to you

So, how do you take your customer’s pain away? What is it that you can do, what do you offer that can make a customer’s life better?

Can you talk about ‘saving money on gas bills and staying warm this winter’, instead of industry jargon like ‘glass-based home improvement solutions’?

Or let your customers know that you can ‘keep their precious photographs and data safe’ and ‘save them time’, instead of talking about ‘RAM’ and ‘advanced network solutions’?

Might you (please) tell your prospective patients that you are ‘gentle’, that you use ‘lots of anaesthetic’ and that ‘patients shouldn’t feel a thing’?

And can you make sure that your website turns your customers ON to doing business with you?

Written By Katherine

Katherine Wildman is a copywriter for creative agencies and multinational brands – and the Creative Director of Haydn Grey.

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