Part two in what seems to be a growing list of annoying, obfuscating, faux-intellectual and unnecessarily complicated words marketers use, but shouldn’t. We’re just callin’ it as we see it. Guest content, from Shane Mahoney.

1. a short shaft or pin supporting something that turns; fulcrum
2. the person or position from which a military formation takes its reference, as when altering position

1. to turn on or as if on a pivot

I fully understand the situational meaning of this term – to rapidly change direction, strategy or execution while bearing in mind the fixed position from which you started – but it makes my mind hurt to hear this term with increasing frequency. Particularly when used in plural. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but if you’re intent on talking about your business plan and the potential pivots down the road, you bring to mind a perimeter basketball player pinned down by suffocating defense, or worse yet, a muskrat with one leg caught in a trap: endlessly, aimlessly, desperately spinning around one fixed point, never going anywhere. 

Your grandfather, or the NASA engineers who just landed a freakin’ rover on the moon with a levitating crane, would have called this same pivot phenomenon a “contingency plan.” And yes, NASA engineers and your grandfather aren’t exactly “agile” (to use another awful business aphorism) of process as a startup, but there’s great wisdom in rigorously thinking through your Plan A, then several contingencies.

Of course, un-forseen instances happen. When they do, rather than using a faux-intellectual (colloquially, “College Words”) term to describe your change of direction, do two things: first, carefully consider the circumstance and plan your reaction, and second, communicate professionally, not someone emailing in a suggestion to a jaded editor for a spot in Wired Magazine’s “Wired / Tired” feature.

If you aren’t an NBA point guard, a mechanical engineer or an Excel wizard, please don’t use the word “pivot.” Words like “adapt,” and “change” will work just fine.

If I’ve hurt your feelings, laugh it off with this very on-point advertisement for Red Stripe Beer.

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