Earlier this year, a study from Ohio State University revealed that using jargon had two disastrous effects:
- It made people less interested in a topic
- It made them see the source as less trustworthy
For brands, this has big implications. You want your audience to read your marketing copy and be interested in what you have to say and to trust your expertise. And in order to do that, you may need to change the way you talk to people as a brand.
Writers and marketers are told things like “be concise” or “simplify this” all the time. It’s marketing 101 stuff. But what that actually means is ironically a little unclear.
Here’s what it actually means to be concise and make things simple.
1. Avoid jargon whenever possible
“OK, now explain it to me like I’m five.”
Imagine that your audience knows a lot less about your subject than you do.
Your audience may be experiencing a problem you can help them solve, but if they don’t recognize it from how you describe your solution, you just lost a lead. That’s the cost of using jargon. You might think, “this is really common terminology within our industry,” but unless your target audience is already familiar with your industry, this insider language signals one of two things to them:
- Your solution is too advanced for them.
- Your solution isn’t for them at all.
Every time you let jargon and insider language slip into your marketing without an explanation, it narrows your audience.
2. Treat sentences like building blocks, not buildings
When we try to explain the things we know most intimately, our knowledge often gets in the way of our ability to be clear. We hedge our words, use insider language, add clauses, and lengthen sentences. We’re so familiar with the problems we solve, and we want to show it by cramming all the expertise we can into our copy.
And all of a sudden your audience feels like you just said nothing at all.
The more familiar you are with something, the harder it is to empathize with someone who doesn’t understand it. If you can’t cut any more words, ask yourself at the end of every sentence “What does that mean?” or “Why do people care about that?” or “What does someone need to know to understand this?”
It might feel strange, but this string of simple questions helps you treat your sentences like building blocks that work together, instead of trying to turn a single, complicated sentence into a skyscraper.
Once you’ve broken everything down to its simplest form, it’s time to look at which of those building blocks actually need to stay there.
3. “Be concise” doesn’t just mean “use fewer words”
The hardest part about simplifying your message is figuring out what doesn’t need to be there. It’s not just about shortening sentences. If you want your message to be as simple as possible, you’re probably going to find a lot of sentences that don’t need to be there at all.
Having trouble making things simple? Give each marketing piece one job.
Your marketing pieces are like a relay team, passing your leads from one piece to the next until they cross the finish line. Don’t force one blog post, email, or video to run the entire race. When you let each piece focus on one aspect of a topic or one marketing angle, it streamlines your content and helps your audience focus on your message (because there’s only one message).
Keep it simple
Simplifying your marketing message helps you capture and keep more leads. Pulling it off isn’t easy, but it helps if you think about each component of your message. You want:
- Basic words
- Simple sentences
- Clear structure
It doesn’t matter if it’s an email, a landing page, a blog post, or an ad. There are always opportunities to be more concise.