Why assumptions will drive your audience away

By Chris Dodds on January 21, 2014

By Chris Dodds on January 21, 2014

When you’re running a business or working within a particular niche, it’s easy to to fall into the habit of making assumptions. The issues and concepts you deal with day-to-day may seem obvious and self-explanatory. Industry terms and buzzwords might slip into casual conversations with clients, because you assume everyone knows what you’re talking about.

Unfortunately, you may be alienating you clients and audience by leaving them confused. At the very least, you may be holding back helpful information because you’ve assumed they already know.

“There is nothing new under the sun.”

Some people get stuck on the idea that they have nothing to share because what they’re trying to communicate isn’t original and their audience has heard it before.

That might be the case. The idea itself may be well-worn and commonly known. But it still may be worth sharing because of the unique perspective you provide.

Your clients may know that you install and maintain dishwashers, but they may also find value in  why you think a certain type of maintenance would be helpful to them and stave off unnecessary pain and frustration. They may have even heard of the maintenance procedure, but lack the perspective you’re providing.

Don’t assume they already know or that they have the context to see things the same way you do. Your perspective is valuable, share it.

Banish buzzwords, kill them with fire

While terms of art and industry are sometimes unavoidable (there may not be another word for what you’re describing), niche words and buzzwords should be avoided whenever possible. When we use these ambiguous words, we assume that the other person knows what we’re talking about, even if we’re being unclear.

Think about the words you use in your job. Have you heard them used by people outside your industry with the same meaning? If not, it’s probably worth thinking through a plain spoken alternative.

Otherwise, potential clients may be put off by the terms of art you use in your blog posts, e-mails, and in-person conversations. They may feel like you’re being purposefully obtuse to impress them or give the impression that you are some sort of wizard.

Buzzwords are even worse.

“The cloud” is one of my least favorite buzzwords. Originally it was used to describe Internet services that synced documents and other files across multiple devices. So your smartphone, laptop, and home computer might be part of a “cloud” that gave you access to the same documents where ever you were at. Even in its original form, “cloud” is not a very clear analogy.

Now the term is used to describe pretty much anything that’s connected to the Internet. “The cloud” has become ambiguous to the the point of being meaningless. The more it’s used, the less information it conveys, resulting in confusion.

Think about terms within your industry that are similarly ambiguous.

No one likes being confused

If someone is confused or uncomfortable with the words you use, that probably means they’re also uncomfortable with you and less likely to do business with you.

So try this instead; share your unique perspective as clearly as possible. Don’t “dumb it down” or be condescending, but make sure the language you use is understandable to someone who knows nothing about your industry.

If you can’t avoid certain niche words or concepts, do your best to define them and bring clarity. Clarity is valuable and something that your audience will appreciate.

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