Lessons Learned: Vocabulary

jargon

Linguistics is a truly fascinating subject, if you think about it – the study of how people communicate, how words are formed, changed over time. The same word in the same language may mean something different, depending on where you live.

It might also mean something different, depending on what software or platform you’re using and discussing. That can cause issues in a business setting.

Let me take you back in time to a conference room in Holland, MI, where a ragtag bunch of marketers (and their CCO, and a marketing consultant, and a commercial intelligence director) are sitting around a conference table.

One of them, a short young woman is waiting patiently for her boss’s boss to finish his question.

“Who are the people getting the nurturing emails?”

“Any Leads associated with the Engagement Program.”

“And Contacts?”

“Yes.”

“Contacts are in the Program?”

“Correct. Well, any Contacts that the Sales Directors have added to the Campaign.”

“What Campaign?”

“The nurture Campaign…whatever we end up calling it.”

“Ok, that’s what I’m asking about, then. Who are the people getting the nurturing emails?”

“All of them. As long as they are added to the Engagement Program.”

….

We’ll leave them there for now.

You might be a little confused, too. Sure, if you read English, you probably understand, in general terms, what all of those words mean. In the context of this conversation, it might even be possible to glean what exactly is happening. But I can assure you that at the time, it was not very clear, and the conversation went on for a while before I realized I was transitioning between platform-specific terms with the ease of someone who had greased their gear before going on a luge.

My point is – I forgot that the same things are often given different names, depending on the platform you’re using. Something about intellectual property law.

In this case – Marketo Programs are the capsule for an entire marketing initiative (thanks, Gaines, for getting me the answer to that one), where Campaigns are a Salesforce object that track attribution for Leads, Contacts, Accounts, and Opportunities.

For me, using the terms interchangeably, as I mentally moved between the two platforms, was easy. I understood the waterfall of events:

  1. Sales Director adds a Contact to a Campaign (or, more accurately, tells someone else to do it)
  2. The Contact is added to the Campaign, and in the next Salesforce-Marketo sync, the Lead record for that individual is added to the Program and given a Program Status
  3. The Engagement Program (think: drip campaign) does its thing and captures that person’s interactions with our content
  4. The Lead’s Program Status is changed, and in the next Marketo-Salesforce sync, that information is pushed back to the Campaign
  5. The Campaign Member junction object now has a new Campaign Status for that Contact
  6. Reports for all!

It made 100% sense to me to move back and forth between the terms. Because that was the flow of information.

But while I might be a walking dictionary of “Jargon Sam Has Learned,” I don’t have pages that people can flip to. The CCO couldn’t pause me, scroll through a glossary, and then press play. And I, in my wanting to be back at my desk and no longer in a meeting, just explained in the quickest way I knew how.

The meeting, of course, just went on longer, accordingly. And then we had a second meeting.

meetings

I would love to say that that happened only once, that I realized my mistake and, moving forward, chose my words more carefully, choosing instead to deliberately explain any and all platform-based decisions in a way that would make sense to anyone.

But then this wouldn’t be a lesson learned “the hard way.”

This happened so many times. Like all the time. I just couldn’t stop myself from throwing around Objects, Records, Tokens, and Flows. And it wasn’t until I was practically out of breath that I saw the glazed-over look in their eyes.

A system admin for a non-tech group like Marketing needs to be able to translate. Over time, yes, I learned to do that. I learned to get out the jargon because I couldn’t help myself, then go back and offer a more clear explanation.

Why is that so important?

Adoption. Validation.

If your users, internal customers, stakeholders, what-have-you cannot understand what you are saying, they will not understand the value that you or your platform provide.

It seems simple. This wasn’t news to me. But in practice, I often fell short.

So how did I combat this?

I continued to use the terms; I didn’t dumb down my content or what I said. But I made sure to also include explanations. After a while, the conversation would have gone more like this…

“Who are the people getting the nurturing emails?”

“We can select any existing Contacts in Salesforce or new Leads in Marketo and put them into the Engagement Program in Marketo. Sales Directors can add Contacts via the Campaign in Salesforce, which is connected to the corresponding Program. Once they do that, Marketo will take over, sending them the emails in a steady drip. Once they respond, we have a Campaign in Marketo that will automatically update their status, which will then sync back to Salesforce, and give the Sales Director visibility into their Contact’s interaction.”

Still uses all the fancy terms I was tested on for certification, and it describes what the platforms will be doing. It makes me sound super awesome for being able to do that, too, right? They don’t have to know that it was all the matter of about 10 clicks.

When have you used jargon to the detriment of getting your point across? How do you combat the temptation? Comment below or tweet to @thesafinhold.