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Avoid Industry Jargon in Customer Communications

avoid industry jargon marketing_news copySome days ago, an acquaintance shared his recent experience breaking in a new hair stylist. She asked how previous barbers cut his hair, specifically which of two cutting implements was preferred. He didn’t quite catch the first option but heard “shears” for the second. Thinking of the shearing tool used on sheep, he chose that, but he left the choice up to the stylist.

He was a bit surprised to see the woman start with the scissors, but said nothing. After what struck him as an unusually laborious process, however, he commented on her meticulous care. (It was his gentlest nudge to hurry her along.) The stylist explained she wasn’t used to cutting hair with shears. Recognizing the misunderstanding, he quickly encouraged the stylist to change her method—much to her own relief. He then offered that most people referred to what she had been using as “scissors.” In response, she insisted with a terse smile, “Shears.”

Several factors led to the mix-up, and in the greater scheme of things the incident was no big deal. Yet the story does lead one to wonder how often companies—and the professionals who lead them—lose productivity and poorly serve clientele by using “correct” terminology rather than the words customers best understand?

Some industries are more prone to jargon—as well as jargon-based acronyms—than others. Healthcare (jargon examples: topical, hypoglycemic) and finance (examples: securitization, liquidity) are big offenders but technology (examples: Cloud, onboarding and solution this-and-that) may be the worst. (We must admit, though, that people in marketing also habitually throw around terms that are meaningless to the average person.)

Industry jargon can be difficult to avoid because it rises organically as people with similar knowledge and training create a common language of sorts. Additionally, professionals tend to enjoy their jargon as a way of showing off and differentiating themselves from the great unwashed. Understandable … but stop it! You want to make a connection with your customers, and you can’t do that if important information comes across as “blah-blah,” “thingamajig” and “doohickey.”

Here are five steps to help clean the jargon from your external communications:

  • Identify your target audience. Add jargon-killing as another reason why this should always be the first step in any marketing initiative. The better acquainted you are with your potential customers, the easier it will be to understand how best to craft a message that resonates with them. And if you happen to be targeting another segment of your own industry, you may be able to keep (some of) the jargon after all!
  • Test language for common understanding. As we get comfortable in our surroundings (in our bubbles, nose-blind … etc.) it’s hard to recognize what’s jargon and what isn’t. Try presenting your marketing materials and Web content to people outside your industry for their feedback. A good professional marketing firm (like Pinstripe) can also help you “democratize” your promotional content and sales spiels.
  • Identify things by their functions. Not only will this approach help assure that your audience knows what you mean, it may serve the dual purpose of clearly presenting a benefit to a potential customer. That’s a good thing.
  • Avoid acronyms … or at least spell them out upon first reference. Often, if someone can see what the letters stand for, they can figure out what you’re talking about. This however, doesn’t always work. For example, noting UI means “user interface” may not help a lot. In this case, see Rule #3.
  • Encourage customers to ask questions. No one likes to admit a lack of understanding, so customers may smile and nod even though they have no idea what you’re talking about. Keep this in mind, explain your proclivity for jargon (“it’s not you, it’s me.”) and sincerely encourage them to ask questions if there’s something they don’t understand.

This shouldn’t need to be said, but sometimes it is: Ignorance is not the same as stupidity. Customers may not know the right word(s) for what they need, but they are the only ones who can accurately define it. Don’t let understanding your jargon get in the way of your understanding what’s truly important.

b2b marketing

Trick-Shot Marketing: It’s Hard to ‘Kill Two Birds with One Stone’

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We love it when we take an action that turns out exactly as we hoped … and our single initiative goes on to bring additional good fortune. It’s such a happy accident that we’re often tempted to try and force such occurrences on a regular basis. Be warned, however. When it comes to marketing, these “trick-shots” can be very counterproductive.

Simple fact, it’s usually better to have a specific marketing effort entirely devoted to achieving a single, pre-identified goal.

But wait. If a person can learn do impressive things with, for instance, a slingshot (like ricochet a rock to ring a bell before hitting a bullseye), why can’t clever marketers do something comparable in their line of work?

Okay, ask yourself this: In the wild, how often do people with slingshots come across a bell positioned near a bullseye—set up exactly as they’ve practiced their shot? A more important question, is what purpose does such a trick shot serve, other than to prove it can be done? You could spend hours in practice in a carefully controlled environment, wasting a lot of rocks until you get it right. But if the goal is to ring the bell and hit the bullseye, a good marksman could probably do so within a few seconds using just two pebbles. Not spectacular by any means, but certainly more efficient. In business, more efficient is almost always better.

Think about the resources you devote to your marketing plans for a year. Let’s say a couple of goals are to improve lead generation and to refresh your website. Couldn’t you get more bang for your buck by building a website that’s designed to generate leads? Very improbable.

Consider the website refresh in our scenario: What did you originally want to accomplish? You probably wanted to update information about your products, improve search engine results, better support your brand … maybe improve customer service. How much would those plans need to change to turn the site into one that would primarily generate leads—even if such a thing was possible? Maybe you could create a website that’s so amazing that it inspires sales … but you would have to devote resources to generating website traffic before generating leads; it would probably cost a lot more; and it wouldn’t be the upgrade you originally wanted. Plus, chances are that you could get a lot more leads with a traditional, targeted campaign!

The “one-rock-per-target” rule holds for smaller projects as well. Imagine you want to send out a direct mail postcard to improve brand awareness. At the same time, you have a new service that you’d like to publicize. The temptation might be to save on printing and postage by letting one message piggy-back with the other. What’s the harm?

