As a service provider, the details of what you do are bound to leave your clients astounded. They may nod their head in agreement, but deep within their hearts, you bet they don’t understand half the things you say.
The onus is on you, as the service provider, to make your clients understand the details of the service you’re rendering.
Some clients want these details to feed their curiosity. Some want to know so that they can understand why you’re charging what you’re charging. Whatever the case may be with your client, the tips below will help you communicate your industry jargon in a way your clients can understand.
How to explain complex concepts to clients
1. Use expressions ‘old you’ would have understood
First things first, put yourself in their shoes.
Think back to your own level of knowledge before you got into the field, and ask yourself if the ‘old you’ would have understood any of the things you know now.
Obviously, there’s no way you could have understood any of the jargon you now say. In that light, you should talk to your clients as if they’re that ‘old you.’
2. Use visuals rather than text or words
When communicating complex concepts to non-technical clients, your best communication format is visualization. For every word you say, back it up with visuals – e.g., videos, pictures, charts, etc. This way, your clients can see what’s really happening.
For example, let's say you meet a client who wants to get more traffic on their site. Such a client may not understand the difference between paid advertising and SEO. If you tell him the former brings instant results and the latter takes longer, you bet he will ask you to prioritize the former. But real marketers know SEO is better than PPC.
However, if you use an online flowchart to depict the pattern of operations and ROI potential of the two, you can bet he will change his mind and select SEO.
That is the power of visualization.
3. Use metaphors and analogies
When speaking with non-technical clients, analogies and metaphors are your biggest weapons. Those two can help you drive your message home without leaving out a detail.
Your clients wouldn't understand your industry jargon, no matter how simple you try to sound. The best way to get them on your wavelength is to bring things they know into the discussion.
By drawing similarities between complex concepts and everyday scenarios, it will be easier for clients to get the hang of what you're saying.
Rather than say Slack is a business communication app, say something like “Slack is the Whatsapp for business.” Chances are your clients use Whatsapp. By creating such an analogy, they can quickly imagine what Slack would look like.
Rather than say backlinks are the most important SEO ranking factor. Say, backlinks are to SEO, what strings are to guitar. Your client might just be hearing the term backlinks for the first time, but he's heard strings and guitar all his life, and he knows what those two mean to each other.
4. Leverage storytelling
Stories have long been human's greatest communication tool. When you're speaking with a client, and it's obvious they don't understand your type of language, just switch to stories.
Even if your statements felt alien initially, stories will change the listener’s perspective. It will give them a clear understanding of how the concepts work. Or, at least, paint them a picture of the implications of the concept.
For example, imagine you’re trying to explain to a client the importance of email marketing and why they need to commit a large fraction of their marketing budget to it. The client may not understand terminologies like Buyer Persona, Bounce Rate, CTA, and so on.
But if you tell them the story of how Sony Playstation used email marketing in 2012 to realize a staggering 508% ROI, you can bet they will be curious to try the approach, too.
5. Avoid the use of industry jargon
Try as much as you can to express yourself without using your industry jargon and buzzwords. I know it may be hard keeping those terminologies out of your mouth. But they’re really not worth speaking about if the person you’re communicating with doesn’t understand any of them.
However, for cases where it’s inevitable to use industry buzzwords, make sure you dumb the conversation with metaphors and analogies. We already explained earlier how metaphoric expressions and analogies could help you sound as simplistic as possible. So, make sure you’re using enough of those if at all you have to speak your industry jargon.
6. Show them a simple demonstration or samples
If your type of job is one where you can quickly demonstrate concepts, please, by all means, give your clients a show.
For example, let’s say you’re a graphic designer and you’re trying to explain the importance of a tool to a client. Instead of trying so hard with words, bring out your computer and put the tool to use. Let them see what you’re talking about.
For cases where it’s impossible to create on-the-go demonstrations, you can bring videos or slideshows that contain a demonstration of the concept you’re talking about.
7. Speak in layman’s terms
Patience is key when communicating with non-technical clients. Considering the concepts are alien to them, you don’t want to rush into too many details. Else, you’ll confuse them.
Take the time to speak in layman’s terms and explain the job in a way even a ten-year-old can comprehend.
8. Skip the details
Finally, ask yourself, “do I really need to get into so much details?”
Often, it may feel like it's important to explain everything that needs to be done to clients. But most times, these details aren't necessary.
Unless a client explicitly asks for it, there’s no point going into the step-by-step details of what you do. Just give a basic overview of what the project entails and leave out any superfluous details.