You might remember how much we love the idea of honesty in marketing. At The Profitable Firm, our approach has always been to keep the explanations short and to the point – and to give you real, practical advice on how to improve the marketing of your accountancy practice.
But if you take a look around at some accountants’ websites, there’s still an over-reliance on some very clichéd buzzwords – not to mention the use of jargon, abbreviations and acronyms that probably mean very little to most small business clients.
So, is it time to ditch the buzzwords and start talking plain English?
You bet it is!
Be original, not clichéd
We’ve all met the people that spout it, but very few of us have actually understood a word they’re talking about. Do we need ‘blue-sky thinking’ when we could just ‘do something different’? Do we need to ‘go for the low-hanging fruit’ when we could just ‘take the easy option’?
Here are just a few of the buzzwords and phrases we’ve seen coming up on accountant’s websites…
- There’s no silver bullet
- Using a hammer to crack a nut
- The perfect storm
- Leveraging our expertise
- Forward-thinking practice
- Cloud accountant
- Thinking outside the box
- We’re different
- Delivering end-to-end business value
- A burning platform
- Business value
Recognise any of those from your own site? Then read on…
The problem is not so much one of language, but one of originality.
When the first CEO stood in front of their gathered management team and asked those executives for some real blue-sky thinking, he/she was pulling a metaphor out of the air to add colour and context to their explanation (and personality, colour and unique thinking are vital to good, engaging language and content, after all).
But the problem comes when that group of execs hurriedly write down the term ‘blue-sky thinking’ in their notebooks and start repeating it out of context…
At every subsequent business meeting these execs repeat the term:
- Gradually, the originality of the phrase disappears
- The weight of the imagery is stripped away
- The power of the metaphor is lessened
And, eventually, what you’re left with is a bit of business-speak – something that people say to look clever, but which is entirely
And that’s the key reason why a straightforward, plain English approach works so well. It removes the unnecessary floweriness and gives you the core facts of the matter.
Be exciting, not predictable
So, if we have to say everything in plain English, won’t we end up dumbing down? Won’t we all just end up sounding the same?
Well, in fact, no.
The aim here is not to write dull, anodyne content. And by using clear, concise language, you can actually explain very complex topics in a much more effective way.
Research by Daniel M Oppenheimer, back in 2005, found that people regarded simple, well-written content far more highly than overly wordy, jargon-filled content. In fact, they believed the author of the simply written text was far more intelligent than the author of the overly wordy text (even though both were written by Oppenheimer himself).
Interesting, eh? It’s seems counter-intuitive that simplicity can display intelligence, but keeping things simple actually take a whole lot of skill.
There’s a quote that’s (possibly wrongly) attributed to Albert Einstein – but the truth of the quote still holds strong:
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
It takes intelligence, skill and knowledge to write a simple explanation of a very complicated topic.
And that’s exactly what you should be doing when writing about complex topics like tax, pensions and accounting compliance. After, you’re the expert, so you should know how to explain the really important points, no?
Top five ways to keep it simple
So, how do you do it?
How do you resist the urge to blather on for hours in business jargon?
Here are our top five tips for keeping it simple:
- Understand your topic – it may seem obvious, but make sure you actually know what you’re talking about. People can spot a bluffer a mile off.
- Pull out the key message – if you truly understand your topic, it’s relatively simple to pull out the key points. Find the killer message or issue you need to get across to your clients.
- Focus on what’s relevant to your audience – think about how this issue will affect your clients. What’s the impact for them and how can you help?
- Use simple, straightforward language – don’t use every acronym you know. Use language that explains the issue directly, clearly and without fluff.
- But use simplicity in interesting ways – the words can be simple, but the ideas have to be innovative and exciting. Remember, you can explain complex ideas in very simple ways.
If you’d like a little more help on keeping your content simple, drop us a line. We’d love to talk more about the power of simplicity.