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Using Lingo in Business Communications

Imagine you have just walked in on a conversation-in-progress between long-time friends when one references an inside joke that prompts rolls of laughter. You might smile politely, if not a little uncomfortably, and wait for one of them to explain the “you had to be there” moment. Although the story won’t prove to be all that funny (because you really did have to be there) there is no expectation that you should get the location joke without a point of reference. You are an outsider.

Inside corporate jargon is a lot like a location joke, and if you are the outsider who doesn’t get it, you could be missing (or misunderstanding) critical information.  Conversely, if you are the offending party using undecipherable business-speak, you could be unwittingly alienating the people with whom you are trying to communicate.

So what is proper business etiquette surrounding business-speak? Is it incumbent upon the outsider to get up to speed, or should the acronym-happy insider have more consideration for his audience? As with all social mores, it depends entirely on the situation.

Effective communication is about creating clarity and understanding.  If you are a new employee, then you had better dive in and learn the company lingo.  If you are a potential customer, then you should expect thoughtful communication that you can clearly understand without the need to interrupt to ask for definitions.  When creating marketing collateral, corporate jargon that refers to internal structures or product nomenclature (that is not a registered trademark) can easily confuse your audience and should be avoided entirely.

Rules of etiquette are created to ensure that everyone feels comfortable and knows how to behave in specific situations.  If your spouse or your grandparent wouldn’t understand corporate-speak, don’t use it when addressing them or anyone who isn’t part of your field. And above all, don’t assume your clients or customers understand your vernacular; you need to use theirs. It’s polite, and it will help your business.

I had the privilege of attending a recent client event in Charlotte that reminded me of the importance of corporate social responsibility and serving broader industry needs in branding and reputation management. Read the rest of this entry »

A recent conversation with my nearly five-year-old daughter has reminded me of the basics of crisis communications.  She started the discussion as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

I went to a local mall at noon today to grab lunch and noticed a group of people standing at the entrance with yellow mall vests and clipboards in their hands. Since I’m in the marketing business, I immediately assumed they were taking a survey.

A very nice young lady asked me if I had a moment; when I said yes, she told me that the mall sponsored their presence to remind shoppers of the importance of car safety. She asked if they could check my car and suggest opportunities for improved safety. Why not, I figured – who wouldn’t want a free car check?

They walked with me to my car and checked the tires, windshield wipers, lights, and all the glass. They noted that my windshield had a small crack, which I frankly had not seen. They also informed me that in our state this could be repaired for free under my comprehensive insurance coverage. The closer was that they represented a local auto service center that could remedy my problem, and they provided me with a business card and discount coupon.

What a great approach to marketing a service! In B2B marketing, we sometimes forget that providing educational information and content about a subject, or a free performance analysis/inspection of a system, can be quite persuasive. Often times this free service can even uncover a need that you can fulfill for your customers.

How could you apply this same technique for your company? Perhaps consider ideas such as:
• If you service or manufacture electric motors, offer a vibration analysis or energy efficiency evaluation.
• If you manufacture a component for OEMs, provide a list of the top ten design options for using this type of component to improve the efficiency of the end product.
• If you sell OSHA safety material, provide a free annual safety audit.

I’m sure you can see how this works and think of plenty of applications for your company.

Like Twitter, Facebook can also be used as a way to reach and connect with key audiences anywhere in the world. In fact, Facebook can be used in 70 different languages. Unlike Twitter, however, Facebook allows you to build what are called fan pages or groups. There are slight differences between a Facebook fan page and a group, but they both allow you to share news, pictures, videos, and more. Below are a few idea generators on how to use Facebook for BtoB. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s a common question for companies that are testing the waters of social media: should social media efforts fall under the responsibility of marketing? Or of public relations? If you look at some traditional definitions, the answer becomes a bit clearer. Read the rest of this entry »

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