Business communication. It’s a little BIG thing. It’s everything.

(‘Words are all we have ..’)

The Little BIg Things by Tom PetersIt might seem odd to talk of the Bee Gees and  Tom Peters in the same sentence.   You see, I’m  currently reading (and loving) Tom’s new book  The Little BIG Things! and he has me reflecting upon communication.

Tom’s communication style is straightforward. He uses simple language and presents his thoughts in different typefaces, font sizes and  with lots of exclamation points. (!!!) You feel his passion.

His  communication style not only makes for pleasurable reading but enhances the uptake of his messages. He is adept at the essence of communication – able to share meaning and establish ‘a commonness or oneness of thought’ between himself as the sender and his reader.

As a marketer whose business relies on ensuring shared meaning with my customers and between my customers’ customers, I’ve  become even more conscious recently of avoiding jargon in my communication.  It’s an ongoing process. After all,  what is the point  if we cannot convey what we do, and the benefits of our products/services to our customers? Understanding our buyers’ problems and then communicating how we can solve them in language that is understood is sound marketing strategy.

I was reminded again of this in reading The Little Big Things. In a ‘Special Section’, Tom lists Guru Gaffes (GF) and  Real World (RW) responses. The following is the GF/RW relating to communication:

‘GF:  Imposing words-phrases such as ‘business models’, ‘scalable’, ‘strategic talent management’, ‘customer retention management’ and ‘knowledge management paradigm’.

RW: Most of us try to use everyday language such as ‘the way we make a buck’ (instead of ‘business model’, ‘let’s grow this sucker’ (not ‘is it scalable?’), ‘hire good people and treat ‘em well and give ‘em a chance to shine and thank ‘em for the stuff they do’ (rather than ‘strategic talent management’), ‘bust our asses to keep our customers happy and keep ‘em coming back’ (instead of ‘customer retention management’) and ‘share the stuff you learn with everybody ASAP, don’t hoard it’ (rather than ‘executing a knowledge management paradigm’).

Are you using ‘gobbledygook’?

Another favourite author,  David Meerman Scott , is also passionate about clear communication. David calls it  communication without the ‘gobbledygook’ – those words and phrases which are meaningless and nonsensical.

In 2006,  David  undertook an analysis to see how many of these words are being used. At least one in five of the 388,000 news releases collected over a nine month period contained one of the gobbledygook phrases. Whilst the phrase ‘next generation’ won out as the most frequently used ‘gobbledygook’phrase with 9895 uses, others which were popularly overused included flexible, scalable, cutting edge and groundbreaking.

David updated the research in 2007, and despite a marked increase in the number of releases studied (13%), there was only a slight decline in gobbledygook free items.

You can read David’s posts here and here. To download The Gobbledygook Manifesto just click on the image above. (It’s also available here).

A Gobbledygook Free Zone

In transcending gobbledygook, David advocates ‘communication to convince’: simple language with proof, telling our buyers how we can solve a particular problem.

Conversation Agent, Valeria Maltoni reiterated these thoughts in her recent post Put it Into Plain Words. She includes the TED talk of branding expert Alan Siegel, who urges clear communication via simplicity, transparency and empathy. This he says will  build humanity into our communication. Clarity he concludes should become a national priority.

Not Just Words

Although the Bee Gees claimed that words were all they had – in marketing we have much more. Everything we do provides a message to our buyers –  whether it is the way we present our products, the price we set or where we decide to place our products for sale. The communication extends beyond the  the words we use in promotion.

To design, price and place products/services which solve buyers’ problems and then to convey in simple language how these assist them, is surely effective marketing and good for sales.  To do this though we need to really know and understand our customers and their needs, the media to which they are exposed and the language they use.

Simple is best. In business communication – it’s  a little BIG Thing. Perhaps in business and in life – it’s everything.

What do you think?

5 Steps to RW (GG Free) Business Communication

1. Audit all communications

2. Ask your customers if they understand what you are trying to say

3. Seek to establish meaning

4. Delete all gobbledygook words

5. Replace using the language of your customers

The Little Big Things is available for purchase here.


WOW!!!! Judging from the fantastic feedback and comments (thank you!) this post has proved topical. Sure enough the following appeared today from Nigel Marsh, Group CEO, Y&R Brands and wonderful, best selling author. (Loved ‘Fat, Forty & Fired!’)  Read Nigel’s post ‘The Nightmare of Complexity’ here.

Here is a link to Nigel’s website to purchase his books.

“Speak to be understood” - Love’s Labour’s Lost (V.ii)

Related posts

I Love A Good Audit

Spring Clean Your Marketing – Let’s Audit

Shaping Products to Suit Customer Needs

The Perils of Ignoring Your Customers

37 Responses to Business communication. It’s a little BIG thing. It’s everything.
  1. Michelle Day
    April 14, 2010 | 8:13 pm

    Great article as always Anne. I agree we have all been somewhat carried away with using words and phrases that may not always be completely understood by our clients. Understanding our own communication method and the preferred communication style of our potential clients will also help greatly!!

  2. Anne
    April 14, 2010 | 9:56 pm

    Thanks Michelle for dropping by! Lovely to see you here! Thanks for your comment. Effective communication is really assisted by truly understanding our customers. Your work as an MBTI specialist would be really useful here. Simple language is also key. It’s an ongoing process-but worth it. Take care.

