Drop the Jargon
B2B writing is famous for its obsession with the “right” words. Industry speak. Impressive-sounding sentences or taglines like “Quantum. Game-changing. Advantages.” Phrases like “…at the intersection of…” (lawyers seem to be in love with that last one).
Unfortunately, the “right” words — the ones that appeal to everybody on the inside, those that are “on brand,” and get stuffed into every crevice of B2B content — are overused buzz words we all love to hate. Jargon.
Jargony B2B messaging is like green Jell-O: The mere sight of it scares off most of the audience. For those desperate few with strong stomachs, they’re left squinting through a quivering haze of words. The message may come in a fancy Bundt shape, but it gets left on the dinner table along with the fruitcake (the food embodiment of cold outreach emails).
If this blog post went through the standard B2B content process, there’d be 12 rounds of edits between 29 stakeholders, converging on the inclusion of the words “innovative” and “state of the art” and a desire to be “punchy” without the risk of sounding interesting. Every bit of personality, every reach toward humanity, every smidge of humor and relatability would be replaced by sentences like,
“Our innovative, cutting-edge technology enables you to leverage your assets for maximized synergy and groundbreaking process elasticity.”
The Reason B2B Loves Jargon
To be fair, all of this jargony nonsense is easy to shame and harangue, but it’s prevalent for good reason — beyond a gaggle of deflating edits.
Businesses exist to solve problems. Their clients want and rightfully expect those businesses to be expert problem-solvers. And the most obvious way to establish yourself as an expert is to “talk the talk.”
Notice I didn’t write “the best way.” It’s just the easiest to grasp onto. But if digital marketing has shown us anything over the past decade or so, it’s that people want to buy from people. Not savants. Not robots. Not pushy pop-up ads or lipstick-smeared pigs. They want companies with souls, not just products that deliver. Quibble over the differences between B2C and B2B, but that’s a truth universal to both. You can sound “smart” all the livelong day, but when push comes to shove you out the go-to-market door:
- Nobody likes a know-it-all;
- What can’t be understood is useless;
- What can’t be easily understood is still pretty useless;
- What isn’t simple and clear usually can’t be understood;
- Expressing yourself simply and clearly is harder than it looks, so most people/companies go for what comes naturally;
- And we’re probably back to the beginning of the list. An endless B2B wash cycle.
Most B2B writing is tailored to an internal audience, a highly invested, way-into-the-long-sales-cycle persona, or a slew of egos. Neither is productive, and neither is the audience. The easiest way to realign with the voice your actual audience wants to hear and the message they need to see to understand your product or service — what it is or does, whether or why it matters to them — is to cut the flotsam. Drop the jargon. Avoid it as often as possible.
How to Drop the Jargon
Write as if you have an elevator ride’s worth of time to explain yourself to someone who’s never even heard of your product before. Or someone who has heard about it 5,048 times and wants to write you off before you speak. Or who is a six-and-three-quarters-year-old entrepreneur.
No fronts, no buttering them up with “innovative” thoughtless leadership, no strutting your stuff with “synergy” or technical mumbo jumbo. Just the unadorned facts, the benefits of the benefits, the truth as simply and clearly as you can state it.
It takes guts to do this. It feels naked-y. In a sea of eloquent nonsense, it stands out. It feels basic, but it often determines whether people tune you out before the page fully loads or they scarf down your landing page, white paper, and every email in your welcome sequence, and then follow you on social media, besides buying (and buying in).
That’s what jargon was always after, and that’s what it’s missed altogether. Modern audiences are too savvy and too inundated with advertisements and information to grant time to self-preening, “insider” language from the start, whether they’re a chief product officer of a Fortune 200 or a new single-member LLC.
In the end, fancy words aren’t a true product or service differentiator anyway. But the right words do make all the difference.
- Did you miss Part 1 of this series? It’s a dandy. Read it here: How to Make B2B Writing More Compelling: Show, Don’t Tell.
- Does Having a Voice Matter in Business Writing? (The short answer is “yes,” the long answer is the blog post.)
- Great news! You’re a Better Writer Than You Think. If you’re still not convinced, you can always read more of our grammar tips, tricks, and resources.
How to Make B2B Writing More Compelling Part 1: Show, Don't Tell
How to Make B2B Writing More Compelling Part 3: Be Unprofessional