Arguably one of the most controversial elements of business is its buzzwords. But what exactly are they?
Buzzwords are words and phrases used to describe a particular business process or way of thinking. They can elevate the user from simple worker to business extraordinaire and show off a vocabulary reflective of one’s knowledge of the industry.
However, buzzwords are often overused and misused, and they can turn a straightforward explanation into a confusing riddle. When used incorrectly, buzzwords become ‘jargon’: expressions that others can find difficult to understand.
That’s not to say that all buzzwords are bad! But if you can think of a simpler way to say something, do. Here we provide a list of commonly used buzzwords that you may encounter during your business studies or work life. We’ll tell you what they mean, and which ones to avoid!
A combination of an advert and entertainment, this term is frequently used in advertising.
This is the connection that a customer may feel towards a brand or product. Marketing is often trying to create affinities with its customers.
In business, analytics is the process by which companies compile and analyse data to gain information about their business performance. For example, Google Analytics is a free web analytics tool that tracks and reports on your website traffic.
Business to business. If a company sells its products or services to another business and not to the general public, then it is a B2B company. For example, a wholesaler selling to a retailer is a B2B transaction.
Business to consumer. Any transaction occurring directly between a business and a consumer with no middlemen is a B2C transaction. Examples of B2C transactions are online shopping and in-store shopping, purchasing an experience or purchasing advertising space. With B2C, the product or service sold is not intended to be sold on afterwards.
6. Best in class
Best in class means top-performing in a specific area. For example, Apple could be deemed best in class for brand recognition because it is one of the world’s most recognised brands. A company could be best in class for cost, performance, safety or customer service. Ditch this term if you want people to understand how successful your business is. If you have an excellent safety record, then prove it with facts. And if you have fantastic customer service, then share the feedback you received that led to that conclusion.
7. Big data
Large sets of data that could be analysed by computers to find patterns and trends. Big data was awarded ‘most annoying buzzword of the year’ in 2012 by Ron Shevlin, one of the world’s top-ranked financial technology influencers. Although Shevlin sees the benefit of ‘big data’, he also highlights the issues associated with too much data.
8. Blue ocean
Blue ocean is a market where there is little to no competition, thereby increasing the potential for higher profits. But why say ‘blue ocean’ when you could simply say ‘no competition’? This term isn’t particularly popular, and it is probably better forgotten.
9. Blue sky thinking
Perhaps one of the most hated buzzwords out there, ‘blue sky thinking’ means creative brainstorming. It asks people to think as though anything was possible. The sky’s the limit.
Online content that is designed to encourage interest and clicks through sensationalist titles. For example, a clickbait article will use terms like ‘You won’t believe what *blank* did!’ or ‘What they found was unbelievable’ or ‘The one thing you need to know about *blank*’. These over-the-top headlines act as ‘bait’ for internet users but are, by nature, deceptive.
11. Cloud (cloud-based)
A remote server that stores information. Cloud technology allows users to store data somewhere other than their personal computer or hard drive.
12. Content is king
Often used with content marketing, this term implies that good content plays a significant role in business success. ‘Content is king’ originated from an essay written by Bill Gates in 1996.
13. Customer journey
The experiences that a customer has with a company, product or service. In business, the hope is that the customer journey will lead to a purchase.
Disruptors shake up everyday practices, eventually altering the way we do things. In business, disruptors are usually entrepreneurs and innovators. Netflix is a disruptor because it challenged and changed the way we consume films and television programs.
15. Ducks in a row
Meaning organised and efficient, this term is a strange one. Have you ever seen ducks in a row? No, neither have we. If you want people to be prepared and effective, it would be best to ditch this term and be more specific.
In marketing terms, this means the attention a customer gives to a product or service (such as a link click or sharing content).
The funnel (or purchasing funnel) is a marketing term used to describe a customer’s journey towards making a purchase. It begins with awareness, moves to interest, then to desire (or commitment), and finally to action (or sale).
