(Treat your Customers Like Kids: Part 2). Keep it Simple.
Running a business is much like being a parent, except instead of kids you have customers. You want them to be happy, you hate it when they’re not. You spend your waking hours thinking of the things you can do to see them smile and go out of your way to do things that you would have once thought crazy. Any parent or pastry chef who’s found themselves slicing blueberries will relate to this. And of course, you know they’re special. Whether you’re talking about your kids or your customers, you know they have that special something that makes them just that little bit better than your competition’s customers (or the kids next door).
Your customers are a smart bunch (they use your product or service, so of course they are), and they don’t take kindly to being spoken down to. They understand your product and your industry, and you’ve had lengthy conversations with some of them about the particulars of your business and how well they understand it.
So it stands to reason that when you write things for them to read, you know they’ll understand exactly what you’re writing about. No need for you to dumb things down for them.
Well not exactly.
Yes, they are a clever bunch, but they’re not professionals working in your business. They’re professionals working in some other business. They may be gardeners, accountants, full-time parents or judges. They might write novels in their spare time or build furniture in their garden shed, but they don’t do what you do. This after all is why they are your customers. They value your skills, your knowledge and your ability to do your magic in a way that they cannot.
So it stands to reason that you need to adapt the way you “talk” to your audience so they understand you and your business more easily.
Idioms, Jargon and the Curse of Knowledge*
Even as a parent, talking simply takes practice. English idioms are puzzling for anyone learning the language – small children included. Have you ever told a toddler to “hold their horses”? (Result – a puzzled look followed by tears at the lack of equine-based toys in the room). Or asked a five-year old keep their eyes peeled? (Result – utter confusion for both parent and child with a lengthy explanation of what you actually meant).
And so it is with writing for your customers. You need to take the time to recognise the “idioms” and jargon thrown about in your industry, those that the layperson may not understand. Unusual three letter acronyms and industry-specific words will baffle even the most earnest of customers. And those who don’t have the time or patience to read your words will head off to someone else they do understand.
But as the expert in your field you are cursed with knowledge. How can you tell which terms are difficult to understand? How do you know when too much is too much?
4 Ways to Remove Jargon from your Writing
- Get some help! A close friend, your partner, your brother. Ask them to take a look through what you’ve written and get them to highlight the stuff they find confusing. Try not to get defensive (easier said than done – trust me, I know!), and then have a go at adjusting what you’ve written to be more accessible.
- Get a glossary. There are some words and phrases you can’t avoid. In this case, help your customers out by providing a simple glossary. This will not only help your customers understand your business more easily, it will also show them that you care whether or not they understand,
- Check out the competition. Are there other players in your field who write in a very clear way? Who is successful, and how do they write? And take a look at companies in industries that have nothing to do with you. Retailers such as Halfords and B&Q do a brilliant job of making potentially complex subjects very accessible. There are other companies who do a very bad job. You don’t need to be an expert to see who’s doing it well. Take a look, take notes, then apply to your own business.
- Pay a professional. If the curse of knowledge is proving too much for you, work with a quality copywriter to tease out the jargon and smooth out your writing. A good copywriter will adapt your materials so they are easily understood by your target audience, whilst ensuring the specifics of your industry remain intact and aren’t lost. Get in touch with me to discuss your copywriting project, if this sounds like a good option for you.
Reap the Rewards with Simple Writing
And there are real benefits to keeping things simple. Just as us parents eventually reap the rewards of our kids actually listening to us (occasionally); your biz will benefit when you cut out the complex jargon and start taking things more simply. Imagine spending less time explaining things to your customers (leaving you more time to do other things)? Or better performance for your website on search engines? Writing the way your customers think will pay dividends in that old SEO** chestnut – relevance. And of course, you’ll find your appeal broadens as you appear more accessible; and broader appeal means more potential customers. Who doesn’t like the sound of that?
As a business owner, you’ll naturally care for your your customers in the same way you’d care for your children. Simplify things so they have the best chance of learning and understanding.
And for you? Simplify things so you have the best chance of being heard.
*I’d like to think this could be a title in the “Harry Potter does Copywriting” series of books.
**SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation; writing and building your website in a way which helps search engines find it more easily.