Eli Schwartz

Jargon kills the internal influence and unnecessarily impacts the effectiveness of a marketing team. Jargon, abbreviations, and bullets without explanation have their utility, but they should not be used in a public setting that includes a non-marketing audience.

Each time a word is used that is not understood by the listener or reader, an opportunity is lost to make the right point. Even worse, the wrong idea might come across if the intention is really misunderstood. Ideally, a listener will ask for clarification, but its also possible they may feel foolish exposing their ignorance.

The use of jargon

Every industry has its own jargon and acronyms that everyone with in that business circle know and use. Sometimes, jargon is used to convey meaning that just could not be accomplished by another existing word while other times it’s just a contrived amalgamation to sound smart. Provided that both a speaker and listener are in a similar commercial space, the chances of misunderstandings are minimized.

The use of jargon is akin to people within the same country understanding common slang. However, a challenge may arise when two speakers of the same language but different countries are conversing. For example, the term “brilliant” has a different meaning when used by an American versus a person from the UK. Although in both places the word is commonly used, the intent behind it is completely different.

Speaking a different language

The exact same scenario happens when two people in different business circles are conversing. Imagine what goes through a non-technical persons mind when they hear someone discussing a hamburger menu on a website. (In case you have never heard this term it refers to the 3 stacked lines on a mobile website where the menu is hidden).

Therefore, I think it is critical to avoid any use of jargon when dealing with an external audience. To go even further, I would argue that language used should be changed to match what the listener is used to hearing.

Here are my favorite examples of words that marketers use and better ways to use them in a mixed crowd.

  • Monthly search volume – within the search (paid and organic) this number sourced from a keyword research tool estimates the average monthly users that might search that keyword. Marketers understand that this is a high water mark and the supposed maximum amount of people that might search that word.  From that number, there is a CTR applied which equates to the actual net amount of users that will be generated. Non-marketers hearing this term for the first time could think that this is the amount of people that will actually click and come to a website. Instead, I would propose that the phrase “total addressable market” be used instead when talking to finance or product teams. This phrase is easily understood as the maximum potential rather than an actual forecast.
  • Top of funnel – marketers know that top of funnel campaigns are usually meant to drive awareness rather than conversions which are referred to as bottom of the funnel. Someone unfamiliar with this term would have no idea what it is referring to. Instead call it an “educational campaign” which very clearly indicates that it is not to be considered a conversion motion.
  • Keyword – The origin of the word keyword comes from the early days of AOL when keywords on AOL search were single words. Today a keyword could be comprised of an entire sentence. I think that this phrase should be permanently replaced by the more descriptive “user search query”.
  • CPM advertising – I would assume that even most marketers do not know what CPM stands for (cost per mille) but they likely know what it refers to – (cost per thousand impressions). This term should be replaced by the more descriptive “cost per impression” and pricing should be given at the single impression level. Instead of referring to a $10 CPM, it should be referred to as a $.01 impression rate
  • SEO – This one is my favorite. SEO seems to be the overarching umbrella referring to any traffic from search engines, but I think it should be more clear that SEO refers to everything around the free clicks from search. Instead of calling it SEO traffic it should use the original term “organic”. This is the name that is used in Google Analytics and it’s very clear from this nomenclature that it is the opposite of “paid”.

Using terms that are better understood by an audience might not make you sound smart, but it’s better to get your point across than to be smart. Using words that are understood by all listeners is always a winning strategy.