Okay, we're all guilty. Every industry has acronyms coming out the wazoo and in the quest to look different in competitive markets, we craft wordy statements that we think make us stand out. But the reality is that a lot of what we say, especially in the technology sector, just washes right over customers - no cut-through at all.
Worse still, acronyms can confuse people or create the impression that we're disconnected from the real world. This video about Flutter, the new Twitter, could easily be regarded as similar to the pitch of a real tech start-up.
As an example of the problem, consider this internal announcement. I won't blame you if you skip forward as you read but this could also be a case in point.
New Dimensions In Executive & Shareholder Value: Social Mobility Cloud Content Life-cycle Optimization Strategy
San Francisco, 22 January 2014 - The global imperative to unravel the allegory of the Social Content Life-cycle enigma has dominated our strategic thinking for some time and resulted in our resolve to fulfill and transcend our collective thinking in the context of significant geographic constraints and the unlimited potential of markets we are unable to address.
In this paradigm it is imperative that we digitize our intellectual capital, dominate the white-space and maximize the opportunities in the cloud and mobile, all at the speed of thought. With this in mind, and in the context of virtual reverse-teaming, we are embarking on a bold adventure though initiatives that will fundamentally redefine new economy engagement and optimize shareholder value through a strategic paradigm shift in business sustainability.
We are committed to thought leadership and cognizant of the requirement for delivering to the bottom-line and it is within this framework that our revolutionary unique customer value proposition will dominate social, mobile and cloud platforms of the ether. We fully expect our alliances and initiatives to deliver unprecedented click-through revenue streams derived from multi-faceted collaborative utilization across both vertical and horizontal markets, not to mention the power of niche diagonals yet to be harvested. This unprecedented innovative orientation toward customer interoperability will drive blockbusting market value through virtual interactions in target verticals to facilitate the realization of best outcomes for the corporate community via a ubiquitous intimate one-to-one social web enabled execution model, unfettered by the reality of real world relationships.
Our value-add solutions will turn every click into an 'internet transaction' and achieve unparalleled customer connection, loyalty, value and revenue which will be captured via our revolutionary cyber-tolling engine. These synergistic yet mercurial technologies will combine to drive down costs, drive up revenue and profits, drive up value and most importantly, drive the competition - like a herd of hapless lemmings - over the precipice of the old-economy paradigm into the abyss of the Luddites to be dashed to oblivion on the jagged rocks of physical business reality.
At the heart of this visionary business model is a holistic commitment to redefining value with a consistent, flexible, unique and often surprising experience that will truly inspire our target markets and some customers. These show-stopping initiatives are not just hollow bullish announcements; our patented Web Application Network Knowledge Enabled Repository (WANKER™) will differentiate our offerings from the current dross that dominates the incumbent landscape of mediocrity. Unlike our competitors, we will deliver on the vision for cloud enabled mobility with sell-side, buy-side and back-side integration.
Furthermore, our unique and ground-breaking Share-Holder Optimized Value Implementation Technology(SHOVIT™) will drive the strategic Customer Third-Party Outsourcing (C3PO™) of our profitable customer relationships to viable horizontal competitors, therefore liberating precious internal customer-facing resources and enabling the pursuit of executive team ROI and shareholder value-spiking initiatives. We are committed to breaking the shackles of logic and facts that have constrained others, to instead transcend reality with a paradigm shift toward the convergence of technology, market ignorance, unbridled capitalism and self-optimization.
Our commitment to executive 'shareholder value' and liberal fiscal abandonment will manifest itself during these turbulent times through innovation. Vociferous analyst and vertical press focus will make it increasingly important for you, our valued team members, to display positive intent and resilient commitment in the face of our new customer-centric paradigm shift which will serve as the catalyst for focusing on our core mission, vision and values as we embrace the future together in a dis-intermediated, self-outsourced environment.
