10 Cringeworthy Buzzwords You Need to Strike From Your Pitch Vocabulary

Every pitch slam and industry gathering is filled with new entrepreneurs touting the greatest whatever in the world.

“It’s a real game-changer.”

“It’s the software-as-a-service solution for X.”

“It’s the next Uber/Airbnb/OpenTable.”

Unfortunately, it’s sometimes hard to understand what entrepreneurs are really offering when their pitches are laden with a mouthful of startup word vomit.

Fed up of fancy startup words
photo credit: Valerie

Here are 10 criminally overused words that you should strike from your pitch vocabulary:

1. “Disruptive”

Anyone with any business sense knows you need to create a lane for yourself. Companies reshaping their industries are disruptive, and every disruptive company inevitably sparks a flood of imitators.

But just because a disruptive concept worked doesn’t mean investors are seeking to fund every business that labels itself as disruptive. So many people misuse the term, not understanding that a bad type of disruption means that the market you’re pursuing doesn’t exist anymore.

If you’re trying to impress investors, remove this diluted buzzword from your vocabulary – stat.

2. “Innovative”

Just because you know innovation is important doesn’t make your company innovative. Plus, many people think of innovation as revolutionary when it’s typically evolutionary. No matter what idea you have, assume it’s been thought of before.

Instead of trying to sell someone on how innovative your concept is, focus on what you do well and why you’re the right company to make your idea successful.

3. “Changing the World”

This is the one that makes me want to puke. All entrepreneurs want to change the world, but most of the time, they don’t. In fact, only a handful of things have actually changed our world in the past decade. You don’t impress anyone by saying you’re changing the world; you impress them by attempting to do it every day in the way you interact with people and the way you run your business.

4. “Facebook of ____”

When you say you want to be (or even are) the Facebook of anything, you may mean that you’re the social media component of X or that you’re the market leader in whatever you do. However, without explaining further, people won’t know what you’re trying to communicate. There’s nothing wrong with saying you want to be the biggest, baddest company in your market or have Facebook’s capabilities for your niche, but you shouldn’t put yourself in a box by tying your image to another company’s.

5. “Lean Startup”

Every startup is lean by definition, so identifying yourself as a particularly lean startup is a signal to everyone you pitch to that you’re cheap. You wouldn’t think cheap is a bad thing, but it carries a negative connotation, particularly when pitching enterprise clients. It says you’re willing to cut corners and sacrifice quality. It’s also an indicator that you may be too tight with the purse strings to spend the necessary capital on marketing and sales.

Instead, refer to yourself as a lean business that properly budgets resources and reduces waste.

Grumpy Cat hates crappy startup talk

6. “Empower”

When you “empower” your employees, it’s a passive-aggressive way of saying you’re still the boss. Empowering implies a top-down approach in which you let your employees do enough to accomplish their work and make decisions while you maintain authority.

If you’re going to empower anyone, it should be your customers. Seek to give users freedom through a new, easy-to-use product or service that allows them to see the world in a new light.

7. “Bleeding Edge”

The Internet is all about being first, but enterprise clients don’t want to do business on the bleeding edge. Although it may sound cool, bleeding-edge technology implies that there’s a lot of room for mistakes, bugs, and challenges. It’s far better to establish your value than focus on being first.

8. “Low-Hanging Fruit”

Bragging about going after the low-hanging fruit is essentially bragging about being lazy. Nobody wants to work with someone who’s only chasing the easy customers. It’s a red flag that you’re willing to put profits over progress and that you’re not educated in your industry. If there really is low-hanging fruit, why are you talking about it instead of just selling to those customers?

9. “Pivot”

A startup that can pivot is one that doesn’t know where it’s going. If it’s easy to pivot, it’s a sign you weren’t really accomplishing much in the first place. True pivots are a risk, and risks aren’t always a good thing – especially for startups. A pivot isn’t a bad thing if you did it successfully, but constant pivoting is not a selling point.

10. “Platform”

The term “platform” is so overused these days that entrepreneurs are smart to avoid using it altogether. Saying you have a platform tells me I’m going to have to push through a lengthy and unfocused conversation to learn what you actually do, which is much less effective than being able to explain specifically what value you provide in plain language.

Just because you can “talk the talk” as an entrepreneur doesn’t mean anyone is actually listening. Over-relying on buzzwords is a good way to make yourself sound less memorable (and potentially less credible) to the people who matter. So fight the impulse to bury the lede in a bunch of jargon. Don’t oversell – over-deliver.

This article was co-authored by Matt Cowart of Dell for Entrepreneurs.