First, your headline and imagery can only support one of the two messages. (Don’t even think about splitting messages between headline and image. We will hunt you down and hurt you.) That means the other message gets second-banana billing—more easily dismissed as unimportant by your audience. Secondly, as for the headline subject, you lose valuable postcard space that could better drive home the point. All-in-all, the postcard would be in much more danger of falling flat.

We understand that marketing budgets can be tight … and at times the shotgun approach is your only option. (You just shoot and hope for the best.) But leave the trick shots for people with nothing better to do, and take aim at one worthwhile target at a time. If you need help, get in touch with us – we can steer you in the right direction.

b2b marketing

The Six Stages of Super-Client Development

customer relationship business development_newsPicture a great client. He or she will have been buying from you for quite a while. They make purchases on a regular basis. They appreciate the work you do and they respect your expertise. And the best part is that they recommend your business to their friends, family and business associates.

Do you have a lot of clients like this? Do you have any? If you’re short on the number of super-clients in your client base, it may not be a reflection on the value of goods or services you provide. In fact, the opposite could be true. Maybe you put so much effort in being the best at what you do, that you’re neglecting the customer-development stage of your business. After all, you don’t just find great customers hidden like Easter eggs. They must be created—by you. It’s a process that takes planning, dedication and time.

There are six stages to creating a committed client:

  • Create awareness of your brand – Yes, this is basic but we’ve got to start somewhere. Besides, it’s impossible to have more great clients than people who’ve ever heard of your business, so maximize the foundation of your client base through marketing (i.e. PR, social media, digital advertising, direct marketing … etc.). Not every promotional vehicle is effective for every business type and there are a lot of factors to consider (that’s where agencies like Pinstripe Marketing come in!) but you must let people know your company exists, one way or another.
  • Get your target audience interested in your products/services – Congratulations! Some prospective clients have heard of your business! Unfortunately, they have probably heard of your competitors as well. Now you have to help them understand why your products or services are better than those they can get elsewhere. You do this with a consistent brand message based on value propositions to the customer by utilizing marketing vehicles tailored to your business and audience.
  • Do some convincing – After the first couple of stages, you may have landed a few clients, but you want more, don’t you? Now’s the time to back up the value claims you’ve made with blogs, testimonials, case studies and white papers. You might even show off your confidence by inviting customer reviews/feedback on your website or through social media. Such persuasion motivates buying decisions and helps cement the client-business relationship. People who carefully consider a decision before making it become emotionally invested in seeing it turn out well. No one likes to admit to a mistake, so if such a customer has a rare moment of disappointment, they will be less likely to cut and run, allowing you to recover from a minor error.
  • Ensure the purchasing experience is a good one – What would you do if someone concluded their business with you feeling regret, and you knew about it? How could you get them to feel better? Send them a card letting them know you appreciated their business? Maybe inquire as to their ongoing satisfaction with the product or service, or the level of attention they received? Perhaps make sure they know you stand behind their purchase with reasonable support so they stay happy? Do these things with everyone as standard operating procedure, and you’ll combat stray feelings of regret among the few. You’ll also ensure that worry-free clients bond even more tightly with you!
  • Never take them for granted – If you’ve been diligent in developing client relationships through this point, you should be in great shape. In fact, victory is yours if you don’t blow it. Remember those promises to answer concerns and provide appropriate ongoing support? Make sure you’re keeping them. And, in general, stay in touch with friendly cards, surveys, newsletters and specials. Always let existing customers know how important they are to you. (Just think of all the work you’ve put into the relationship already. Don’t let that go to waste now!)
  • Take advantage of their advocacy – They really like you and you really like them. This is where the investment in client development truly pays dividends. Make it easy for great clients to share their enthusiasm by featuring them in testimonials and case studies, onsite reviews and marketing collateral. You might even reward them with a client referral program. (Meanwhile, don’t forget to take a moment to feel earned pride over every super client you have!)

It’s true that not every prospect will require every outlined step to be a buyer; you may be lucky enough to have a few very low-maintenance clients for years and years. Conversely, some people are going to leave you no matter what you do. But If you have a process for turning customers into advocates and stick to it, you will have exponentially increased your odds of enjoying consistent, sustainable business growth.

If I Have to Go to One More Happy Hour…

networking_news

Networking always seems like it revolves around a happy hour or cocktails in a conference room with some finger foods. These events can be effective in bringing people out to mingle, but really lose their luster after a while. Below are a few networking ideas that stray from the traditional “bring your business cards” happy hour networking events.

Building Relationships – Strengthening Bonds

Today, business networking is more than an exchange of business cards. Your time is more precious than ever, and spending it with people you barely know may feel like you’re taking away from other work and family time. If you want more meaningful interactions, then it’s time to change your point of view about networking and concentrate on building relationships. One of the best ways to break out of the happy hour habit is through alternative forms of networking.

Volunteering

Some of the strongest bonds you can form are with like-minded people. Volunteering for a non-profit organization will get you in touch with people who care about the same things you do. With your business experience, you may choose to sit on the board and use your strengths where they are needed. The added bonus is that there are a lot of other business people who are the board for non-profits. They donate their time to causes they care about, which will be something you have in common.

For Entrepreneurs

There are many community organizations for entrepreneurs. Usually, these are focused around specific areas and have criteria for getting admitted. Nothing too stringent, just rules in place that limit the types of businesses in the group. You can practice your elevator pitch and share some insight into owning your business.

Social Media

Build and reach out to your network through social media. This is a great venue to share information about your business or the industry. It’s also a good way to share any leads to people in your circle. Remember to keep your profiles up-to-date and regularly post interesting information to capture their attention.

Even when we volunteer, we need to open ourselves up to talk to strangers. Try not to be too shy and maybe you’ll have something in common. If so, focus on talking about those things, then branch out from there and talk about business. These are like-minded people, so just be yourself and enjoy your time together.

 

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