Every industry has its jargon, and marketing is no different. When you’re studying or getting started in the field—or if you work with marketing professionals—it’s helpful to know some of the terms that we commonly use. That’s why I put together a glossary of definitions for 50 common marketing terms that I found slightly cryptic the first (or second, or twenty-seventh) time I heard them.
General Marketing Terms
1. A/B Testing
A/B testing is a randomized experiment in which two or more variants are compared to determine which is more successful in achieving a set goal. You can test many elements of marketing communications collateral this way. For instance, we often A/B test email subject lines. The email list is segmented randomly. Half gets subject line Version A, and half gets subject line Version B. Whichever version results in more email opens is declared the winner, and more testing commences to see how can we get even better results.
Business-to-business. A company that sells products or services to other companies, rather than to consumers. An example is HubSpot, which provides marketing automation software to businesses.
3. B2B Marketing Agency
A marketing agency with expertise in B2B marketing. These agencies come alongside B2B businesses to help them reach their customers (which happen to be other businesses).
Business-to-consumer. A company that sells products or services to end consumers. For instance, Nike.
5. B2C Marketing Agency
A marketing agency with expertise in B2C marketing. These agencies come alongside B2C businesses like Nike to help them reach their customers.
Branding is always a tricky concept, mostly because the term “brand” is widely used in a technically wrong way. It’s important to know both the technical definition and the common understanding. Really, your “brand” is your customers’ perception of you, the idea they have in mind when they think of your company. You don’t have direct control over it, though you can impact it. The generally accepted meaning of “brand,” however, is all of the elements that make your company, your company, such as visual elements, tone and voice, personality, and other differentiators. You’ll hear it used both ways.
Branding, then, is about shaping the meaning of a company in the customers’ mind. What do you want them to think of when your company comes to mind? Branding can involve advertising, packaging, customer service, messaging, logos, and more.
Brand not working? Do customers have a negative or outdated or wrong (in your opinion) perception of your organization? Time to “re-brand,” working to re-establish your brand and recalibrate your image through the same elements mentioned above.
8. Buyer Persona
A semi-fictitious representation of a customer that is based on your understanding of your real customers. You might have multiple buyer personas, depending on the scale of your business. Here’s an example (specific to a provider of digital marketing training) of what they can look like:
Seems kind of silly? Wondering what the point is? Customer personas help you identify the demographic (gender, age, income, etc.) and psychographic (interests, pain points, values) attributes of your typical customer, providing actionable insight on how to reach them. For instance, if you know your customer is a millennial, you know that advertising on Instagram might be an effective way to reach them. If you know that they are eco-conscious, you know to highlight that in your messaging.
The best buyer personas are based on your understanding of your existing customers as well as actual research.
The collection of materials used to support the sales of an offering. For instance, spec sheets, presentation folders, websites, case studies, etc.
A conversion occurs when a target of your marketing messages performs the desired action. In the case of digital marketing, conversions include (but are not limited to) opening an email, visiting a landing page, or signing up for a mailing list. Making a sale is the ultimate conversion.
Text. Written material that is used to encourage interest in or purchase of an offering. What copywriters produce.
NOTE: Copy and “Content” are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are fundamentally different. (See #45.)
Customer relationship management. CRM software is technology for managing your customer relationships and interactions.
Call-To-Action. The element that prompts viewers of your email, landing page, social media post, etc., to take the step that you want them to take. For instance, you might have a CTA button in an email that says “Learn More about (fill in the blank),” which goes to a landing page for that product. Maybe that page has an “Add to Cart” CTA.
14. Customer (Buyer’s) Journey
The journey customers go through to become aware of, consider and evaluate, and then purchase an offering. It’s described a lot of different ways, but the generally accepted stages of the basic journey are Awareness, Consideration, and Decision.
15. Marketing Funnel (Flywheel)
Marketers work to cater to each stage of the buyer’s journey, providing customers the information that they need to move through it. The journey is commonly shown as a funnel because people will drop out at each stage of the journey, leaving only the most interested to complete the final “Action” stage.
Recently, the funnel has fallen out of favor a bit, though it is still widely used. Now, some have begun to describe the journey as more of a “flywheel.” Flywheels, which store energy when spun (unlike funnels, which pour out the energy you put into them), “represent a circular process where customers feed growth.” As Hubspot says, “What happens to customers in the funnel? They’re the outcome—nothing more, nothing less. […] With the flywheel, you use the momentum of your happy customers to drive referrals and repeat sales”.