In summary, confluence of our objectives is paramount as we drive relentlessly toward accelerated ubiquitous obviation. It is therefore imperative that we adopt as our mantra this innovative message of enhanced synergistic co-operative diversity, delivering optimized and measurable quality outcomes.
We sincerely care about you, our valued team members, so as we execute this equitable exit strategy, we are providing you with the Self Help Information Tele-System (SHITS™) which you can call 24x7 to dispel erroneous myths and soothe any fears or distress that you may be experiencing as a direct result of your personal failure to embrace pervasive change and evolve into the new paradigm.
Finally; synchronized execution and ubiquity is everything, so share the vision, dominate with thought leadership and be empowered through teamwork, passion and commitment.
The scary thing is that this nonsense is not that far removed from some of the content created by companies on a regular basis. Here is a website that auto-generates Dilbert mission statements based on clichés. Here's one I just randomly generated for your amusement. For fun, read some of these out loud seriously to colleagues; you'll be shocked they think you're serious. Bob, I was thinking about this for my next pitch deck:
It is our mission to continue to continually negotiate ethical catalysts for change to allow us to endeavor to efficiently operationalize quality deliverables.
David Meerman Scott did research which highlighted how terms such as ground breaking, industry standard, scalable, cutting-edge, best of breed, mission critical, and many others simply make you sound like everyone else in your industry. Kawasaki and Konrath have also advocated extensively to eliminate those revolutionary, curve jumping and paradigm shifting banalities from your vocabulary. But worse than that problem, you sound disconnected from their world and the reality of the business problems they face.
The last thing you want is for your potential customer to look at you and think: He would probably describe a paperclip as a 'paper consolidation management solution'.
Politicians seem to be masters at saying a lot that means nothing spouting enough hot air to restore the Zeppelin industry. George Orwell in Politics and the English Language wrote: "Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." Here is a classic from The BBC's Yes Minister.
Megan Hills writes: "Listen to the words your client uses and build an explanation bridge from their terms to yours. Don't use acronyms unless they really are common knowledge." She also recommends testing your message with a friend or relative not in your industry. Here are the three big things to avoid:
Buzzwords: Best practice, market-leading, revolutionary, cloud enabled, coopetition, disruptive, game changing - all these types of terms and phrases are to be avoided whenever possible. Here's a draft list of the top buzzwords of 2014. The occasional buzz word is okay but don't overdo it. Plain language is always best.
Techspeak: Instead of saying "cloud enabled", say: "Everyone will be able use it with just a web browser." Simply use plain English. If you're worried about the language and terms, use this gobbledygook generator, and if anything appears similar, rethink what you're saying or writing. Here's a taste, "We need a more contemporary reimagining of our global reciprocal flexibility."
Acronyms: The list is endless but as an example, what does CMS mean to you? Depending on who you're talking with it could mean: Content Management System, Customer Management System, Corporate Management System, Contact Management System, or Code Management System. Don't use an acronym in a room with others unless you're sure everyone is on the same page. If anyone uses one that you're not sure about, then ask them what they mean.
True story, I worked for in SAP at the turn of the century - wow that makes me sound old. They launched SAP-SFA (Sales Force Automation). The problem here in Australia is that SFA means 'Sweet F*#k All' which, coincidentally, is exactly what most sales people thought the system did for them to assist in their sales efforts. At the time, it was very much a manage-up reporting tool like Siebel.
In managing technology divisions, I've been on the receiving end of this classic level of verbal diarrhea all too many times. This is not just a Millennial love affair with tech-speak problem, it's endemic and epidemic in many high technology sectors. Can you relate?
Now it's over to you. What are the acronyms that create confusion in your world? What negative impact have you seen from Gobbledygook and buzz words? Which buzzwords drive you particularly nuts in the communications you receive?
Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published in LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award winning blog. Also visit Tony's keynote speaker website at www.TonyHughes.com.au or his sales methodology website at http://www.rsvpselling.com/.
Main image photo by Flickr: Holly Occhipinti
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