Clichés are like roadblocks of thought, meant to prevent you from reaching some real thinking. They’re mental shortcuts, often used in propaganda of one sort or another to get the audience to agree and nod their heads without saying anything of substance whatsoever.
And just like politics, the business and marketing world is full of these brain-diverting word objects. You can recognize thoughtless clichés in business most often in the hand-waving phenomenon that is marketing buzzwords.
Perhaps once they were useful for describing some specific idea or concept, but they’ve grown so ubiquitous and misused that the phrases no longer spark any particular thought at all; they’re just meant to sound business-y and smart (when the person uttering them is anything but).
So, without further ado, please make a mental note to steer clear of the following buzzwords and phrases. If you find yourself writing or saying them, ask yourself whether you’re really saying anything substantive at all, or whether you’re using thoughtless shorthand.
Buzzwords to Dump from Your Vocabulary
“To the next level”: An increase in elevation is going to do little to help your business unless you’re taking clients skydiving. This empty and tired metaphor doesn’t tell your audience anything about what they’re actually going to need to do to help improve their business, their career or their golf skills. Say something real about how someone can improve what they’re doing instead of just spinning your linguistic wheels.
“Solution”: I realize that everyone wants to connect the idea of whatever their product, service or idea is with a need that somebody, somewhere needs filled. But please, let’s just talk about the specific need and how you’re going to fill it rather than using a vague and useless synonym for “answer.”
“ROI”: Unless you’re following this term (or the long-hand “return on investment”) with actual numbers with dollar signs in front of them, say something else. It’s not a good metaphor for “getting more out of something than you put in,” and it’s not as useful as actually telling your audience how they’ll benefit from what you’re offering them. Leave it to the number crunchers and find some other way to say what you’re saying.
“Low-hanging fruit”: We get it. Some things are easier to start off with than others. This phrase is so overused and tired as a metaphor that it may as well be wearing a pocket watch and smoking a horn pipe. Let’s put it out to pasture.
“Going forward”: I know you want to talk about what we’re going to do “from now on,” but saying it in this way makes my teeth hurt. It’s like listening to someone crack their knuckles repeatedly; it hurts my insides. People usually say or write this phrase because they want to talk about the future, but they don’t want to say “from now on” or “in the future” because those groups of words don’t let everyone know that they’re a working professional with a very business-y vocabulary. I must say, it definitely does fit the definition of “business-y.”
Buzzwords are the Arch-Enemy of Originality
There’s a reason I write about annoying verbal and literary hang-ups like buzzwords; they’re actually a kind of mental laziness that I absolutely despise. Whenever you hear someone using words and phrases like these, they either couldn’t find anything truly substantive to say and they’re trying to disguise that fact or they’re deliberately trying to prevent you from thinking.
For many marketers, politicians and parents, buzzwords are tools of distraction to prevent your brain from gaining traction and starting to ask further pesky questions. Unfortunately for marketers, it also means not being memorable at all, which is usually the last thing you want out of your communications anyway.
Mike Mann is the founder of numerous successful companies and charities. His focus is on generating profits and channeling them to charitable causes. For more of Mike’s tips on creating successful businesses and using them to make the world a better place, download his book, MakeMillions.Com or tune back in to the blog for new stuff weekly.