How to Kick the Jargon Habit

Do you know what annoys your prospects most about IT services providers? It’s your use of technical jargon instead of plain English. IT jargon can be detrimental to your marketing and client relations. In this article, we’ll give you some easy-to-implement tips on how to kick the jargon habit.

Changing your verbal habits could be the single-most effective move you make to step out in front of the competition and engage prospects and customers. When you can state your case about the benefits of choosing your managed services clearly, you will become the preferred provider for busy executives whose focus is not IT but what improved IT can do to boost their sales and profitability.

Just because it’s clear to you doesn’t mean it’s clear to them.

The problem with IT jargon is that final decision-makers at your target companies may not be tech-savvy. They don’t want to hear about legacy systems or transformation. They don’t really care how you plan to manage their IT functions from a technical standpoint. They want to know the best way to replace outdated equipment or systems with something that will allow them to run their business in a way that pleases customers, employees and their bottom line.

(On the other hand, their internal IT experts probably are interested to learn the intricacies of your managed services and fully capable of understanding it. Having a tech-focused conversation with the right “influencers” can bolster your case with decision-makers).

Become a Jargon Detective

Your goal is to sniff out unnecessary jargon or language that is not customer-friendly and replace it with normal language:

  • Make a pact with your co-workers to practice catching each other using overly complex tech speak or meaningless buzzwords. You’re among friends in this environment, not under pressure to impress a potential customer, so think of your colleagues as a jargon recovery support group.
  • Review your emails, website, blog, social media posts – all your text-based communications – looking for wording that should be replaced. Sometimes this will be obvious, once you start thinking in “jargon” terms, but there could easily be instances where you don’t recognize jargon for what it is because it’s so familiar to you. Ask someone who is not a tech pro to do their own review, identifying words and phrases that aren’t clear to them.
  • Have fun with it! Start each team meeting with a game – pick a common IT phrase or two and discuss how you could word it in plain English. Create your own list of “Top 10 Banned Buzzwords.”

Note That Sometimes Jargon is Better

There’s no reason to avoid tech speak when you’re talking to other tech-savvy individuals. You use common acronyms and slang as shorthand to save time. If you had to say managed services provider every time you needed the phrase rather than substituting MSP, your written and in-person communications would be wordier. More convoluted. Abbreviations can be helpful to everybody.

But only if everyone understands them. So be a hero—educate your target audience:

  • The first time you use an acronym, explain what it stands for.
  • Put a glossary at the end of blog articles, e-books, white papers, etc. and tell the reader up front where to find it, so they aren’t left hanging and confused.
  • Create a more detailed glossary as a page on your website – and offer it as downloadable premium content, so your audience can use it as a ready reference and share it with their people.

Choose Your Words Wisely

Not sure about the best words to use? “Ask” your marketing personas—your ideal clients and customers—by considering the following:

  • What makes them your “best”?
  • What are their industries, job titles, affiliations, traits that affect their buying decisions?
  • What are their most pressing problems – in their own words? What solutions are they seeking – in their own words?
  • Specifically how do your services help solve their problems?

Using keyword research tools and studying your website’s analytics will also help you uncover the words your prospects are using. These are the words you want to use too—for marketing and for everyday conversation.

Remember: jargon rarely makes you seem knowledgeable or cool or one of the “insiders,” but using too much of it can easily make you appear lazy, arrogant or unsure of yourself. You don’t have to go cold turkey, simply make an effort to be more aware of the language you use, and when. It’s easy to identify the most egregious jargon, so start there. And if you need a role model, consider emulating Steve Jobs, who was well-known for avoiding IT speak in favor of good ol’ plain English.


How else can you drive higher marketing ROI?