Updated: Sep 22, 2021
Let’s talk about gibberish for a moment. Gibberish means unintelligible or meaningless speech or writing. It is complete nonsense that has found its way into B2B marketing. We have all come across eBooks and other sorts of content that promise us high-value and flawless content.
Now, how many of us have been let down by content that has sold us flawed assumptions? Also, when did it become fashionable to use a ridiculous poo emoji 💩 in B2B marketing? If a company promises so-called "high quality" and “flawless” content, do you really want to pay for a pile of excrement? If so, does several piles of poop make your message more valuable? Let’s be serious and analytical. Perhaps a five-year old finds obscenities and bodily functions smart and entertaining. However, are your customers really that young?
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM GIBBERISH
Why should you protect yourself from gibberish? The first principle is clear. If the content does not create value, it’s worthless. Secondly, our time is the most valuable asset we possess. Do not ask your customers to waste it on gibberish. Content is a great way to create new leads and sales. The Internet is full of marketing gobbledygook. However, when there are 576,000 websites being created daily and there already exist over 600 million blogs on the internet, do you really want to upload more garbage? Do you really want to send yet another message nobody will understand?
We are constantly bombarded with meaningless messages; thus, we get used to gobbledygook. Jargon becomes normal. Eventually, we start using it in our own texts, podcasts and videos. So how do you protect yourself from B2B marketing gibberish?
Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to this. Sometimes it is enough to see the heading and the first paragraph to know that the content is meaningless gobbledygook. There are some tell-tale signs. Long sentences are difficult to understand and excellent hideouts for gobbledygook. Unexplained acronyms and jargon point to that end. I have compiled here 4 ways I use to protect myself from gobbledygook content. These 4 rules are my guidelines for content creation.
Rule #1: Not knowing your audience
When creating content, one can never stress enough the importance of knowing your audience. In content creation, it is always better to focus on a certain target group. One should always be able to define who they are, what problems they have and how to solve them. If you can answer these questions then there is no way you could go astray, right?
Now some of you probably already realized what I did there. If you don’t know your target audience well enough, then you might use a language that they might not understand. If your target audience are not native speakers, then please avoid using idioms. Please do also notice that target groups can be very heterogenous. For example, there exists no homogeneous group under the title “native English speakers”. Very often “native English speakers” understand each other about as well as Finns understand Estonians.
Never assume that your target audience understands all the acronyms you use without explaining them. In 2019, there existed 17,576 possible three-letter acronyms. Do not assume that your audience knows what you mean. If you use acronyms that have not been explained, or a lot of jargon, then it can be easily labelled as gibberish.
Rule # 2: Never sell gibberish as a solution
If you have been commissioned to produce verbal garbage, you will probably be paid the number of words. It is acceptable to produce gobbledygook if the customer wants it. Most customers want real content. Serve them well and do not offer gibberish.
High-quality content is a tall order. Firstly, you need to understand your customer’s product, and not just superficially but fully. Secondly, you need to know ten times more than what you can use in your text or podcast. You act as an intelligent filter, and you purify the message for the reader. No filter returns all material, as that would not be a filter. Once you know the subject matter, you need to reject empty words and flawed assumptions. One needs to know 1000 % of what one is talking about.
Here is one good example of an insufficient solution that underestimates its target audience:
“Keep your sales team involved by ensuring ongoing dialogue so that they can understand the total cost of a customer, not only understanding the cost of the acquisition nor the deals value”
Now, here’s the thing. If we want to understand a company’s total cost per customer, we do not need to “ensure ongoing dialogue” with the sales team. We can directly find the numbers from accounting. Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) are great tools that can help make the company’s accounting more comprehensible and easier to explain to the stakeholders.
What the sentence tried to explain was – probably – this:
Use Key Performance Indicators to keep your sales team informed. They need to know the total cost of a customer.
If you must use colloquial language (I would not recommend) to emphasise that kind of message, here is an example:
Let the bean counters tell your sales team the recent Key Performance Indicators.
Rule # 3: Do not overuse emojis
Recently, more and more B2B companies have started to use emojis. This might have something to do with the rise of Social Media Platforms and the growing recognition they have received as great marketing content platforms. Another driver is that some American universities offer courses in Emoji as a language. Several companies have added emojis all over their webpages.
A question arises: what do you gain from using emoji?
Let’s take an analytical look. Some studies have indicated that when an individual uses a lot of emojis, they have - in general - a better sex life. The online journal, PLOS ONE, published one study in 2019. The outcome of the study was that individuals were able to self-express themselves better with emojis than only with text-based messages.
You may think that a “sexy” tool like emoji may work for a company. Think again! A company is not there to get dates. A tool that has been proven to be a tool to get dates can really tarnish business reputation. When used on the wrong platform or too much, emojis can really make your company to look sleezy and unprofessional. Let’s face it! Customers are not potential booty calls. Too much of 💩 can cause persistent cognitive diarrhea or constipation. You may lose your target audience!
Rule # 4: Do not sell “flawless content”
My personal experience has been that any person claiming to create “flawless content” does not actually know what “flawless” is. There is no such thing as “perfect content”. There is no real need to create anything 100 per cent perfect. The audience does not need “flawless”. All studies on how many typing mistakes a text can have before readers cannot read their content, give awesome results. The human brain can comprehend texts filled with many typos. That is not to say that one should produce typos, unless it is part of the selected style, but typos are not the end of the world. Typos can be used on purpose. For example, business enterprises shorthand brand names by dropping out most of the letters, and - yet - the public understands.
The truth is that perfect doesn’t really exist. Perfect is an ideal that we would like to reach. A rocket engineer aims to go faster than the speed of light and a content creator aims at perfection. Both know that the goal is impossible, but it does not prevent us from trying.
“Flawlessness” is in the eye of the beholder. Nothing good comes out of a text that uses the trickiest words from the Spelling Bee competition. Unless of course your customers are the contestants. Other customer segments are not necessarily familiar with the “flawless” words that you use in a skilful manner. Your busy customers would most likely prefer Plain English.
Currently, there appears to be a trend among content creators to start sentences with “And” and “But”. According to them there is no grammar rule against that. This is very debateable. When it’s intentionally done and well thought of, it can add some spice to a text. However, used repeatedly it sounds ridiculous. Here is an example:
“Yesterday I went to get some ice cream. But on my way back to my friends, a golden retriever jumped on me! But it seemed to be a friendly dog that only wanted to eat my ice cream. And I was not scared!”
The idea of creating “flawless” content is dangerous. It leads to the Spelling Bee problem. If you get too fancy, you lose the audience. In a fragmented world, our message gets lost if we use words and idioms not understood by the readers. A text is a consumable. It is only a vector that delivers ideas. It is a tool among other tools. There is no such thing as a perfect spade or a perfect excavator.
The purpose of great content is to engage, educate and to awake our curiosity - without the B2B marketing gibberish. Gobbledygook does not sell.
Gobbledygook - language that is meaningless or is made unintelligible by excessive use of technical terms.
Go astray - to deviate from what is good or expected.
Jargon - special words or expressions used by a profession or group that are not easy to understand by outsiders.
Booty calls - a sexual invitation or rendezvous.
Spelling Bee- a competition in which contestants are asked to spell a broad selection of words
Bean counter - typically means an accountant or bureaucrat, that tend to lay excessive emphasis on controlling expenditure and budgets.