In a previous article, I gave this advice to big-company marketers trying to reach small business decision makers: Don’t use the abbreviation (or, more specifically, an initialism*) SMB!
As I explained in that article, “SMB” is an initialism for the term “small and medium business,” a term used by marketers who sell things to medium-sized (or, “mid-size”) businesses. However, it is NOT an initialism used by any small business owners to describe themselves. And so when they see SMB in the sales copy of a brochure, advertisement or website from a big company, they turn to Google to search for what the heck SMB means. There, they learn that it is an initialism for Server Message Block. Huh? What’s that got to do with small business? you ask. Nothing. And that’s what it also means to small business decision makers.
There’s an exception to this “SMB” dilemma. That’s when it’s SME (an acronym used outside the U.S.) and not SMB. When it’s SME, it means “small and medium enterprises.” That, or Socialist market economy, the economic system in the People’s Republic of China.
Bottomline | Assume your customers don’t know the buzzwords, acronyms, and abbreviations you know.
Acronyms and buzzwords are okay to use, except when they’re not
Every business, industry, department, passion, occupation, location, etc., has its own language comprised of nicknames, acronyms, abbreviations and buzzwords. Sometimes they are fine to use; other times not so fine.
| Signals that you belong to a common tribe
| Shortens long explanations
| Keeps you from being understood by those not in the tribe
Here’s my advice
(Actually, it’s not my advice. It’s advice from the late Osmo Wiio.)
100 percent determined by the recipient of the message.
I’ll say that again: If you send a message that is not understood by the person to whom you are sending (or saying) it, it is YOUR fault, not theirs.
In other words, unless you are absolutely sure the person or people to whom you are sending the message know precisely what the acronym or abbreviation means, DON’T USE IT.
One more time: If you want communication to work, create it for the recipient, not for yourself.
Some Help | Wikipedia List of business and finance abbreviations
*An acronym is a word formed from the first letters of a series of words, such as PAC for “political action committee.” An initialism is an abbreviation that is formed from the first letters of a series of words but is not pronounced as a word, for example, SBA for Small Business Administration.