I don’t believe in absolutes when it comes to marketing.
Every business should be doing this. This is always a big mistake. This approach always works.
There are exceptions to every rule, including the one about never using jargon in your marketing content.
First, let’s clarify what exactly jargon is. Here’s the Cambridge Dictionary definition, which seems to be the most accurate in the context of marketing.
“Words and phrases used by particular groups of people, especially in their work, that are not generally understood.”
Dictionary.com adds the following definitions.
“Unintelligible or meaningless talk or writing; gibberish.”
“Language that is characterized by uncommon or pretentious vocabulary and convoluted syntax and is often vague in meaning.”
To me, the latter two sound more like negative perceptions than definitions. These perceptions are based on how jargon is received by a certain type of audience.
If a lawyer uses legal jargon in an article intended for other lawyers, jargon probably wouldn’t elicit such negative perceptions. If a lawyer uses legal jargon in an article intended for potential clients, those perceptions could very well apply.
Nobody wants their content to be viewed as unintelligible, pretentious, convoluted or vague. But instead of completely eliminating jargon, think about how to use jargon in a way that enhances your marketing content.
Jargon Is Not the Devil. At Least Not Always.
In many industries, jargon is completely unnecessary. In others, clients will inevitably be exposed to certain jargon while doing business with you. There’s no getting around it.
If you’re a mortgage lender, a borrower will hear terms like escrow, underwriting and PMI. Many borrowers, especially first-time home buyers, will be hearing them for the first time.
In this case, it’s okay to use jargon in your marketing content – as long as you’re not throwing around these terms casually, as if everyone on the planet should know exactly what they mean.
Industry jargon in marketing content should always be accompanied by an explanation of what the jargon means and how it’s relevant to the audience. That’s how you take jargon from unintelligible or convoluted to helpful and valuable.
A mortgage lender could write a short blog post that explains what escrow is, how it’s calculated and why lenders set that money aside. Whenever escrow is mentioned in marketing content, the mortgage lender can include a brief, high-level explanation, as well as a link back to the original blog post for a deeper dive if the reader needs it.
When I work with a company to start a blog or newsletter, and the use of industry jargon is unavoidable, I always recommend 101-level posts or articles that explain certain terminology in a way the average person can understand. Not only do you make jargon less intimidating, but you create an information resource for clients and prospects.
You probably won’t have the market cornered on this information, but wouldn’t you like to have the opportunity to become a trusted, go-to source of knowledge?
What Happens When You Don’t Explain Your Jargon
Jargon left unexplained can make people feel like they don’t know something they should. Nobody wants to be made to feel stupid. At the very least, it can make them uncomfortable. It could even cause them to take their business elsewhere.
On the other hand, some people won’t admit that they don’t understand something and could end up making a poor decision as a result.
Jargon and its relevance must be explained for the good of your company and the good of your client.
I always discuss value proposition with new clients. But I don’t just say, “What’s your value proposition?” Most people don’t fully grasp what the term means or what goes into answering the question. When you just throw the term out there, it’s meaningless jargon.
And if I simply asked that question and wrote the content based on the client’s answer, the content probably wouldn’t be very effective. Bad for me, bad for the client.
Instead, I explain that we need to dig deep into who you are as a company, what you do and the results you deliver. This will help us identify what specifically makes you different from the competition and worthy of someone’s trust and investment. Then I ask a bunch of questions that are intended to extract that information.
This way, the client truly understands and appreciates the importance of identifying a value proposition. It’s no long just marketing jargon.
Jargon alone is an obstacle. It creates confusion, or it goes in one ear and out the other.
Jargon explained is an opportunity. An opportunity to educate your audience and earn their trust. When you explain jargon in terms your audience understands, you show that you know what you’re talking about, and you help them understand what you’re talking about.
The more they trust you, and the more they understand, the more likely they are to make a purchase.