It’s hard to read a business magazine or website today and not be inundated with news and commentary about the financial technology—or “fintech”—industry.
Understandably so, as it’s among the fastest growing sectors worldwide and it’s creating real change in the way consumers and businesses access financial services.
If you’re not close to fintech circles, you’ve likely at least noticed terms like “artificial intelligence”, “cryptocurrency”, “blockchain” or “machine learning” being discussed, even in casual workplace conversations. If you’re like most people, you probably have a limited understanding of what some of these terms mean, and even less of an understanding of the real-world applications of these technologies.
Buzzwords and jargon can quickly permeate new and rapidly growing sectors—invariably creating confusion and sending the unintentional message that it’s just an empty and fleeting fad.
History repeats itself
Think back to the mid-90’s when the internet arrived and one of the most common directives from executive leadership was to develop an “internet strategy,” even though most at the time had no idea what that really meant (even the esteemed Bryant Gumbel).
Or think back to the late ‘90s when virtually everyone you met at a cocktail party claimed to work for the next great “dot com.” If you were like me, you had such fatigue from hearing about yet another dot com, you immediately tuned out before they had a chance to tell you what they actually did.
In the early 2000s, you couldn’t go a minute without hearing about “Web 2.0”; or even just a few years ago when “big data” was referenced so often it led to a call to stop using the term.
You get the point. Somewhere along the way, entrepreneurs and marketers decided that using a bunch of fancy words, rather than plain English, was an effective communications strategy.
Tell me what you really do
I recently attended Fintech Generations, the Southeast’s premier fintech conference. It was a great event and I was glad that the companies and speakers went far beyond the jargon and had real conversations about how the industry is impacting the business world today.
However, I was soon reminded of the importance of clear and meaningful messaging thanks to Jordan Bettman of Radian Capital, a growth stage fund that has invested in some of fintech’s biggest success stories. During a panel discussion, he commented that when a startup vaguely begins a pitch with terms like “AI”, “blockchain” or “machine learning”—without getting to the heart of what they do—he tunes out and gets a sense that it’s just a “technology looking for a problem.”
This one comment crystallizes the trap into which too many companies in emerging industries fall. It’s far more effective to develop clear, authentic and relevant language about your business. Always find language that proves value and relevance to your audiences versus an attempt to fit into the latest trend.
When considering your fintech communications strategy, consider the following:
1. Remember that many intelligent and successful people you speak with (investors, prospects, influencers) are confused—or even turned off—by meaningless jargon.
2. Develop an initial “elevator pitch” that is understood by all. Let your messaging build from there and drill down to more technical language if appropriate for the audience.
3. Focus less on what broad category you fit into, and more on the business problem you solve.
You’re more than just another buzzword after all.
How are you talking about new technology.
Mike Trainor is the vice president of S&A Communications. A version of this article originally appeared on the S&A Communications blog.