  3. Iggy Pintado
    April 14, 2010 | 10:47 pm

    Fantastic post (as usual), Anne. When I hear the phrase “words are all we have”, I think of it in the context of a communication tool that differentiates us as humans from other animal species. Yes, animals may have a distinctive language but we have words – in all their forms and varieties – as a unique and key form of expression.

    As marketers, they are an essential communication tool to better connect brands to prospects and customers. We are accountable for building logos and developing compelling visual advertising but the words need to match to create an engaging perception.

    They may only be words, but they can make or break a brand if not carefully managed. Just ask Kraft about the words “Vegemite” and “iSnack 2.0″

  4. Anne
    April 15, 2010 | 12:00 am

    Thanks Iggy! So true. Ultimately it’s all about connection isn’t it? Perhaps a renewed customer focus, using language (no gobbledygook) that is understood, will result in the connections we seek. It seems so obvious doesn’t it? Wonder why we’re still guilty of GG. Communication = Connection. I know you spoke of this in your book. Thanks for your comments and insights. Take care! (PS Maybe a great theme to further explore in a sequel ..’Connection Generation 2′? :) )

  5. David Meerman Scott
    April 15, 2010 | 2:18 am

    What a world class, cutting edge, mission critical post!!!

    Thanks for all you do, Anne.


  6. Anne
    April 15, 2010 | 5:51 am

    Thanks so much David! Am grateful for your inspiration and taking the time to visit. (Love that term ‘mission critical’ btw!) :) Take care!

  7. Valeria Maltoni
    April 15, 2010 | 8:16 am


    Words are indeed very powerful — and English is such a wonderful language to convey images and thoughts. I’m reminded of what they said about Winston Churchill, that he could march words into battle.

    Thank you for bringing together these resources and threading them so beautifully.

  8. Anne
    April 15, 2010 | 11:46 pm

    Thanks so much Valeria for your comments. I loved your thoughts on the subject – from your post:

    “*strive for simplicity and economy of words with richness of thought
    *seek connection without condescension
    *look to emulate and not copy, making it yours is what makes it special”

    It’s interesting – we live in an information age yet increasingly challenged to impart that information simply.

    Do you think Shakespeare had a similar experience? (Maybe another blog post?) :)

    Thanks so much for visiting. Take care.

  9. Bernie Ritchie
    April 16, 2010 | 5:21 am

    I think you have hit the nail on the head Anne! Business communication IS very much a little BIG thing! Clarity, authenticity and engagement are key in terms of creating powerful two-way client relationships. Jargon and gobbledygook only gets in the way and indeed only serves to dis-engage and confuse the client relationship and cast doubt over any sense of authenticity. Agree with you re Tom Peters, David Meerman Scott and Valeria Maltoni – all fantastic communicators who really GET the total value and power of clear, engaged communication. This is incredibly important too in the 140-character Twitter world – no fluff, no jargon, just sheer quality tweets and pithy conversation and value-adding links [is that jargon?!!] is what is needed to really engage. I also LOVE the BeeGees clip and using it to illustrate your post! Go Anne! Great little BIG post!

  10. Anne
    April 20, 2010 | 9:06 pm

    Thanks so much Bernie for visiting and your comments! Agree, the 140 character limit in Twitter has been useful as it really forces ‘to the point’ messages.

    It is all about our customers – but perhaps in respect to communication – they weren’t considered when we were first learning the ‘jargon’.

    Looking forward to talking with you again soon. Take care! :)

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  13. Stephaine Nydam
    June 9, 2010 | 11:24 pm

    You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog.

  14. Anne
    June 9, 2010 | 11:38 pm

    Thanks Stephaine for visiting and taking the time to comment!

  15. Sanjuanita Rubidoux
    August 4, 2010 | 11:07 pm

    Indeed communication between client and customer is important. And never forget to thank the client for using your product. We should always be grateful because they are there to keep your business going.

  16. Free Avatars
    August 8, 2010 | 1:10 pm

    Great post, thanks. Needed more pictures though.

  17. Weldon Wiseman
    August 13, 2010 | 2:23 pm

    My what a brilliant article! Your title Business Communication.It’s a little BIG Thing. It’s Everything. | Marketing Is Us just jumped out of the page! Is it possible that you can perhaps instruct me how to write in the same way Yours truly, Weldon Wiseman

  18. Anne
    August 14, 2010 | 6:56 pm

    Hi Weldon! Thanks so much for visiting our blog and posting your comment. Am glad you enjoyed the article. Re writing – for me skill development is very much a work in progress! :) However I can highly recommend the book ‘Accidental Genius’ by Mark Levy who provides lots of tips and techniques for a method called freewriting. Here is a link for you: Accidental Genius by Mark Levy Thanks again – and looking forward to staying in touch. Best wishes.

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  21. Anne
    September 9, 2010 | 3:06 pm

    Thank you Haraguchi for visiting and for your comment. Look forward to seeing you again soon. Best wishes.

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    Hi there! Thanks for visiting and leaving your comment. I’m glad you like it! Look forward to seeing you here again soon. Best wishes.

  31. Anne
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    Thank you so much! Am so glad you enjoy it. Please visit again soon! Take care – best wishes.

  32. Anne
    October 31, 2010 | 9:55 pm

    Thanks for your comment! Am glad you enjoyed the article. The title was a play on words based on the title of Tom Peters’ most recent book (which is fabulous by the way). Look forward to seeing you here again soon.

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    Thanks so much Bulah. I appreciate your visit and comments. Hope all is well with you. Look forward to seeing you again soon. Best wishes.

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