Run the B2B test

Are you using industry terms or in-house terms?

As I was conducting one-on-one writing coaching with a client recently, I noticed that he’d used the term “onboarding” without defining it in a press release for trade publications.

Huh? Run the B2B test

Talk the talk Use terms well-known in your industry to get your message across. Image by LinkedIn Sales Navigator

“Onboarding,” he told me, is an organization’s process for bringing new employees or vendors “on board.” And, while I wasn’t familiar with the term, he assured me that in his industry it was so common that it didn’t require a definition.

Fair enough. As a consultant to companies in, among other fields, the semiconductor, telecommunications and electrical utility industries, I’m used to being the only person in the room who doesn’t speak the language.

But let’s make sure, I said. Let’s run the B2B test.

Will your readers know the term?

The B2B — or business-to-business — test is a creation of Kelly Parthen, PR manager of Agilent Technologies. If you’re not sure whether a word is a well-known industry term, Parthen suggests that you:

  • Head to the website of one of the biggest B2B publications in your field.
  • Search for the term there.
  • If you can’t find it, chances are, it’s not a well-known industry term.

In my client’s case, “onboarding” was nowhere to be found on his industry’s major trade magazine’s site.

If that’s the case with your term, act as if none of your readers have ever heard it before. That means defining it on first reference — or, better, using the reader’s own language and dropping the unfamiliar, in-house term altogether.

  • Start making sense

    Get the gobbledygook, jargon and gibberish out

    Jargon. Buzzwords. Acronyms. They’re things that make your reader go “huh?” And we need to get them out of our message.

    Start making sense

    Indeed, jargon irritates your reader, makes your message less understandable, reduces your social media reach and influence, cuts your chances of media coverage, makes your website harder to find and demonstrates your lack of knowledge about the topic. It may even suggest that your company is in trouble.
    Translate the language of your organization into the language of your readers.
    At Cut Through the Clutter — our in-house clear-writing workshop — you’ll learn how to:
    • Determine when to use jargon to streamline communication — and when to avoid it at all costs.
    • Run a simple test to decide which terms to use with industry insiders.
    • Turn Google into the best thesaurus ever.
    • Define terms the reader-friendly way (Hint: It’s not the way we learned to do it in Journalism 101.)
    • Steal techniques from Warren Buffett to make complex technical information easier to understand — and more fun to read.

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