Never Use Jargon in Your Marketing

Posted by Corey Smith on Oct 19, 2023 7:48:00 AM

What is a PVT?

Early in my career, I was a graphic designer and worked for a variety of clients. One of my clients was a video distribution company. They provided videos (VHS and DVD) to a few grocery store video departments. (ATTN: Gen Z and Gen Alphas out there- it used to be a big thing to rent VHS tapes and DVDs from everywhere, not just RedBox).

Part of my job was preparing and buying all sorts of print work like flyers, brochures, signs, and labels. We had labels for PVTs. We sold PVTs for as little as $2.99 each and as much as $9.99 each.

I remember, one day, driving by a video store in town that had a sign next to their logo that said, “PVTs 50% Off.”

I remember instantly thinking, “I wonder who in the world knows what a PVT is besides those of us in the business?”

Of course, I won’t insult your intelligence by assuming you don’t know what a PVT is by telling you. Though, if you’d like to be insulted, keep reading.

Jargon Bad. Clarity Good.

I’ve worked with clients in a variety of industries over the course of my career. I actually started running a two-color printing press when I was 15 years old. I’ve taught graphic design for the web at the University of Utah and sold color printing equipment for Canon USA. I even worked in radio for a while.

In all my years of working in and around advertising, one commonality exists: Most salespeople and marketers forget that their clients don’t know their industry terminology. You’d think that, as marketers, we’d be immune to this problem.

Nope, we are offenders just the same.

I was in a client meeting last week and one of my marketers was talking to my (new) client and asked, “What are you looking for in a ROAS?”

I nearly pulled out the (very few) remaining hairs on my head but, fortunately, she quickly corrected herself and taught my client about ROAS and why it was important. She was able to bring clarity to a confusing term and the client was happy because of it. (I know I didn’t define ROAS but you’ll see it on my fancy list below.)

What about your marketing? Are you communicating clearly with clients? If you sell cars, do you market using terminology like "fixed operations"? If you are in the office equipment space, do you market with words like "MFPs", "MFDs", or "MPS"? If you market HR services, do you use terms like "golden handshake" or "capability uplift"? If you use these terms, you aren’t being clear.

18 Common Internet Marketing Terms To Sound Like A Pro

Now, just because I recommend not using your jargon in your marketing, it doesn’t mean that marketers don’t make the same mistake. In fact, I think that marketers are often the worst offenders. That, I believe, is incredibly ironic (and not in the Alanis Morissette kind of way). I already mentioned one example above from one of my marketers. The biggest problem I see is that many marketers don’t even see the problem at all.

Some of these terms are terms I’ve heard marketers use with inexperienced clients of theirs. This list is certainly not exhaustive but just the most common ones I hear day-to-day. It might be helpful for you to have a list of these in case you are talking to one of us weirdos in marketing and want to keep up.

  1. ROAS (Return on Ad Spend): The return on investment for ads that were run for a business.
  2. COS (Content Optimization System): Using a CMS to optimize content for the best user experience.
  3. CMS (Content Management System): A web application designed to make the process of creating, editing, and managing websites easy for non-technical users. Think Wordpress, Drupal, HubSpot, etc.
  4. CRM (Customer Relationship Management): Usually in reference to a web application that allows marketers and salespeople to conduct and track business with customers. Think HubSpot (yes, again), Salesforce, Microsoft Outlook or Dynamics.
  5. CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization): Optimizing a website strategically to increase conversions. A conversion is when someone does the thing you want them to do.
  6. CTA (Call to Action): A phrase, button, or prompt that requires an action to take a step (such as subscribe, purchase, download, etc).
  7. UI (User Interface): The point of human-computer interaction and communication. There are many different types, such as menu-driven UIs, touch UIs, voice UIs, etc.
  8. URL (Uniform Resource Locator): The marketer or web developer’s word for website address.
  9. UX (User Experience): The experience that a customer has on a website or at a place of business.
  10. MAP (Marketing Automation Platform): Not to be confused with a geographical map. A MAP is software that’s used to automate marketing activities, such as sending emails, posting to social media, etc.
  11. CPC (Cost Per Click): The amount of money that is spent by a company when a lead clicks on an ad.
  12. CTR (Click Through Rate): The total number of actual clicks over the total number of possible clicks (impressions).
  13. AM (Account Manager): Not to be confused with the time of day. An AM is the person handling a client’s contract.
  14. SLA (Service Level Agreement): A legally binding agreement between a service provider and a client. An MSA (Master Service Agreement) is a variation on this.
  15. DNS (Domain Name System): This tells web traffic types where to go. Website traffic goes to web pages, email traffic goes to email clients, etc.
  16. H1 (Header 1): The first header or headline that appears in an article or on a website. Note: there should be one on every page and only one per page on your website. 
  17. SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages): The listings that are shown when a user searches by keyword or phrase in a search engine.
  18. SEO (Search Engine Optimization): Effort used to increase your rankings on the SERP.

What’s Next for You

Now, take a look at your marketing and think about your sales pitches. Are you using jargon that only you understand? It might not be as obvious to you, so ask your friends who are outside your business. In fact, you might be surprised to find that something you think is common actually means something else to someone else. For example, if you are in law, IP means intellectual property, but in information technology it means internet protocol.

Oh, and just to prove that I know what a PVT is (because I’m sure you already know)… a PVT is a previously viewed tape (unless you are in the military, and then it’s a private; or in medical, it’s portal vein thrombosis or… you get the idea).

Corey Smith

Written by Corey Smith

Corey Smith is the founder of Tribute Media and serves as the Managing Director for Tribute Media. He is also the VP of Web & Creative for Hawke Media.