Posted tagged ‘jargon’

Complexity to Clarity: Translating geek and other business languages

March 27, 2008

This morning, I facilitated a discussion among technology marketers on the growing problem of language dichotomy. Specifically it was the problem of an overwhelming culture of geek speak and how it bleeds in to the marketing side of things.

Now, the problem of the genius manager who can’t seem to speak in anything under 10 paragraphs, isn’t new. But what does seem to be new is that it’s spreading beyond just tech speak. Jargon, or verbal shorthand for those in the know, is growing everywhere, and in many non-technology sectors.

I’m convinced it’s because of the growth in complexity of modern business: As business management becomes increasingly more process oriented, it becomes increasingly more complex. But at the same time the demand for simple communication — among customers, employees and other stakeholders — has never been higher.

There’s so much information washing around out there now, that people can’t process it all. And this amplifies when the information is difficult and time consuming to process. We’re in the age where information moves at light speed so as to convert to knowledge, and if you can’t convey something simply and quickly, no one listens further. There are just too many alternatives that can be added to their knowledge base.

So, we’re talking about an information flow problem, which seems to be most egregious in the technology space. This is probably because too much emphasis in IT is put on the T (technology) and not enough on the I (information) part.

What came out of our discussion was a recognized need to return to the basics of communication. This can be summed up in a few points.

  • It’s not about the technology, it’s about the business. This can be expanded to mean it’s not about the product or service but about what the product or service does for the buyer. That’s all he or she cares about, and so that’s the information that should be delivered.
  • Know thy customer. Or, in other terms, separate the information receiver into needs segments. Sounds pretty basic, but many business processes don’t think in these terms. They think in terms of what they do, not what they can do for someone.
  • Be extremely clear about the benefit or threat (if ignored). This is an old sales technique, and is also the basis of the oldest information delivery system around — the news industry. It means you have to put your product or service into terms that are understandable emotionally — it helps because of this (i.e. saves time, saves money, or something else), or avoids a threat that might hurt you (i.e. less revenue, higher costs).
  • Know yourself. There’s usually miscommunication in business because the information deliverer doesn’t really understand what its own business is, and so can’t convey that to the receiver. Use the W6 process I posted on previously to determine who you are, what you do, and who you do it for.
  • Simplify, simplify, simplify. As a marketer, you have to act as the bridge between the geniuses in the labs who created the product or service, and the not-so-genius people who are going use it. The only way to do this is to put it into simple, understandable terms. Strip away all the add-ons and subtleties and say it in a few short words. Then put them back in when the prospect asks questions.
  • Consider the differing intelligences. Intelligence is how you process information, and most information deliverers, i.e. the CEO or CTO, often have linear intelligences…. they think logically. But there are 7 different intelligence types and it’s a good bet that most receivers are of the six that are not linear. So it’s like someone sending out a signal on one radio channel while the radios are tuned to other channels. It’s just not going to register.
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B-to-B Content: Provide, don’t pitch

February 13, 2008

Looks like some B-to-B marketers may have lost touch with their customers regarding what kind of content works best for lead generation.

A survey of marketers and content users distributed by MarketingSherpa shows that many marketers picked case studies as the most attractive content.

But nearly as many content users also cited  as most interesting industry research, how-to guides and top-10 lists for improving their business.

“Some B-to-B marketers focused on generating leads don’t fully realize the impact of content when it comes to engaging their audience and reinforcing their marketing message,” says Matt Lohman, Director, Business Development, KnowledgeStorm Inc., which conducted the study.

“The quality of the leads has everything to do with how the message, positioning and format of the content resonates with their target audience, in addition to when and where marketers engage them.”

Obviously, the most attractive content provides lessons and information that can be used. Case studies present a useful problem-solution format to customers, and are extremely attractive if presented in story form. People like a good story that they can learn from — it’s been a dominant format since Aesop began educating people through his fables.

But the operative word for case studies and all other content is form. While everyone loves a story, most people don’t like sales pitches. And too many case studies are simply bad sales pitches hidden in data or technical jargon. Mostly, they extol the features of some particular product or service but impart few lessons that receivers can apply to their own situations.

So, let’s say it one more time: Content should not be data or simple information. It should provide knowledge that can be used in learning.

Maybe that’s why end-users (a technical term, by the way, as if content was just another piece of software) are out of sinc with the marketers.

B2B Marketing: Venturing Beyond the Trade Press

January 7, 2008

Most marketers for technology vendors and other B2B operations are quite familiar with the trade press that covers their industry. Most are also quite successful at placing their messages in these specific media outlets.

But almost all are also under pressure from senior management CEOs to get their product or service written up in the broader business press.

It’s the get me in USA Today/New York Times/Entrepreneur magazine/local business magazine/television syndrome.

So off goes our marketer, trying to apply consumer marketing to the business to business sphere. And usually failing miserably.

This doesn’t work because these kind of demands are just as often aimed at boosting egos, or impressing colleagues as they are at accomplishing marketing objectives.

There may be some peripheral marketing kick in including a story in the straight press in your press kit. But it’s often not worth the time and effort.

So here’s some ammo for the next time your client/CEO/Marketing VP muses about getting some straight press coverage.

1. Our product or service is too boring. You may have a great service or product that’s registering with your target business market, but that doesn’t mean the straight business press will be interested. Because it sells advertising, the straight press is usually consumer oriented. So it tends to cover business from a consumer point of view, which means excitement (and yes, that often is shallow). Don’t forget, there’s a lot of competition for space so a reporter has to sell the story up the line, usually to people who don’t know anything about business. And B2B is rarely exciting.

2. We don’t have what they want. The straight press invariably looks for articles containing one or more of the standard news values — novelty, celebrity, harm or threat, trendiness, tragedy or triumph. You probably don’t want to be involved in a story that’s tragic, probably aren’t very trendy, aren’t that unique, and don’t have an army of paparazzi chronicling your every move. So what do you have that they want?

3. We’re too complicated. This can be a problem with your own customers, who are supposed to know what you’re talking about. What do you think is going to happen if you drone on for 10 minutes to a straight press reporter about how your product or service works. Eyes Glaze Over time. If they can’t understand it instantly, they don’t want to know.

4. We’re making them work too hard. Business reporters, like most straight press writers, are very, very busy trying to juggle multiple demands. They have quotas (mental, if not actual), and if you want to be noticed, you better hand them the story on a plate — meaning you’ve lined up everything for them. If you make them work too hard, they’ll give it a pass and find something easier. Web 2.0 press releases, which include links to all articles about you, your web site, clients who will speak for you, independent analysts/consultants, and any other information about you, can help considerably with this.

5. We’re no different than the last 10 companies that talked to them. Every CEO thinks his or her business is unique. It may be, but it’s unlikely. The truth is, almost all of them are some variation on a common theme. Since most reporters have heard all these stories before, they tend to dismiss them unless it’s immediately obvious that there is something different.

6. We can’t explain ourselves very well. What works for B2B customers or clients probably won’t for the straight press. If your description of yourself is full of jargon, cliches, and insider language (“paradigm shift”, “outcome-based processes”, “software architecture”, etc. etc. ) you’re going to 1. make them feel very stupid and 2. really piss them off. Result: dismissal.