Last night, I attended DEMO out in Boulder. If you’re new to the concept (as I was), it’s a gathering of companies launching new product, from alpha phase to pre-launch, looking for a platform to get their ideas in front of the audiences that mean the most: media, venture and angel dollars and buyers. It was a room filled with technology fueled by fleece, and when the pitches began, the ear-piercing words started flying through the air:
Shut. The Fuck. Up. Already.
You and your buzzwords. They’re meaningless. They’re the uncooked spaghetti of marketing-speak: you throw them out there and they don’t stick, they just fall to the floor with a pathetic splat. And it’s because they no longer have meaning.
I’m going to go ahead and add a few more buzzwords to the list: overarching, useful and game-changing.
Here’s an idea: if you’re going to tell me about your product or service, tell me how it solves my problems. I don’t care HOW it does it. I want the hook. The reason I’d push over a pregnant woman standing in line in front of me to be the first one to taste what you’re cooking. I could give three fine frog hairs if it’s an innovative software that integrates my content to provide an overarching, game-changing perspective. What I DO care about is that:
- it makes my reporting easier.
- it makes me look like a muthafuckin’ GENIUS, like Wyle E. Coyote style, in front of my clients.
- it saves me time.
- it doesn’t make me want to strangle someone during the learning curve.
- it makes what I’ve been doing look like a pee wee football league in comparison to the Super Bowl.
Why do we even bother with buzzwords? Do they make us feel smart? If anything, they make us look pretty dumb for using the same nonsensical speech as everyone else. To make yourself stand out from the crowd, why not do yourself a solid and actually talk about solving problems instead of playing a zero-sum game of monkey see, monkey do?
I’m never afraid to be the asshole. My gig as a writer is words. Which is why when companies and potential clients inevitably ask me what I do, it’s easy:
I keep you from looking like an asshole online.
I used to have this big long and drawn out explanation about how I’m an integrated (UGH) marketing strategist (stab me now) and I help companies strategically (seriously?) combine their online and traditional efforts for a cohesive brand message. Then someone said to me:
I have no idea what you just said.
So I blurted out the asshole prevention line above. And he said, “Great. That’s what we need.”
So think about it – what words can you dismiss from your vocabulary TODAY? And if you’re a startup, how can you refine your product and service messaging so that people from nurses to neanderthals get what you do inside of 15 seconds?
It’s a common courtesy – don’t waste people’s time with buzzwords and jargon-laden phrasing that makes me want to stab you with a very relevant and game-changing fork. The only thing that’s game changing is a disruption – so talk about how you’re delightfully disruptive. Get in there and rattle some cages by being respectful of your audience. Consumers and investors are lazy – embrace that. They don’t want to figure out what it is that you do. Just say it. Show it. The end.
PS: special thanks to @Merredith for listening to this rant of mine last night. And I was also delighted to see one of the participants from Startup Weekend Denver (which I spoke at on opening night) score a slot in the DEMO spotlight last night. He built a company concept in 52 hours. And some folks think conferences are a waste of time…pshaw.
PPS: thanks to Neal Silverman and Matt Marshall who both, at the collective verge of falling into a sleep-deprived trance, listened to my feelings on appropriate use of the f-bomb in business. Matt even said it was “fucking nice to meet me.” Awwyeah. Great event, and it was great to make your acquaintances.