How to make your complex topic easy to understand
Many B2B products appear complex. When you’re on the inside (so to speak) you know what they do and how they help. But how on earth do you get this across to prospective customers?
Plenty of businesses fail to resolve this challenge. And it hampers progress. So, read on to understand how your ‘complex’ can become a clear and engaging message.
I’ve helped my fair share of ‘complex’ over two (and a bit) decades. Timber treatment, fire suppression systems, cybersecurity services. And these days, many SaaS products and software providers.
Products like these come with complicated terminology. They also have long-winded technical processes that explain functionality and features. In-house experts understand all this perfectly. But what about prospective customers?
Explaining what you offer so people understand can feel impossible. But for your business to thrive, this is exactly what you must achieve.
I get it.
The good news? It’s possible - when you know how.
Don’t think this means ‘dumbing down’. Doing away with complex doesn’t mean basic. It’s an important point to remember here. Simple, yes. Basic, no.
Your risks when you remain complex
Failing to communicate your complex product in easy-to-get language presents risks. Business harming risks.
You alienate your audience
It’s an old phrase, but one worth remembering: confusion never buys.
When people can’t see the value in something, they won’t invest in it. To see your value, they must understand what you’re saying.
When they don’t understand, you risk miscommunication and potential misconceptions.
Such confusion sends your audience elsewhere. They don’t get you, so they may as well look for a supplier they do understand.
You limit enquires and sales
It goes without saying that your conversions suffer when your copy is hard to understand.
Whilst a narrow group of people might have sufficient knowledge to take in what you’re saying, the vast majority won’t. And so, you miss opportunities daily.
You impair trust and credibility
Building trust is the golden egg of marketing communication. Because trust means prospective customers are closer to buying from you.
How can they move to this state when they don’t understand what you do or what your value is?
Copy filled with technical jargon doesn’t feel audience friendly. People won’t believe you understand where they’re at because you’re too busy talking about your expertise. So, they’ll be less likely to connect with you.
Taking that a step further, you also miss the opportunity for them to talk about you with others. Because they’re confused.
It starts with your audience
When you understand your audience, you’re more able to create copy they understand.
Because you understand their challenges. What they’re trying to overcome or achieve. And you understand where your product or service stacks up in this picture.
Because you appreciate the knowledge they currently have. And most importantly, the knowledge they don’t have. This means you’re clear where to start and what to include.
Because you know the language they typically use about your sector. Phrases they use. Their way of saying it. This enables you to *speak* more like them.
How can you get this level of understanding?
Talk to your customers and have a system to record information and feedback that matters. Study your reviews too. Wherever customers leave feedback for your business. And if that doesn’t work, look at your competitors’ reviews because their customers will have similar mindsets.
Get over yourself
Talking of mindsets, you must ensure yours is in the right place too. Don’t try to tell your audience EVERYTHING. They don’t have to understand as much as you. They do have to know how you can help them.
Don’t talk AT them, talk WITH them. Join their conversation, don’t create a new one.
Put yourself in their shoes:
- They have a problem or challenge
- They want to know if your product can solve it
- They have an ideal outcome in mind
This is what’s going on in their head when they read your website copy, emails, articles (and more). They’re looking for an easy way to solve their problem.
When confronted with complex copy, it’s no wonder they move on quickly.
One more thing to get over: the committee
Ideally, a have couple of people shaping your words. No more. Not the boardroom or the manager’s meeting. When you have too many cooks, everything becomes muddled and diluted. People add disjointed points, and your tone of voice goes haywire.
Don’t go there. I’ve seen it too often and it NEVER works.
5 ways to ditch complex and achieve clear
Copywriters use endless techniques to make a complex topic easy to understand. Here are five of my favourites to try:
- Use plain English
I’m not just talking about tech-speak here. Ditch acronyms and abbreviations too. When you MUST use them, write them in full when they first appear (even when you assume everyone understands…).
Always ask yourself if there’s a simpler word instead. Because it’s a myth long words show expertise. They confuse.
Ditch cliché corporate phrases whilst you’re at it. Most mean nothing at all and add to the confusion.
You might also want to:
- Shorten your sentences
- Ditch duplication or waffle
- Delete unnecessary ‘filler’ words (that, quite, just, etc.)
- Embrace contractions (we’ll instead of we will)
And always write as if you’re talking to ONE person. You’re not on a soapbox, you’re helping one individual solve their problem.
- Create a clear structure
You’re looking to create copy that LOOKS easy to read. That’s more important than ever with a complex topic.
One of my favourite techniques is to use plenty of sub-headings. They can signpost your reader or highlight key points.
Skim readers love them too. Many read the heading and sub-headings before deciding whether to dive in.
You can use sub-headings to break complex subject matter into chunks. In this way, they guide your reader step by step.
When you have a list of things to highlight, try using short bullets. Less is always more when you’re helping them understand. This is far better than a dense paragraph.
Another winner is having plenty of line breaks. My motto is “new point, new line.” Try it, and you’ll see what I mean.
- Use visuals next to words
Whilst I love words, I know some are easier to understand when accompanied by graphics – even a short video. When your topic is complex, visuals matter more than ever.
Add a flow diagram or chart to make it clear. Or a video to summarise the main points you’ve made. Using visuals in this way helps embed what you’re saying.
And should you have MUCH more to say, consider providing a benefit-focused explanation that links to a web page for more in-depth detail. They don’t need to know everything at once.
- Use analogies to get clear
I recently came up with an analogy to compare off-the-shelf software with custom software development. Using ideas that would be widely understood, I said something like this:
Off-the-shelf software is like a train journey. It’ll get you most of the way there but might not take your ideal route. And you might need a taxi for the final leg.
Custom software development is like a car journey. You start and finish exactly where you want. And you travel along your exact route, breaking when you need to.
An analogy uses well-known things to help explain a point. People get it faster as they can relate. For complex topics analogies are incredibly useful.
- Sense check with real people
You get it. Your colleague in the office gets it. Your regular customer gets it. But what about someone who’s reading this stuff for the first time? Because that’s more like your target audience.
So, take your ‘easy-to-understand’ copy and ask someone on the outside to read it. A family member, your friend at the bar. Do they get it easily? Can they see your value?
If the answer is yes, you’ve done well. If not, go back to the drawing board.
Don’t let ‘complex’ get you down
There’s absolutely no need to have copy your audience doesn’t understand. By getting to know them first, and by using techniques that create relatable and simple-to-get copy, you’ll communicate your point in seconds.
When you want that reader to contact you, buy something, or even just feel more connected having read it, easy-to-understand copy is a must-have, not a nice-to-have.
However complex your product it’s possible.
Questions? Want a chat? Just let me know.