Write Like Your Customers Talk

I was watching a baseball game with some friends. As the batter advanced to the plate I mentioned, “Watch this guy. He’s got a .480 OBP against southpaws. And the guy on the mound has a pitiful ERA of 8.6 against right-handed pull hitters. I got nothing but blank stares. For a moment I forgot my friends were from Ireland and knew about as much baseball as I did soccer. I forgot one of the cardinal rules of communication.

Know Your Audience

Use the words your audience uses in the way they use them. When talking to computer programmers, it’s OK to use their lingo. But if you’re trying to sell the exact same product to general business owners, avoid specialized tech terms as much as you can. When coming across unfamiliar words or terms, most readers stumble. If they stumble over words more than once or maybe twice, studies have shown that they simply decide to move on.

Take this headline from a real advertisement, “I’m impressed — Shell’s Caprinus® R Oil 40 keeps my EMD’s in better condition than any other oil I’ve used in 20 years.” Normally I would question the use of the term “EMD”. But…this ad appears in a trade publication and targets marine engineers who work with large diesel engines. EMD is a well-known brand in that industry. Speak their language and you’ll grab their interest.

Don’t Be Misunderstood

As copywriters we, first and foremost, must be understood. In fact, let’s take that a step further. President William H Taft had the mind of a copywriter when he said, “ Don’t write so that you can be understood; write so that you can’t be misunderstood.” The difference seems small but it is hugely critical.

The renowned David Ogilvy said of copywriters, “Our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon.”

Here’s a hint. If you are writing to a non-specific, diverse audience of readers, play it safe. Stay with familiar words and phrases that are universally understood.

Many business owners need help in crafting their marketing, advertising, online web copywriting and content, press releases and the like. I encourage you to find a good brand strategy consultant or professional copywriting service who can take what’s in your heart and your head and communicate it in a way that will let you reach your goal of educating your prospects and allowing them to conclude they should be doing business with you.