Do you use interior designers’ jargon, and not the language of your clients? When asked, many interior designers will say no. But consider a few common phrases used in the Interior Architect and Design industry. For example, FF&E, accent wall, and drop ship. All of these phrases are well-known in our industry. But they aren’t well-known by those outside it.

Even the phrase “residential interiors” is an example of jargon. Although FF&E is a clear example of industry vocabulary, surely everyone can work out what ‘residential interiors’ means? But that’s the point, your client will most probably need to work out what the phrase means. For the reason it doesn’t exist in everyday language. As a result, it lacks context.

Context is key when deciding if something we say is a common phrase or jargon. A few years ago, I was with my pre-reading age daughter in a town near where we live. She asked me to read a brown sign. ‘Cross Barn’, I responded thinking this was enough to answer her question. It wasn’t. She didn’t understand why on earth a sign was pointing to an angry farm building!

We know that a brown sign points to a place of interest. And given that context we’ll interpret the road sign as pointing to a building called “Cross Barn”. But my daughter didn’t have that context. In the same way, clients might not have the right context when they happen upon the phrase “residential interiors”. Because they’re thinking about something other than interior design when they see it.

Jargon Creates Unnecessary Barriers

First and foremost, jargon creates confusion. It’s difficult enough for clients and interior designers to share the same mental picture. Then why make it even harder? Also, it can make the client feel daft. Furthermore, the interior designer can come across as untrustworthy. Confusion, feelings of stupidity and lack of trust are all barriers. That can have far-reaching negative effects. Both during a project and when attempting to attract new clients.

In this post we concentrate on why we should use client language when marketing our products and services. Next month’s post revisits how using, or not using client language, can affect how we manage difficult client situations.

Jargon Hurts Marketing Efforts

Firstly, jargon hurts our social media marketing. There’s a ton of data that supports what we already know. That we spend nanoseconds looking at any single post. We quickly scan through our feed. Something needs to grab our attention to stop us from scrolling. Seeing a friend’s name. A picture. In the same way, a phrase. But a phrase will only grab us if it resonates with us. And a phrase that we don’t immediately understand, won’t resonate.

Secondly, websites. Web designers regularly employ a 5-second test. The site needs to tell the visitor what it’s about, what they need to do. Capture their interest and convince them to stay. All in 5 seconds. That’s little more than a second for each point. As a consequence, there just isn’t time for clients to interpret industry jargon.

Even if a site passes the 5-second test, and the visitor stays. They won’t be there for long. Between 2 and 4 minutes according to digital marketing experts. That’s not a lot of time to absorb a wealth of information. Then to act. And that’s act in a way we want them to. So, make it easy for them. Use a language they understand.

In addition, industry jargon could be harmful for those using Google as a shop front. As Google rewards those sites where visitors stay for a while. By boosting the site further up the internet search results. But the opposite is also true. That’s to say, if visitors don’t visit or quickly leave the site, it will rapidly fall down the Google rankings.

Don’t Worry! It’s Solvable

In fact, it’s not difficult for interior designers to learn the language of their clients. Simply listen to them. But this might not be so easy when in a client meeting. Or hosting a sales call. On the ground that our focus is elsewhere. And not on how our clients speak. That said, there are ways interior designers can learn their clients’ language. Specifically:

  • – Harness the power of the advertising industry
  • – Study written communication
  • – Record conversations

Harness the Power of the Advertising Industry

To clarify, harness the power of the advertising industry FOR FREE. All our clients buy things other than interior design. Therefore, ask yourself what your clients will buy. Other than interior design services. For instance, a private client will likely buy an expensive piece of jewelry. A commercial client, a conference. Once found read the adverts that promote those products. Take note of the language used. Also, notice that advertisers will often focus on what their products give people. Rather than the product itself.

Study Clients’ Written Communication

Interior designers may receive all sorts of written communication from clients. Contact forms. Emails to and from the client during the project. Testimonials and feedback. Last but not least, comments on social media and blogs. Once the relevant project is over, study all of the written communication you’ve received. That way you can focus on how your clients use language. How they express their wants, needs and problems.

Record Conversations

A Zoom call is regularly a source of dread. On the other hand, it’s a gold mine when interior designers want to learn their clients’ language. When in a client call, we tend to focus on gathering the information we need to deliver the project. If we record the call and later play it back, we can listen to how clients communicate. When we’re not concentrating on the call’s original purpose. If recording, say so at the start of the meeting to comply with GDPR requirements. And have a process in place to delete it afterwards.

It’s not unusual for interior designers to observe clients in their environment. To learn how they interact with a space. If this is the case, save part of the observation time to listen to how clients communicate. The language that they use, and the way that they use it. And replace interior designer jargon with phrases that have meaning to them.

Interior Designers Need to Understand Their Clients’ Language

Understanding the clients;’ language allows interior designers to strike a chord with those clients. Not only does it help attract new clients. The more we understand each other, the more likely our projects are to run smoothly. Something we all want to achieve. More importantly, it’s well within our grasp to learn the clients’ language. Because all we have to do is take a step back. And listen.

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