Quick fix for technology marketing: lose the acronyms

Posted: March 2, 2012 in content creation, marketing, websites
Tags: , , ,
Empty Chair At Desk In Cubicle

Patrick May’s take on techie-speak yesterday was yet another reminder of language getting in the way of clear speaking and thinking.  The concept of “TLA” the initials for three-letter acronyms, is a long-standing techie tradition.  TLAs are used in marketing techno-speak the way Howard Cosell used to throw around multisyllabic words and ornate phrases.

But there was method to Cosell’s legendary loquaciousness (go ahead, look it up).   He was trying, and succeeding, to differentiate his brand of sportscasting from the drab uniformity of jock-speak and coach-isms.

It’s just the opposite in Silicon Valley, where so many techno-marketeers want their palaver to be consistent with what they hear in the echo chambers of their cubicles and conference rooms.  Too often, what we end up with is incomprehensible, convoluted drivel that’s counterproductive to the key process of successful marketing, namely, communication.

We have two antidotes to the brain-suffocation caused by terminal TLA.

1. Speak and write your main thoughts in plain English, a language honed over the centuries to communicate with vivid expression.  If you must use three-letter acronyms be certain that the concepts behind the words can be understood by a reasonably intelligent 12-year-old.  Think we’re overstating it?  Peter Lynch, peerless investor in the Warren Buffett league, used to say he never bought a stock whose business he couldn’t explain to his seventh-grade son — an engaging and intelligent lad, but not a child prodigy.

2. Spend less time in your cubicle and more time out in the marketplace talking to the people who buy and use your products.  Get them to describe how your offerings are making their business lives simpler, more productive, more satisfying.  How do they express themselves?

In the words of Hal Gregersen, professor of leadership at INSEAD, the solution is to leave the cocoon of an office: “Observe the people using your products and services. Pay attention. Second, network with people who don’t look, think, act, or dress like you”.  The latter may not always be easy to do in the homogenized Valley.  But where there’s a will there’s a way. Or,”T.A.W.” as some might put it.

(This post appeared today on The Write Stuff, the blog of the technology writing service Write Angle.)

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