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Words Matter: Why Founders and Entrepreneurs Should Banish the Buzzwords

Here’s a ‘disruptive’ thought: Drop the jargon. Whether you’re presenting to investors or updating your LinkedIn profile, choose words that are clear. Your audience will appreciate it.

The lifecycle of a buzzword

Don’t get us wrong, we understand the draw: Buzzwords show you belong to the club or the ‘ecosystem.’ They can often convey a complex concept in one or two words. While this may be convenient, a problem arises if everyone you know is also using them. The party has likely moved on and you’re still dancing The Macarena. It is time to do some heavy-lifting and start using words that not only convey – but also define – a complex concept.

Take the word disruptive. The cotton gin, electricity, indoor plumbing, sliced bread, the Internet — these were disruptive because they radically changed an industry or consumer behavior. They went up, right and sideways when everyone else was going left. Yet, in recent years, companies of all kinds have used the word disruptive to describe their purpose or product. The usage of this word has become so overplayed that if an idea, company or product is not radical, it is not considered viable. Elon Musk isn’t a ‘fan of disruption,’ he’s a ‘fan of making things better.’  Dropping buzzwords makes conversations better.

A better communication strategy

Take a look at a few buzzwords: enterprise, platform, hack , pivot. We’ve all used them, but these words can have a negative impact on your communication skills. Ditching these words can challenge you to think more carefully about the message you are delivering to your audience.

Our recommendation is that we all go back to basics and ask “who, what, where, how and why” when we’re communicating. Asking these can help define your product, go-to-market strategy, growth strategy, sales goals, etc. without using buzzwords. They make you dig deep and add substance to your thoughts and communication.

Take the word scale. Many assume you can rely on this term to say you plan to grow. But just using it neglects to offer real details about how you will grow. If you’re making widgets, of course you want to sell more than one widget. Simply saying that you can scale to sell three or four isn’t a strategy. Make your case with precise metrics and milestones that add substance to your story. Ask yourself and your team simple questions: Who are our customers? What problem does our widget solve for them? Where is the market opportunity two, five or 10 years from now? How will we penetrate the paying customer base if we are in a saturated marketplace of competitive widgets? Why is OUR team the team that will be able to sell widgets in a changing market two, five or 10 years from now?

You often get only one shot in front of your audience. Don’t risk losing your next client or investor over a buzzword. Odds are they won’t tell you directly. They just won’t buy. 

The information in this article is presented as-is.

©2017 First Republic Bank

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