Are You Speaking Your Customers’ Language?

Sam Rose - Head of Content

Sam Rose

24th July 2015

Next week I’m going to be spending a few days in Gothenburg, Sweden! I’ve wanted to go there for a while, ever since I started learning Swedish. That was around a year and a half ago and although I can’t say I’ve made much progress lately, I have a better grasp of Swedish than I ever had of French and Spanish back in school.

There are lots of different ways you can learn a new language, and I’ve had a go at them all at some stage – there are apps, books and websites, and you can immerse yourself in the language by doing simple things like listening to the radio, watching TV shows, or switching your phone or social media platforms to that language.

But what about marketers and their customers? Are you and your website visitors speaking the same language? What if all this time they’ve felt like you’ve been speaking Swedish to them? Just because you and your customers both speak English doesn’t mean you understand each other. Problems such as using jargon or talking about things that aren’t relevant to your customers can put up a language barrier that means you might as well be speaking Swedish to them where sales are concerned.

So when a customer is trying to make a purchase on your website, should you be speaking your customers’ language, or should they be trying to understand the jargon of your industry? The answer is easy, and a famous quote is very relevant here:

“If I'm selling to you, I speak your language. But if I'm buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen.”

– Willy Brandt

Perhaps he was talking specifically about foreign languages, but we can draw some parallels between learning a new language and learning to speak the language of your customers. Here are a few things to do to make sure you’re getting it right:

1. Listen to your customers

Just like listening to native speakers helps with pronunciation, listening to your customers helps you to understand them.

Look on social media and at your customers’ interactions with you to find out how they describe their problems and your products. Make a note of the words they use and the insights you get from what they are saying so you can adapt your website copy to reflect their needs, and avoid talking about or offering something that isn’t relevant to your customers. “This company doesn’t get me” isn’t a reaction you want to hear.

2. Interact

The best way to learn a new language is to converse with other people in that language. I don’t have friends who speak Swedish, but you have lots of potential customers out there to talk to and learn from. Talking to customers online through social media and other channels enables you to find out how you can help them, and then you can build relationships and tailor your offering accordingly.

3. Cut the jargon and buzzwords

Would you buy from a website you don’t understand? When you listen to your customers are they using the same industry jargon thrown around by your competitors, or are they speaking in more simple terms? People like to buy from people, so be friendly and be yourself – describe your products as if you’re talking to a friend over lunch. There’s no need to be fancy, and using similar language to your customers shows you’re on the same wavelength and makes life easier for everyone.

4. Make it personal

A fun way to learn a new language is to do it in a context you enjoy. For example, changing the language settings of a favourite computer game can help you to learn words in a way that doesn’t seem like hard work. Similarly, your personality should help you to connect with customers. Show some personality, get passionate, and connect with customers who feel the same way. Let them know through your copy that your values, goals and interests are the same.

5. Only use one language

How confusing would it be if you someone were speaking to you in English and they suddenly switched to Italian? A similarly confusing situation would be if you were to use a very casual, conversational tone on your homepage and ‘About Us’ page, only to fill your product pages with long industry words and complex descriptions. Keep it consistent.

Your words should make the customer feel comfortable, in control, and trusting towards you.

When you speak their language you can achieve this, and also show them that you can provide the solution to their problem and the benefits they are looking for.

Ultimately, you want your customers to say “I like that company. They have the same values as me, they communicate well and they understand me.” If people feel like you are similar to them and that you understand each other, that’s a great basis for a lasting relationship. And of course, it’s much easier to begin a thriving relationship when you speak the same language.

Lycka till! (That means ‘good luck’ in Swedish!)

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