Corporate Gobbledygook
by Steve Kayser

From personal experience and conversations with many experts in the field, there is reasonable agreement that most corporate sales, marketing and PR lingo suffers from:

"The Four Toos."

  • Too wordy

  • Too complex

  • Too confusing

  • Too Valueless

Agree or Disagree?

Why is that?

Essentially it boils down to:

  1. Trying to be all things to all people at all times

  2. Not knowing you cant be all things to all people at all times

  3. Trying to sound really sophisticated, cool, intelligent, intricate and inclusive

And finally, the biggie, not understanding your customer/buyer.

For example, in a recent Yankee Group study of executives who are likely to buy enterprise software, it was discovered that large ERP vendors promoted speeds, feeds and technology innovation to their marketplace. These promotions more often than not entail lengthy and wordy descriptive obfuscations (yes, I know what it means, Im trying to sound really sophisticated, cool, intelligent and inclusive).

But Guess What?

Buyers dont care about that. Nope. They essentially want one thing: understanding.

Simple understanding.

Clear, short, concise messages and understanding.

Understanding of What?

Understanding them, their businesses, their processes. They dont want or need the wordy intellectual technical features and functions tomes. Keep it simple! Less is more. They throw away all of your cutesy, excessively long-winded brochures as soon as you leave the room.

Some other findings of the study were interesting as well. Buyers would pay for:

  • high integrity,

  • fast return on investment,

  • inexpensive operation,

  • easy implementation, and

  • excellent service.

But how is that different from 20 years ago? And isnt that applicable to any buyer?

Buyers Want What They Want

Buyers are pretty basic. They want what they want. Understanding and practicality.

Would You Buy From This Company?

"We provide"

  • low integrity,

  • no return on investment,

  • expensive products,

  • hard-to-implement products, and

  • the worlds worst customer service.

Just a wild guess. But Im thinking not.

So, we should be able to develop a simple message based on the above attributes that buyers are seeking right? I mean. Cmon. Simple right? Okay, then what about

  • high value,

  • low cost,

  • rapid ROI,

  • quick, guaranteed implementation, and

  • proven customer service?


Never work not enough words.

Ohhh since I referenced the Yankee Group study, I will point to their corporate tagline:

"Accurate. Reliable. Trusted."


Wont work either. Needs more words. I guess Ill have to pass the bad news on to them.

On Being a Simpleton

I like simple messages (Im a simpleton) that give me four tools to combat the four toos.

The Four Tools

  1. What do you do?

  2. How do you do it?

  3. What makes you different from your competitors?

  4. Why should I buy from you (value proposition)?

I know.

Too simple.

But, having recently read this message,

"We build, sell and support hypothetical superluminal quantum particle applications with ERP, CRM, BPM, MRM and PLM functionality targeted at vertical market particularities with platform-neutral LMNOP" interoperability. "

I find I still prefer

  1. What do you do?

  2. How do you do it?

  3. What makes you different from your competitors?

  4. Why should I buy from you (value proposition)?

Thoughts to Ponder (From Really Smart People)

"Less is more." - Browning

"Simplify, simplify." - Thoreau

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler." - Einstein

"If you have to look the meaning of a word up dont use it." - Stephen King

"Elegance of language may not be in the power of all of us; but simplicity and straightforwardness are. Write much as you would speak; speak as you think. Be what you say; and, within the rules of prudence, say what you are." - Alford

"Simplicity is the outward sign and symbol of depth of thought." Lin Yutang

Steve Kayser is Public Relations Director, Cincom Systems, Inc. Cincom is a software and services company offering products designed to simplify the management of complex business processes. Steve Kayser relies on two major assets to tell the often complex Cincom story: Cincom's Expert Access epublication and Tom Nies, "the longest-serving CEO in the computer industry." Expert Access is a biweekly email newsletter with over 86,000 subscribers, including Cincom customers, prospects, and the public. Visit for additional information. Sign up for more of Steve Kayser here.

Many more articles in Sales & Marketing in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2006 by Steve Kayser. All rights reserved.

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