Have you ever bumped into your hairdresser in the supermarket, and completely not recognised them?
You’ve been seeing them for the past 3 years, every 6 weeks, for an hour each time. But you’ve been seeing them in a mirror, in the salon.
And now they’re out of place, at the deli counter. And it takes a while for your brain to go ‘er, hang on… oh yes, now I get it!’
Clair, where is this going?
Bear with me…
I was at a networking event some years ago, chatting with a colleague*. We’re approached by someone who’s just starting up their business – they have no knowledge of marketing and ask how we could help them.
My colleague, quite rightly, says that what we might suggest depends on what they need right now, and asks if they’re in the ‘audience acquisition phase’.
It took me a minute to wrap my head around that one – and I’m a marketing professional!
Reason being, that phrase ‘audience acquisition phase’ didn’t sound right in that conversation. It had no context, like seeing my hairdresser in the supermarket.
Talking to someone with no knowledge of marketing, I didn’t expect an industry phrase like that to be used. It threw me for a minute – is he in the what now?!
It was at this point that I realised how much I hate stupid marketing terms **
And business buzzwords, obvs. Goes without saying. I mean, just try saying ‘blue sky thinking’ without rolling your eyes. Ridiculous.
OK Clair, breathe…
Thinking about writing this article, I knew I couldn’t be the only one who switches off when drowning in a sea of look-at-me language (it’s not just me, right?!). So I asked the members of my Small Business Support group.
It’s not just me!
– jump on a call
– open cart
– stretch every sinew
– double down
– kick into the long grass
– joined up thinking
– touch base
– discovery call
I would ask – why are people using terms like jump on a call? To sound ‘with it’?
Yes, I am aware how NOT ‘with it’ that makes me sound…
If you’re using phrases that the cool kids use, and it doesn’t fit your brand personality, that’s not going to feel authentically ‘you’ to your audience.
If my mom told me her ‘holiday hacks’ rather than packing tips, I think I’d laugh so much I’d stop breathing.
Have you seen the Fairy Liquid ad with ‘No More Mr Nice Baby’? Yeah, kinda like that. FFS…
Here’s where I stop ranting and say something helpful
I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again – use the language your audience uses.
Examine the words you use in marketing messages. Are they immediately understood by your audience?
If you’re not sure, ask them. Choose a small number of valued clients and followers, and ask them to join a focus group. Then you can find out if they understand ‘message A’ or whether they prefer ‘message A’ or ‘message B’, etc.
If you make people have to work hard to understand what you’re saying and what you’re offering, they won’t do that hard work – they’ll just switch off and go elsewhere.
In a Facebook group last week someone was asking about their messaging – they wanted to use one phrase for a new service and their business partner wanted to use another. The options were:
– I do online art with kids so their parents don’t have to
– I offer a distance learning solution providing creative techniques for pre-teenage students
If you honestly prefer option 2, I’d love to hear your reasons. Seriously, tell me.
* I understand that most people use ‘colleague’ to describe a fellow-employee, but in my team of one that doesn’t quite apply! I use ‘colleague’ as a bit of a catch-all term to variously mean people I sub-contract to do work for me, people who sub-contract me to do work for them, self-employed friends who also offer digital services, and people I know through networking who work in a similar field.
** There’s a time and place for marketing-specific terms, absolutely – they’re very useful short-hand in the industry. But unless you’re speaking to people who know and use those terms, just don’t. Please.