Why You Are Turning Customers Away, and How to Fix It

Most companies know so much about their products and services that they’re actually confusing their potential customers. Businesses who do this are falling into a trap, and it’s a trap that is turning customers toward the competition. Let’s talk about what the trap is and more importantly, how to break free from it.

The Curse of Knowledge

This Curse of Knowledge is something that people often find themselves in when they’re trying to talk about their business. It tricks you into thinking that everyone knows the same information you know about your product or service.

The problem your service solves for your customers

The value your product brings customers

How your customer’s life will be like after using your product

And the list goes on…

You might think you are being clear when you talk about your business, but many times, to your customers and other people who are learning about your business, you’re confusing.

Here’s the bad news:

If you fall into the trap of ‘The Curse of Knowledge, you will turn people away from your business.

“People don’t buy the best products. They buy the products they can understand the quickest.”

– Don Miller, author of Building a StoryBrand

Why the Curse of Knowledge Turns Customers Away

To understand why customers turn away, we first need to understand how the brain works.

Wood Bookshelf

The Brain + Marketing

The human brain has two main functions:


  • Survive + Thrive
  • Conserve Calories


This means everybody is always looking around for information that will help them simplify life, make more money, meet new friends, and anything else that will increase their standing in the world.

The problem is: the brain is also trying to conserve calories.

So, in order to process all the information around us, we have to burn calories.

The average adult makes about 35,000 decisions every day. That is a lot of messages for our brains to take in…meaning a lot of calories are being burned.

You have to cut through the noise that customers hear every day. If you don’t talk about your products and services in a way that tells customers how they can clearly help people survive and thrive, people will tune you out.

Signs You Are Trapped By the Curse of Knowledge

  • Using “shop talk” or “insider” speak {Stay away from industry-specific terms or acronyms}
  • Talking about too many problems {Communicate one problem that your product or service solves}
  • Using vague wording or “fluffy” language {Don’t try to be cute or clever. Clarity trumps clever.}

Big Brands Get It Wrong Too

Just because a company is successful doesn’t mean that it can’t get trapped by the Curse of Knowledge. One example I see over and over is Chevrolet’s commercials. I’m sure you’ve seen them. It starts out with a guy showing a group of people a truck or SUV and talking about how many J.D. Powers & Associates awards it’s won.

Now, maybe some people know what the J.D. Power awards are. I have no idea.

Every time I see this commercial I cringe. Once I hear “J.D. Powers blah blah”, I stop listening. This is just one example of a big brand doing this. They use awards that no one’s heard of except in the industry. To Chevy’s customer, who is not involved with the car industry, they don’t care. Who cares?

How to Break the Curse of Knowledge

Your brand needs to explain how it can help somebody survive and thrive, and you need to do it so that people don’t have to burn a lot of calories to understand how.

“Dumb It Down”

Your customer isn’t stupid. But they are not as well-versed in your products or services as you are. Dumbing it down really means that you are using simple, clear language. It doesn’t mean you are going to dilute anything about your brand.


Take the words of Albert Einstein: “The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.”

Using easy-to-read, easy-to-understand, to-the-point wording on your website, in your emails, at a networking event, will help you grow your business.

Test Your Brand

A great way to see if you are being clear is to talk to a 4th grader or your grandma about what you do. If they don’t understand what you do, then you need to be clearer.

Let’s go back to the Chevy commercials. What if their commercial said something like this instead? “We are so focused on making safe cars for our customers that we win the industry’s top safety awards every year.” Doesn’t that sound more compelling? It’s clear what problem they are solving for their customers, and it shows that they are the authority, the leader, on car safety.

I understand how hard it is. You are so close to your business that it’s hard to communicate quickly and effectively. I’ll give you my business as an example.

I help women find the right words to sell their products and services so they can market their business with confidence.

Now, of course, I do more than that but that’s the basics of what I do. Marketing is educating. I help women find the right words that help them educate people about their business. It’s tough and takes a lot of refinement to get there. But if your customer can understand exactly the problem and your solution, it will make them so much more likely to work with you because they understand quickly.

Do a Self-Assessment

woman using gray laptop computer on her lap
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Here are some areas where people typically get trapped in the curse of knowledge:

Your Website Header:

Check the top of your website before you start scrolling. Does it answer these 3 questions?

  1. What do you offer?
  2. How it will make your customer’s life better?
  3. What does your customer need to do to buy it?

Your About Page:

Have you won an industry-specific award or featured in an industry-specific publication? Talk about why you won the award or why your feature matters as it relates to your customers.

Your Services Page:

Are you using insider wording? If there are any technical terms or methods that you use in your business that your customers may not know, be sure to simplify them into “layman” terms or don’t use them at all on your website and other marketing collateral.

Dive Deeper

  • If you want to break free from the Curse of Knowledge, but find yourself getting stuck, schedule a call with me. We will talk through your messaging to see where the traps are!
  • If you want to learn more about story-based marketing, I highly recommend starting with the book Building a StoryBrand by Don Miller. The framework taught in it has helped thousands of businesses – large and small – skyrocket their business growth. I’ll even give you a copy for free! Click this link to give me your mailing address, and I’ll send one to you.