5 Reasons to Learn the Language of Your Industry or Market


IMG_1263In any industry, there is a language. Have you taken the time to learn it?

As business leaders or professionals, we are likely to change industries or markets a few times. Don’t get lulled into thinking that all you need to know is marketing and the company technical experts will handle all the language. If you don’t learn the language and lingo of the new industry, you’ll end up making some major errors in the marketing collateral you create.

1. Avoid embarrassing language errors

You may have heard the story of the NOVA car where the meaning of a word wasn’t fully vetted for the local language. The NOVA car in Spanish-speaking countries was laughed at as the phrase effectively translates as the ‘no go’ car. The same error can be made between industries. In the chemical industry, ACS refers to the American Chemical Society, and whereas in the oncology it is the American Cancer Society. Language errors make you look unprepared.

2. Don’t insult your customers

In the electrology industry, most practitioners are women so the default pronoun is ‘she’ and ‘her’ when referring to customers in marketing materials. Someone who defaults to the male pronoun may be considered woefully out of touch. Colloquialisms used in common language may not be seen as complementary to those in the industry.

3. Avoid saying something illegal

Certain industries, such as the pharmaceutical industry, have complex regulation on what can be said about a product. If you aren’t familiar enough with the industry you may either say something that is not legally allowed to be said or say something that could be misconstrued. Either can have potential serious legal consequences for your company.

4. Be considered unreliable, unprepared, and/or unprofessional

In order for your colleagues to listen to your advice on projects or to lead a company, you need your team to have respect for you. We want our teams to actually listen when we need to give feedback or suggest ideas. One way to lose that respect is to show that you haven’t taken the time to learn about the industry. Dilbert’s boss is the classic example of what can happen when a leader doesn’t take the time to learn about an industry.

5. Not actually have a sense of the industry

Learning the language of an industry usually comes while actually learning the industry. By showing your interest and commitment to become knowledgeable about that industry or market, you are showing respect for your colleagues and for the practitioners.

Keep learning about new industries as you shift roles to remain relevant. Become friends with subject matter experts (SMEs) so that you can increase your understanding of a technology or market, or attend conferences to learn what’s new in an industry. Read trade journals. No matter what you do, keep learning, it will make a world of difference in your career.

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[previous published on LinkedIn

If you’d like to learn other ways to learn about an industry or market get in touch or follow me on twitter @SaraPaisner.