How Jargon Helps Your Business- When To Use it, When Not To


There is a huge movement in business communication right now toward conversational speech. Businesses are trying to strike much more neighborly tones these days to communicate with their audiences.

For instance, I write this blog on WordPress. When I log in, my blog says, “Howdy, Kevin!”. Google’s homepage has a button labeled “I’m Feeling Lucky.” I subscribe to the Hubspot blog, and every time I receive a post, it leads with this message: “Hi Kevin, just wanted to give you a heads up that there’s a fresh new post on Inbound Hub’s Inbound Marketing section, itching to be read. Check it out!”

This new air of familiarity in business language is a byproduct of two phenomena, in my opinion. One is a genuine push toward user friendliness. Ever since that first Macintosh said “hello” to the world, we have gotten more and more used our devices, and the companies with which we do business, talking to us in common language, jargon free. The other, less legitimate, reason for the general informality of business talk these days is that Generation Yer’s and Millenials are growing in the work force, and they want to be hipsters and talk like cool kids.

Nevertheless, it is just easier for consumers to talk to businesses these days, and that is a great thing. So, when the subject of jargon comes up, most folks in business circles break out the crucifix and garlic. The idea is that jargon should be avoided at all costs, that you are hopelessly out of touch if you use industry terms when talking about your business. The hipsters sniff down their noses, roll their eyes and pull their phones out of the back pocket of their skinny jeans.

But is it ever a good thing to use jargon? Answer: Absolutely.

This is a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Jargon, if used properly, can be a powerful tool in your business communication bag, and is a great way to build trust with consumers.

Here’s how. Let’s say you have a web marketing company (an industry full of jargon), and you are wooing a prospective client. S/he has no idea how all that stuff works, but knows it can be valuable for his/her business. You could say something like this (I will highlight the jargon):

“Yes, Mr. Smith, there are lots of options for your business online. First, it is important for your website to have a prominent place on the first page of results with the search engines. Think Google and Bing. To accomplish this, we use a fairly complex strategy called search engine optimization, or SEO. It is a comprehensive plan to make sure the big search engines like your site, and takes about six months to really get traction. Also, there is pay per click advertising, what we call PPC. It is immediate, and there are lots of types. There are banner ads, essentially pictures that people can click on to go to your site, text ads, lines of text laced throughout websites, even pre-roll video, the kind you see before videos on YouTube. I’m sure you’ve seen all these as you have roamed around online. The great thing about pay per click is that it is just that; you only pay when someone clicks on your ad and goes to your site. This can be very efficient…”

Now that is an explanation of web marketing that is laced with jargon. In fact, you would be hard pressed to explain it without the use of some industry terms. However, that explanation will work; it would impress your potential client without either intimidating or alienating him/her. And why? Because I explained each term as I used it.

Using jargon this way will actually impress your clients, and will accomplish two very valuable things for you in the process:

1) Establish credibility

In a previous post, I explained the importance of arguing from a position of credibility. Establishing that you know what you are talking about is crucial to building trust with potential clients.  Using and explaining jargon is a wonderful way to do it. Don’t be a snob about it, but weaving expert terminology into your pitch is a subtle way to convey expertise, and build credibility.

2) Empower your clients

If you are in a jargon rich industry, your clients are likely to be intimidated at first. Using my web marketing example, if clients don’t understand algorithms, SEO, PPC, blogging, etc., it is easy for them to become overwhelmed and nervous about spending money on something that scares them. Ignorance breeds anxiety. Explaining your jargon is a great way to banish your client’s ignorance. This has the added benefit of making your client feel s/he is part of the team and a player in your process, both positive customer care best practices.

Don’t be afraid to show your expertise through the use of jargon. Just be compassionate. You don’t know the stuff you know to lord it over people; you know it to help them. Help them understand your terminology, and they will help you pay your bills.

Thanks for reading.

What do you think? Am I out to lunch here or does this make sense?



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