18. Giving 110%
Trying harder than you usually would when approaching a task. Despite the fact that putting a numerical value on effort is difficult to quantify, this term is frustrating because it is so overused. If you want someone to try harder, try telling them how they can improve instead.
The effect or influence of something, usually to society’s benefit. In business, this could be the difference your new eco-product has made to the environment or the change that your marketing campaign has brought about within its industry.
If you were running an online advert, the number of impressions would be how many times that advert was shown on a screen. However, it doesn’t indicate how many people could have seen the advert since it could have been shown 100 times to one person. (See also: 27. Reach)
Data or information that leads to decisions or transformation within a business or industry.
22. Key performance indicator (KPI)
Key performance indicators measure success in achieving predetermined goals or meeting targets. Every KPI will have a measure, a target, a data source and a reporting frequency. Examples of KPIs include getting more people to sign up to a mailing list, profit growth, in-store foot traffic or employee retention.
Taking advantage of all available resources.
24. On the same page
Being on the same page as someone means that you agree with them, or have the same thought process.
In marketing, organic refers to customer attention that was not paid for, such as appearing in a search engine without paying for an advert. In business, you will hear about ‘organic growth’, which means increased output and sales from the core business. Organic growth does not include mergers or acquisitions.
26. Put a pin in it
Putting a pin in something means to stop that thought process temporarily. It conjures the image of pinning a note to a board for you to return to later.
Reach is the total number of people who have seen your content. For example, if you ran an advert and 50 people saw it, your reach is 50. However, some platforms define reach and impressions slightly differently, so it is worth checking the platform definition. Facebook and Twitter both have different definitions.
28. Return on investment (ROI)
You may hear the acronym ROI a lot in business, so it is worth knowing! Return on investment refers to the amount of money made after a business process compared to how much they spent. For example, a company may spend $1,000 on advertising and see an increase in sales of $2,000. This would be a 100% ROI.
29. Run the idea up the flagpole
This came from the phrase popular with Americans – “run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes”. It means to tentatively offer an idea and see if it gets a good reaction.
A business’s ability to grow in line with its business strategy. In recent years, technology has enabled companies to scale by increasing output without taking on new premises, buying additional products, or hiring more staff. Digital advertising, for example, has become far simpler to use and has allowed companies to increase sales with relatively little additional input.
Startups are new businesses that have high growth potential. A startup is different from a ‘small business’ because they plan to grow quickly with a product or service that could sell to a vast market. Startups are usually (but not exclusively) based within the technology industry.
Meaning the interaction or combining of two or more people, organisations or substances, synergy refers to something that is greater than the sum of its parts. Any Simpsons fan will associate the term with the stereotypical businessperson embodied by Lindsey Naegle. In 2019, marketers voted synergy the most annoying buzzword.
33. Think outside the box
Easily one of the most overused buzzwords in business. To ‘think outside the box’ means to think differently and creatively. It’s certainly considered a cliché in the business world, so this is another phrase to abandon.
34. Touch base
To reconnect with someone. In business terms, you may touch base with a colleague at a later date to discuss progress with strategy or to share new information.
In business, this means to examine something in detail. A manager may want to unpick your concept to fully understand it and make a decision.
36. Unique selling point (USP)
A feature of a product or service that makes it unique and superior to its competitors. For example, a product’s USP could be its high-quality, low-cost or an innovative function.
37. User-generated content
Any content created by people, not brands. For example, if someone posts a picture of their new bathing suit on social media and tags the company that made it, that’s user-generated content. The company could then share the user-generated content further (if permitted).
The extent to which potential customers can see a company. Businesses can improve their visibility by building a website, creating a social media account, and purchasing ad space.
From the time you start studying business, to the day you retire as a top-level business leader, you will hear buzzwords. They will be ever-changing, but a term that seems fresh and exciting today may be achingly tiresome tomorrow. Buzzwords can be beneficial when chosen wisely. If they help you to communicate with your team, fantastic. But if they overcomplicate your message, then discard them.
If you have been thinking about beginning or advancing your business career, then Central Australian has several business courses suitable for a range of different experience levels. And we promise not to use too many buzzwords!