Business Buzzword Bingo, Are You Playing?

March 14, 2011

This upcoming weekend I am headed to sunny San Diego for a strategic retreat with Midori Connolly.  My guess is that during our visit we will engage in a game of Buzz Word Bingo. It’s a slightly fictional game where you play bingo whenever a business buzzword is mentioned. It has morphed into a drinking game where the players take a drink (iced tea, of course) every time they hear a buzzword. Examples are: innovation, ROI, ROO, engagement, personal brand, green, monetize, leadership, etc.

Are you playing games?

My favorite is ROI. This is the one that I hear daily.  For example, everyone wants to know about the ROI of social media. The problem with asking this question is that many businesses are asking it without first identifying their strategic (buzzword, drink!) goals. They ask how to measure ROI, but of what? What did they set out to do in the first place?

A few weeks ago when Midori and I presenting at a conference, a woman told us that she came to our session so that she could learn exactly how she should be using social media for her business.  She looked very frustrated when I told her that I couldn’t give her the answer without first understanding much more about her business and what her goals were. She asked again, “well should I just use Facebook or Twitter?” I politely gave her my business card and told her to call me for some one-on-one advice.

This woman isn’t alone. As I speak to more and more people everyone wants to use the latest and greatest tools because they have a cool factor, not because they have actually defined a business reason to do so.  This isn’t really just about social media. It’s about asking the why before figuring out the how when making any business decision, especially marketing related ones. In fact, it goes deeper than this. You must first understand the difference between a strategy and a tactic (drink!) so that you can figure out how to apply them to your business problem and create a viable solution (drink!).

So what’s the lesson today? Before you engage in a game of buzzword bingo, start with the core of what you are trying to accomplish.  Pay attention to the trends, but don’t feel pressured into doing something just because everyone else is doing it. Figure out what is best for you, your company and your stakeholders (drink!).