Online success denied to modern firms

Business executives speak a different language to the rest of the world. Indeed, in recent years there has been a whole new development of words that sound highly impressive but actually say nothing. You can be in an business meeting these days where heads nod sagely as people talk about “solutions” or “process re-engineering”. Yet ask people in these meeting to say exactly what they are talking about and you find they can’t actually say. All they can do is repeat a string of multi-syllabic words for which there is no real meaning.

Online you’ll find this also happens. One web site I visited today was a client’s web site. I read the first paragraph four times and was none the wiser as to what the company did. Apparently this company has “deep domain expertise” – yet their business has nothing to do with domain names. Seemingly this company also helps their clients “build or maintain leadership positions”. Sounds fantastic – but what on earth does it actually mean.

HSBC is up to it as well. Apparently they are going to be “building on the success of their direct savings proposition”. I know, sounds great, but we haven’t much of a clue as to what they mean. As far as I can tell, what they really mean is that they are going to offer more savings accounts via the Internet and will make more money from doing that. So. if that’s what they intend to do, why not say it? I don;t know about you, but I don’t go into bank asking if they have any good “propositions”, but I might ask about “accounts”.

Vast numbers of executives these days have been brought up with the “gobbledegook handbook”. It appears that a common notion of modern business is that you only do well if you sound impressive by using a string of non meaning words together. That way your audience is impressed, even if they don’t have a clue. Or at least that seems to be the idea.

But these “modern firms” are going to be denied online success. People do not read web sites in the same way as they read documents. They scan for key words and they do this quickly. What this means is that your text needs to be straightforward, approachable and direct. You are not going to get many people opting for a “direct savings proposition” – they’ll skip past that on a web page. But they might stop by if you say “special Internet-only savings account”.

Online business is only going to succeed in the long term if the language it uses is very straightforward. This is going to be a major problem for many of today’s business executives. They have been brought up on a diet of long, meaningless words. To change to short, meaningful words is going to be really hard for them. Another reason why we are in the beginnings of the end for big business.


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Graham Jones
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+
Graham Jones


Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
RT @SteveHeadSpeaks: Thanks to @GuidesForBrides for having @ChrisHeadMagic at #ukwedconf @MiltonHillhotel learning from the best @grahamjon - 10 hours ago
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