We work in B2B marketing which means we deal with technical words every day. Many copywriters claim that the best way to write is with simple language, and while copy should be as simple as possible to read, there’s no escaping technical jargon when writing for tech brands.
That turns out to be a good thing. For a lot of those companies, it’s not just difficult to talk about what you do without using technical terms, it’s actually disadvantageous.
One of the reasons is that technical language helps to manage complex topics. Dropping a reference to “software subsystem” or “System-on-Chip” in the right place quickly conveys a complex concept that would take multiple paragraphs to explain with simpler words. These terms are incredibly efficient.
Secondly, jargon helps us to learn. For many B2B brands, educating buyers is a core part of the marketing communications. Technical terms package up concepts that are identifiable in other work, allowing buyers to easily fact-check your content. Established jargon provides a shared lexicon.
Here’s a recent example of a situation that would have benefited from a bit of jargon. Louis Grenier runs a fantastic podcast called Everyone Hates Marketers, and in every episode he asks his guest how they’d create a new business. This is what Seth Godin said when Louis asked about promoting his fictional new venture.
If you think about how you heard about Facebook or Twitter, you didn’t hear about it from advertising. You heard about it from people who benefited if you started using it too. If you can start creating cycles, where it’s in their interest, not because you’re bribing them, but in their interest to tell other people, they will.
Here’s an example. When I published this book, I put it in a milk carton. Only 5,000 people got it at the beginning and I made no money, zero. I broke even. But if you got this and you read it, you decided that your job will be better if other people you work with understood what you were talking about. People put this on their desk because if it’s on your desk, someone comes in and says, “What’s that?” And you have a conversation about it.
You didn’t say you wanted scale when you gave me this assignment but if you want scale, you got to pick a solution that works better if my friends are doing it too.
The phenomena Seth is talking about here is network effects. It’s a well-studied concept where the size of the product’s user base grows because users benefit by promoting the product to the people they know. Apart from modern examples like social networks, this is how the public telephone system grew.
Now, if you hear this podcast episode and want to know more about what Seth’s talking about, where would you start? You’ve no obvious search term. Explaining the network effect concept with plain language even makes it sound like a trivial business model. But literally thousands of articles have been written about how network effects are used in business and economics. There’s a whole body of work out there but without using the established term you wouldn’t know it.
Judicious use of technical jargon and buzzwords will always have a place in copy that aims to teach. The trick for copywriters is getting the mixture just right.