Overwhelmed by Vendor Hype? Head for the Exit Before It's Too Late

Frustrated with all the hype and buzzwords that software vendors throw around? You’re not alone. TEC senior copywriter Larry Blitz and managing editor David Clark take a (mostly tongue-in-cheek) look at software providers’ major language crimes. And what you can do about it.

Larry: Dave, some people put software vendors in the same less-than-saintly category as used car salesmen or, dare I say it… politicians. I think that’s because most vendors have this compulsive habit of burying everything they say in hype, buzzwords, and double talk. What’s a customer supposed to do about it?

Dave: Yeah, I hear you Larry. An awful lot of the vendor reps I talk to are sincerely enthusiastic and down-to-earth about their product, but something horrible happens on the way to the sales call, white paper, or product demo. I certainly don’t envy the customer who has to filter out the buzzword onslaught. I mean, you can’t pick up a white paper anymore without stubbing your toe on the phrase "today’s increasingly competitive global marketplace." Which is really just criminally lazy marketing. Is that phrase supposed to induce panic in potential buyers? Alert them to the recession they may somehow have missed?

Larry: I think it’s just a classic case of the road to hell being paved with good intentions. Software vendors may mean well, but they don’t understand they’re sapping their customers’ will to live with all that blah-blah about visibility, convergence, cross-platforms, value cycles, seamless downstream regulatory compliance… you get the idea. How about making it a law that every time a vendor utters or prints a useless buzzword or catchphrase, the purchase price of their software goes down by $1,000. Most vendors would find themselves in the unfortunate position of actually having to pay their customers to take the software off their hands. That would teach 'em , wouldn’t it?

Dave: Well, that’s what recurring maintenance fees are for, ha ha ha.

For the benefit of all those vendor marketing departments that have a word count to fill, I offer this white paper jargon generator.

Simply take a word from column 1, add any word from column 2, and finish with a word from column 3. Mix and match!

Pow! Bam! Ka-ching!
Seamless Downstream and upstream Compliance
Real-time Cross-departmentally integrated Maintenance
Comprehensive Application-aware Fortification
Robust Best-practice Availability
Anytime-anywhere Cost-effective Productivity
Holistic Paradigmatic Improvement
Sustainable Laterally convergent Competitiveness
Profitable Out-of-the-box ROI
Flexible Customer-centric Business agility
Strategic Mission-critical Profitability enhancement

Larry: Excellent, Dave! And what fun! Next time I ask my girlfriend to a movie, I’m going to say: "Hey, strategic partner, what say we converge on a cost-effective, comprehensive, and holistic cinematic experience. I hear the value cycle and ROI are absolutely robust." She’ll be impressed, right?

Dave: She will be if she works for a software vendor.

Larry: So how can we help the folks out there cut through the mountains of vendor hype?

Dave: The basic rule: customers should take their cue from how vendors are talking to them, rather than from what vendors are trying to say.

I mean, sometimes you come across white papers that are written almost exclusively in jargon, simply because they’re targeting the C-level suite, and vendors imagine that’s the kind of language execs need to hear in order to make a decision.

But that’s hogwash, because high-level execs don’t have the time to wade through hype and buzzwords just in case there’s an actual point buried in there.

Nine times out of ten, jargon or lofty language is used by people who are fundamentally unsure of what they’re trying to say, or those who want to cast the impression that they’re speaking from a position of superiority.

And why would you want to do business with people like that?

I certainly wouldn't. It’s a sign that your business relationship is likely to be characterized by rigidity and non-responsiveness, or else by incompetence. Of course I'm generalizing, but I think customers need to seek hard up-front evidence that vendors are interested in talking to actual people rather than to themselves.

The bottom line: if you find yourself buried in vendor hype and buzzwords, you should probably head for the exit. Find people who will talk to you in a language you can understand and relate to. Those are the ones you want to do business with.

Larry: Thanks, Dave, it’s been a transparent, out-of-the-box, strategically productive experience talking to you.

Dave: Synergistically speaking.

Larry: Exactly.
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