The words you choose to use to describe your business are just as important as the product or service you are providing. Words shape people’s perception of who you are and what you do, but more importantly the words you use tell your audience what you think of them. The last thing you want to do is marginalise sectors of your audience by using language that they don’t understand or can’t relate to.
In order to use the right language for your particular audience, you need to know what the right language is. It is easy to get sucked into the trap of using cultural language from within your business in your marketing; in other words, making the assumption that your audience has the same understanding of the language and jargon that everyone in the bubble of your own industry is used to.
Of course, if you have a niche product or service, there will be specific language that you will have to use. In niche areas, it is important that you show your market that you are on the same wavelength as them, that you understand what is important, and that you have the product or service to solve their problem. By using the correct words or terms in your script writing you are telling your audience that you know what you are talking about.
When you are targeting the general public however, the unfortunate reality is that you need to keep your language simple, so that it is accessible to the widest possible audience. Research has suggested that words of anglo-saxon origin are most easily understood. Words of latin origin, which are more commonly used in written language, are less universal in terms of level of understanding across the board.
One of the easiest ways for you to gauge the language you should be using to target your potential customers, is to look at the language that they use to describe their own challenges or problems. Look to your market research and your comments and complaints records. Find ways to speak to your potential customers not only to gather handy ideas about the language they are using, but to gain a good understanding of what their problems or goals are – the ones that you are planning to solve for them.
This work is worth the effort because people are far more likely to buy into your brand, product or service if they feel that you understand them and respect them. The alternative is to use language that is loaded with negative connotations for a majority of people. Michael Fishman highlights words like ‘learn’, ‘lecture’ and ‘teach’ as massive turn offs for a large proportion of the population. Most people will have some negative experience associated with words like these. Jargon has a similar effect and sends subconscious messages; “this product isn’t for you”, “you aren’t good enough for this product” and similar.
It is important to ensure that your marketing makes your audience feel understood – not stupid because they don’t understand what you are saying to them. There are two layers of consideration to give to your choice of words. Firstly, there is basic comprehension i.e. you need to choose words that lots of people will understand straight away. The second layer is that of interpretation; you need to be aware of the possible different interpretations of words in your scripts, headlines and other content.
It is rare that you will see skilled marketers addressing their customers problems directly in their marketing campaigns. Rather, the problem will be spun into a positive e.g. a positive outcome of using their product. This will hint at an understanding of the customers underlying challenge or problem which is enough for an audience to appreciate that you have an understanding.