What exactly is a buzzword and why do they matter?

Here’s what Dictionary.com has to say:

Buzzwords are natural parts of culture and speech that have been around since long before the internet. When they’re new, we use them to make ourselves sound smarter and “in-the-know.” But once they saturate everyone’s lexicon, they’re more annoying than anything else.

Ironically, the word “buzzword” also appears to be a buzzword:

You don’t have to avoid buzzwords entirely, but it’s best to use them sparingly and in the right contexts.  When you’re with your clients, your word choice is highly important, and it’s generally best practice to stay away from frivolous terms. Here are 13 buzzwords that you should always avoid with your clients.

1. Thought Leader

“Thought leader” is just another word for “expert.” It’s totally fine to use… except that it can come off as kind of pretentious, especially when describing yourself. Instead, it’s better to lose the frills and call yourself a regular expert. Then go on to give a few details as to your credentials.

2. Innovative

“Innovative” is one of those marketing buzzwords that used to have real meaning behind it but now it doesn’t. The invention of the smartphone is innovative. The upgrade of your app version is not. Yet still, marketers use “innovative” all the time to describe even minor product changes. That’s turned it into an impactless filler-word that’s better just to avoid.

3. Disruptive

“Disruptive” is actually a very strong word that many use incorrectly to pump up their marketing material. A disruptive technology is something that quickly and drastically changes the way an industry works or creates a new industry entirely. If your product or service doesn’t meet that definition, don’t use the word.

4. Leverage

“Leverage” is just a fancy way of saying “use.” Some marketers think they need to sound smart and use big words to get their audience’s attention, but it’s not true.

Keep your content at a reading level that everyone is comfortable with, and sell them on features instead of fancy language. There are plenty of free tools out there (such as the Hemingway app) that can help keep your reading level in check.

5. Client-centric

“Client-centric” is a word you can use in strategy meetings with your business partners, but not in front of your clients. Being client-centric means your first priority is the needs of your customers, not your revenue.

As far as your audience is concerned, being client-centric is a given. Otherwise, why would they buy from you? So skip over this word and instead emphasize the things your clients really need to know about your business.

6. Results-oriented

“Results-oriented” is one of the most meaningless buzzwords out there. You shouldn’t have to clarify that you’re focused on obtaining results from your work. If you’re not results-oriented, then what are you? Process-oriented? It just doesn’t make any sense.

Don’t tell your audience that you plan to deliver results. Illustrate how you plan to do it with a powerful, concise pitch.

7. Streamline

“Streamline” is a filler word marketers use in place of actually explaining what their products/services can actually do. Instead get into the why and how of what your product offers to create a more detailed pitch. Better yet, get some hard numbers showing how things are streamlined instead of relying on the buzzword for effect.

8. Game Changer

Marketers borrowed “game changer” from sports lingo and now it’s become seriously overused. Your clients recognize a filler buzzword when they see one. Once they know you’re pitching filler, they’ll have less confidence in your message overall. So replace this fluff with something meaningful.

9. Value-added

“Value-added” implies you’re going to go above and beyond standard expectations in your line of work. That’s a fine thing to point out to your clients, but the word “value-added” is so overused that it’s lost some of its potency. Instead, explain the real details of how you plan to add extra value for them.

10. Scalability

Scalability essentially means something has the capacity to change in size or scale. And telling your clients something’s scalable does very little to sell them on your product or service. Of course it’s scalable, otherwise, they wouldn’t be interested in paying money for it. Try focusing on the benefits your audience might not already know about.

11. Synergy

Synergy is one of those buzzwords that comes up all the time but very few people really know what it means. The word originally comes from a scientific interaction, but now we take it to mean teamwork that produces a greater result. Rather than using a vague buzzword to convey this, instead take the time to explain how the value your offering is more than the sum of its parts.

12. Pain Points

People discuss addressing “pain points” all the time in Sales 101 classes or the marketing blogosphere. That’s totally fine. But you don’t need to throw out that kind of industry jargon in front of your customers. “Solving problems” will work just fine and have more meaning for your audience.

13. Viral

It doesn’t matter how great your product or service is, virality is something that happens by chance. Why use this marketing buzzword with your clients if you can’t guarantee it? Virality isn’t predictable. But you can get more visibility on the internet using specific strategies and processes. Focus on your plan to reach this goal instead of using a flashy buzzword.

Focus on the Value

Consumer attention spans are short, especially in the digital age. You need to use a few choice words in order to get your marketing message across to them. So don’t waste them on buzzwords that have lost their meaning over time.

Instead, illustrate value as concisely as possible. Take the time to pick through your marketing material and sales pitches to find better ways to summarize and explain your value. And keep these 13 marketing buzzwords in mind in case they crop up again in your copy.

Isabel Hasty
Isabel Hasty writes and edits case studies to share client success stories and industry trends. She produces a variety of lead-generation content, including white papers, blogs, infographics, and thought leadership articles.