In Defence of Gobbledygook: The Language of B2B Content Marketing
Avoiding the use of technical jargon in your content marketing may seem like common sense. But could it actually help you connect with customers?
Published: 22 Sep 2014
5 minutes read
Marketing strategist, best-selling author and HubSpot advisor David Meerman Scott is renowned as a content marketing thought leader - and deservedly so. His session at Inbound 2014, The New Rules of Selling, offered a compelling argument for why the traditional sales models are no longer fit for purpose.
He's also a harsh critic of "gobbledygook" and jargon in marketing content, believing that the use of plain, everyday language will always forge a stronger link between company and customer. But is this necessarily the right approach in B2B content marketing? What about in the technology sector, where terms that other people might deem 'jargon' are widely understood? Perhaps the issue is more complex than it may seem…
Back in 2006, Scott published his Gobbledygook Manifesto. He took marketers and PR people to task for favouring "meaningless" and "overused" words that buyers do not connect with. He observed that "the worst gobbledygook offenders seem to be B2B technology companies" and bemoaned the continued presence of words like 'flexible', 'scalable' and 'industry standard' in their marketing materials.
Unsurprisingly, Scott urged B2B marketers to avoid including words like this in their content - and his reasons for doing so were sound. He explained that many tech marketers resort to this language because they don't understand what their customers want, or how their products solve customer problems. As a result, they're forced to focus on the features of the product and end up disguising their lack of knowledge with words that sound "vaguely impressive".
Scott advised marketers to start with the buyers, not the product. That means understanding your target audience (creating buyer personas), identifying their problems and then demonstrating how your product or serve can solve those problems - in plain and accessible language. All good advice, no doubt - and central tenets of the inbound methodology.
What language do your customers use?
There's just one problem - what if your customers actually use gobbledygook? What if they spend time talking about "best-of-breed" technology with their peers, and search the web for "scalable solutions". If your customers are in the B2B technology market, it's quite likely that they do.
Scott's contention is that many 'gobbledygook' phrases were created by ineffective product marketers, and bear little relation to how actual customers define their problems. However, the reality - in B2B technology at least - is that many of these terms have permeated the fabric of the sector. They're widely used and understood, and new ones are being created all the time.
Avoiding such words completely could actually mean that your content does not engage prospective customers. Worse still, it could mean that you're never even found online by prospective customers - if they're actively searching for these terms, the search results won't lead them to your content.
All this underlines the importance of good personas for effective content marketing. You need to know as much as possible about the words your persona uses, the language of their favourite publications and the terms they search Google for. Yes, your personas really do need to be that detailed!
Finally, consider how your persona's business goals and personal ambitions will determine the language they respond to and engage with. For example, perhaps your persona heads up a small but expanding organisation, and needs to ensure any IT product they purchase has the capacity to handle future growth. Isn't this persona likely to see the value in technology described as a 'scalable' solution?
In B2B content marketing for technology, it's dangerous to dismiss such words as gobbledygook - they could actually be powerful tools for drawing prospects in.