The Fallacy of the Sophisticated Customer
You know your customers, right? You’ve done your buyer persona mapping. You know that your target customer is highly educated. Possibly an executive, maybe even C-level. Sophisticated, for sure. So what if I told you that your communications and brand voice should be easy to understand? Simple enough for the average American. As easy to consume as a James Patterson novel.
- Multinational businesses
- Companies within the public sector
- Ultra high-net-worth households
- Investment managers
“But what about compliance?
Check out this recent LinkedIn thread about the importance of readability in the finance industry. Many within the community commented in favor of plain language. But many also mentioned that portfolio managers and lawyers get in the way. One commenter said “Most websites and social media channels must go through heavy compliance and often come out boring.” It made me think of this joke from the Harvard Business Review:
“What do you call a dense, overly lengthy contract that is loaded with legal jargon and virtually impossible for a nonlawyer to understand? The status quo.”
Actually, there’s no shortage of cases in which courts found firms’ actions unlawful due to contracts full of “legalese”. Compliance and legal regulations do not excuse complex content.
Sometimes, you may have no choice except to use complex words. It’s still possible to write clearly. Use shorter sentences over long, active rather than passive voice. Use pronouns rather than more formal language. And even when writing complex terms, more advanced readability tools allow you to whitelist certain words and phrases. This means the tool will ignore those complex words when calculating readability scores.
Let your message come through with the greatest of ease
Let’s face it, some content within our industries is difficult enough to understand. The example from Aviva is a case in point. But in the second version, at least you’ve got a better shot at working it all out. Robert Eagleson said plain language “lets the message come through with the greatest of ease.” We really don’t need words making our lives harder. Poor readability results in low trust levels and a lack of customer loyalty. When was the last time a customer complained that your content was too easy to understand? Plain language is just smart. Even when you have smart customers.See How You Could Improve Your Readability Score - Try VT Readability