Do Your Customers Know What the Heck You’re Talking About?

blobThink about how many times you’ve been inundated with jargon and had no idea what the other person was talking about. A techie, your mechanic, your financial advisor – it is way too common a practice to try and kill our prospects with our intelligence. You don’t like feeling stupid, and neither do your customers. So why is it that so many business people try to make themselves feel smart by tossing around words that really don’t do their customers any good?


A paradigm shift is necessary to leverage the strategic ubiquity for those asynchronous decentralized procedures which are quickly becoming an industry standard using VoIP.

Now ladies and gentlemen, is that sentence helpful at all? The fact that I strung together a bunch of words and created my own version of a nonsense verse would be obvious, if we hadn’t heard something eerily similar from the halls of corporate life.

Guilty As Charged

Working in the Web and software world for so long, I have to say I’ve been guilty of this myself. But I learned early on, that you come across as more articulate and smart if you are able to explain what you are offering in a simple, straight-forward way – without all the jargon. You also end up with more accounts and sales. As many of you may know, it’s actually much harder to describe certain things in layman’s terms. I’ve seen mechanics who could explain a rack-and-pinion system to someone who thought it was rack-and-peanut steering. I’ve met investment advisors who could explain the short-sell in such simple terms, that it would make Gordon Gekko cringe. And not to toot my own horn, but I always found my refacing cabinets analogy for new software interfaces to be very easy to understand.

What You Do – Plain and Simple

The ultimate goal is to help your customers and prospects understand what you can do for them – plain and simple. If I can’t decipher the words you’re throwing at me, I have no hope of understanding how what you’re providing is of any value. And you have no hope of walking away with my business. Think back to a time when someone made you feel really smart by explaining something you didn’t understand in terms that made sense. Is that someone you would like to do business with? Then think of the “Customer Support” person that made you feel like an idiot as they “explained” what your problem was (not their problem, your problem). Chances are, you are no longer doing business with that company or they’ve got you no matter what – they’re a monopoly, utility company, or you’re related.

So What Can You Do?

  • Start by understanding your customers. The better you understand them, the easier it will be to tailor your message to meet their needs.
  • Don’t just assume that all of your customers understand what you take for granted. For example – there are still many people who don’t know what a blog is. So before you can sell them on the benefits of blogging, you have to help them to understand what a blog is.
  • Explain your business in 10 words or less, then ask someone who doesn’t know your business to listen to the 10 word summary and explain back to you in more detail what it is they think you do.
  • Go through some of your marketing and support copy and cross out any words that seem “buzzwordy” or “jargony.” If you end up with a mostly marked up document, its time to re-think how you communicate.
  • Ask your kids to tell you what they think you do for a living. Then ask your Mom or Grandma. “Computer Guy” or “Business Woman” are not very descriptive. See if you can explain it to them so that they get it.
  • And finally, ask your customers to tell you what you do – in their own words. You may be amazed at what they say.

Communication is crucial to the success of a home-based business. Being able to clearly explain what you do will ensure that your customers can also explain it. Make it easy for your customers to refer business to you by talking like a human, not like some corporate drone. You can’t get much word-of-mouth business if the words coming out of your mouth make no sense.

About today’s cartoon – The cartoon illustrating today’s post is part of Chewing Pencils Group Drawing Project. In a wonderful instance of kismet, I got the idea for the cartoon as I was thinking of an illustration for this post. I think it captures today’s theme well, while fitting nicely into the topic of the Group Drawing Project – a Christmas themed blog cartoon.


  1. Imagine my surprise when I read this article, thinking how much it made sense to me and then finding a link back in there !

    BTW – your post is wwwwaaaaayyyyy better than my simple lil tip.

    Thanks for the link love.

  2. Thanks Mike. A lot of folks don’t take the time to really understand who their customers are, and the tips you provided can help get the gears a turning on how to start.

    As small business owners, we are first and foremost in sales. By better understanding who we are selling to, we can be better prepared create that all important connection.

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