Dump the Jargon

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The Scenario: You’ve completed an audit1 and are relaying findings to a homeowner:

Marketing home performance? You can't use ACH50, CAZ, or thermal bypass. You've got to use words my mom understands.“The blower door reading says 2,167 cfm50, and with that level of infiltration, you have an ACH50 of 13.2.  An analysis of your attic shows that you have a nominal R-11 installed at a level 2, and thus you are at a derated level that is only 23.4% of the ORNL guidelines for homes in this zone. With the CAZ at -5.0 pascals, I’m also concerned that moving toward ASHRAE 62.2, based on the ANOVA I’ve run your pathogen levels risk combobulating. If you sign this contract and the indicated addendums, we can initiate remediation.”


Silliness aside, big-sounding words and industry jargon might be fine among colleagues in the trades or during a technical training. But they generally do not lead to homeowner understanding or confidence, nor to signed contracts.

It’s important to translate your technical knowledge and findings into language that the typical homeowner can understand. [Sure, when dealing with the engineer, dip into the technical jargon bag if it helps—but don’t let that be your default approach.]

Work on this with everyone in your company. Knowing that your typical customer doesn’t understand “home performance2“, “BPI”, “AFUE”, “sill plate”, “band joist”, “depressurization”, or a zillion (a number which means “a lot”) other words, phrases, acronyms, or concepts, come up with ways to talk about this in everyday language. It will help your marketing and sales, and you won’t be seem like quite as big a geek at parties.

1 “Audit” or “assessment” or something else? Ah, the perennial argument. I’ve certainly been all other the map. But over the past five years, I’ve shifted back toward “audit”, at least on the front end. For better or for worse, it’s what people understand. And what they look for, all six of them, when they search on Google. Ditto when the media is interested in a story. You can call it whatever you want. But there are certain big advantages to using the words people know.

2 Yes, even our industry’s name is confusing. It means different things to different people, mostly on the inside. To the average homeowner, it says little. And “Home Performance Contractor”? Even worse. If you’re a contractor, though, you don’t have to wait for an industry to sort itself out. Start redefining yourself in a way that makes sense for your customers and your business. Today!

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About the Author:

Mike Rogers is the President of OmStout Consulting. A nationally recognized expert in residential energy-efficiency, he works with contractors and programs to scale sustainable market approaches to improving homes. More on Google+

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