A Business Amateur Vocabulary Lesson, Part 5: Some Final Thoughts

As I was considering what to write about for my fifth and final installment in the business amateur series, a thought hit me: “I bet most people are amateurs.  And businesses need to know and respect that.”  When a business is presenting itself to potential customers, whether it be in person, over the phone, or online, they need to always remember how important it is to talk to them on that person’s level.  No one likes to feel talked down to, because that also feels like you are being taken advantage of.  You think, “there’s probably some sort of fine print in the definitions of the words this person is using that is going to result in me getting the short end of the stick.”  Not a fun place to be…and guess what?  You will probably not use that business because you don’t trust them.  If they aren’t leveling with you now, they’re probably not going to level with you later.

The challenge, though, is that there is a fine line between using big words and sounding condescending, and sounding like an expert in a good way.  Customers should feel like the people who work for a business understand the ins and outs of what they do–this would make a customer feel secure in using that business.  But too much jargon always turns people off.  No one should have to use a dictionary to understand what a business does.  There has to be a way to bring everything down to layman’s terms–but without sounding patronizing.

Every industry is full of jargon.  Maybe it isn’t that common for a business to actually “talk business” with a customer (using business-related terms like the ones I have touched on in this series).  But what is common is for a business to have to explain what they do to a customer or potential customer, and this is where just about everyone should be treated like an amateur.  If a business doesn’t take that into account, and they start using jargon (a.k.a. words/phrases that only people in that industry would know), then they may be losing a customer right there.  Every business needs to know how to simplify their marketing message–to explain what they do in a concise way that is understandable to people who don’t know anything about that industry.  The process of figuring out one’s marketing message is a tough one, but extremely necessary.  It should be looked at as an essential exercise to be worked through at the beginning of a business, and also revisited continually down the road.

So if you’re in a business, I want you to ask yourself how your business would come across to an amateur.  If someone went on your website, or just asked you directly what your business does, would you be able to explain it clearly and understandably, even if they didn’t know anything about your industry?  Put yourself in the amateur’s shoes.  You won’t regret it.