Buzzwords from a friend

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I recently received the most buzzword-laden promotional email I’d ever seen. Perfect fodder for this site. But then . . . I clicked through and noticed it was from a friend’s firm.

I was torn. This piece deserves analysis. And they had clearly sent it to a large mailing list (one I hadn’t signed up for). But my friend is a true talent and a straight shooter — not at all someone who talks like this.

There’s a lot to learn here, so I will share my analysis . . . but unlike the other pieces I analyze, I’m masking the identity of the sender. I hope this firm figures out how to talk like real people, which they are, instead of mealy-mouthed marketers, which is how they sound.

As always, I’ve added bold to indicate jargon and buzzwords, and bold italic to show weasel words, and the commentary is mine.

Subject: XXX Ventures — On the Frontier

ON THE FRONTIER
Special Edition

The XXX Platform Is Now Live!

As true partners, we at XXX Ventures seek to meaningfully support our founders throughout their startup journey – from assembling powerhouse teams and launching companies, to acquiring customers and scaling these ventures to their full potential.

Commentary: The opening sentence is where you differentiate yourself. And if you want to prove you are special, cliche is the worst way to do it. Everything about this opener proclaims “we are the opposite of creative,” including the exclamation point, the silly clip art, the weasel words “true,” “meaningful,” and “powerhouse,” and the cliche that ends it. (Do you think that paper airplane is going to make it to the moon, or will it crash land ignominiously before it gets to its goal?) If cliche is all you have, then find something better. Don’t just slather these meaningless bits onto your email on in the hopes they will add up to something.

We are so excited to publicly announce today the launch of our end-to-end, systematized Platform that is data-driven, process-oriented, and programmatic to serve our portfolio companies in ways that go beyond the norm. All of our Platform components work together to provide differentiated advantage and to ensure that our founders and their companies succeed.

The XXX Platform is accessible via our newly designed website, where portfolio companies log into the portal for access.

Commentary: There is no content here whatsoever — just buzzwords. “End-to-end,” “systematized,” “data-driven,” “process-oriented,” “programmatic” — do they give you any idea at all what is on offer? And then all you can come up with is “beyond the norm” and “differentiated”? If I were a portfolio company, I’d wonder why my VC was trying to talk like the worst technology marketer instead of explaining how they could actually help me.

At launch, the XXX Platform includes:

  • Our exclusive Advisors – comprised of world-renowned AI experts, Fortune 500 executives and visionary entrepreneurs.
  • Talent Network — an extensive, proprietary database of top talent to accelerate portfolio company hiring.
  • Jobs Portal — for facilitating applications to XXX portfolio companies.
  • Growth Blueprint — resources ranging from fundamental ops and infrastructure to market intelligence data to empower portfolio companies and their founders at the setup phase and beyond.
  • AI Practice – our in-house AI practice and expertise to help identify, support, and scale portfolio companies.
  • Trust Network — a valuable support network of entrepreneurs and portfolio executives with exceptional technology and business experience.
  • Preferred Vendors — offering relevant services to help portfolio companies build the business and support innovation. Preferred Vendors offer our founders discounted rates and VIP services, leveraging XXX’s broad network and relationships. 

Commentary: Nice list. From a substantive perspective, I question whether a VC firm needs its own job board. From a language perspective, I question whether every element from this list needs its own puffed-up adjectives.

Our Platform is the foundation of XXX’s value-add, wholly designed in service of our portfolio companies. We will continue to build on its breadth and depth. Stay tuned for additional programs currently in development that will further expand how XXX helps ideas take flight.

Commentary: This whole email could have been half as long with a list of bullets and done the job much better.

Remember, how you talk is who you are

It’s pretty clear how this kind of communication happens. The firm decides to create something (in this case, a “Portal”). It assigns a copywriter to write a launch email. The copywriter, immersed in the portfolio companies’ pitches and marketing prose, opts to fill the communication with buzzwords and superlatives. And the email goes out without anyone else at the firm giving it another thought.

But the people who sent this have forgotten that in addition to showing what they’re doing, this email tells who they are. And the message of this email is “We’re vacuous fools.”

Repetition of buzzwords clearly shows people that you have nothing to say, even when you think you’re saying something. I’ll be letting my friend know that.

Always be aware of the metamessage. It might make the difference in who chooses to work with you.

3 responses to “Buzzwords from a friend

  1. Ouch. I only read this because you wrote it.

    A few things stand out in particular:

    We are so excited to publicly announce today the launch of our end-to-end, systematized Platform that is data-driven, process-oriented, and programmatic to serve our portfolio companies in ways that go beyond the norm.

    Wow. They lost me there. Also, why the caps? Big pet peeve.

    Preferred Vendors — offering relevant services to help portfolio companies build the business and support innovation. Preferred Vendors offer our founders discounted rates and VIP services, leveraging XXX’s broad network and relationships.

    You know, as opposed to the irrelevant ones.

  2. I can’t help but smile when I see that a supplier presents itself as a “partner”. In many jurisdictions, partners are legally liable for the partnership’s losses. Can’t wait to see a client share its business losses with its accountants… IT advisors… attorneys…

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