16. Guerrilla Marketing
Guerrilla marketing tactics are unconventional, creative marketing tactics designed to surprise and delight. Originally a strategy leveraged by small businesses with limited resources, it is used by big businesses as well (and sometimes to great expense). HubSpot compiled some great examples of guerilla marketing, like when GoldToe promoted the launch of its new undergarments by placing oversized versions on statues in New York.
Inbound marketing works to draw in customers rather than the alternative of pushing promotional information out. It’s all about providing value to customers, earning attention. For instance, using double opted-in email lists over purchased lists, as you’re communicating with leads who have expressly stated that they want your information.
Outbound marketing involves getting your message in front of your audience rather than actually earning their attention. Also called “interruption” marketing. These techniques, like advertisements, sales calls, attending trade shows, etc., convert at a much lower rate than inbound tactics but are still widely used.
Key Performance Indicator. A value by which you measure the success of your marketing efforts. (Marketing is all about measurement!) A common KPI in marketing is a “conversion,” which, as explained above, refers to a customer taking a desired action (such as filling out a form, opening an email, or placing an order). Other KPIs include the number of leads being brought in, COCA (cost of customer acquisition), website traffic, and more.
A prospective customer.
21. Marketing Automation
Marketing automation involves automating marketing tasks that have to do with email, social, media, your website, and more, to make them more manageable. This is achieved through software, such as the offerings of Hubspot or SharpSpring. Marketing automation helps you generate and nurture leads much more efficiently. For instance, you could set up a drip email sequence that is automatically triggered when someone signs up for your email list.
22. (The) Marketing Mix (4Ps)
The overarching elements that marketers use to do their work (which is, fundamentally, facilitating exchanges). Product, price, place, and promotion. You’ve got to have the right product, at the right price, in the right place, and you’ve got to tell the right people about it.
23. Pain Points
The problems or frustrations your customer has that your offering can solve.
24. Relationship Marketing
A marketing approach that focuses on developing customer relationships and maintaining them long-term. Technically, that’s how all marketing should work anyway! (At least, that’s what we think!)
25. Social Proof
Social proof is the concept that if people see others doing something, they will be more inclined to do so also. A common example of leveraging social proof in marketing is using testimonials. If someone sees that their peers are using and enjoying an offering, they may be more inclined to try it out.
26. Target Audience
The specific audience that you want to reach, because they’re most likely to be interested in your product or service. You need to know your target audience very well so that you can offer them something of value and know how to encourage them to take advantage of it.
Happy customers are the best marketing strategy. When they’re ecstatic about your products or services, they’ll tell their friends. This word-of-mouth marketing is extremely influential because it is trustworthy. Aren’t you more inclined to believe the review of a friend than an advertisement?
Email Marketing Terms
An autoresponder email is sent automatically in response to a customer’s action. For instance, you may have noticed that you automatically get a welcome email if you subscribe to an email list, or an email acknowledging your purchase right after you made it. Autoresponders are great tools for efficiently nurturing leads, but they must be used judiciously. Nothing can replace that human touch!
29. Double Opt-In
In email marketing, when a user signs up for a list and is then sent an email with a link to click to confirm their subscription, thus signifying they are truly interested in receiving emails.
Privacy is a topic of great concern in marketing today, and making sure email contacts are double opted-in is best practice. Don’t you just love when you are sent unsolicited emails? No? Well, no one does, so try not to send them.
A type of marketing (often automated) in which a set of messages, “drips,” are sent to your audience over time. For us, it most often takes the form of email marketing. For instance, a drip email sequence could start with a welcome email with a promo code, include an “about us”-type email that sends a few days later, and finish with a featured product email that sends a few days after that. The point? Nurturing leads more effectively and efficiently.
Digital Marketing & Advertising Terms
31. Bounce Rate
The percentage of people visiting your website who leave after viewing only one page. The lower the bounce rate, the better.
32. Digital (Online) Marketing
Digital marketing, AKA Online Marketing, is marketing that deals with the digital. Profound, right? Specifically, digital marketing touches email, social media, online ads, websites, search engines, and any other tactics that involve electronics or the internet.
33. Landing Page
A standalone web page created as part of a campaign. Where visitors “land” after clicking on an ad. Landing pages are designed with a single objective in mind.
Pay-Per-Click. Advertising in which you, well, pay-per-click. For example, social media advertising or SEM.
Cost-Per-Click. The cost per each click of your PPC ad.
Click Through Rate. The rate of viewers of your ad who actually click. (Total Clicks) / (Total Impressions) = CTR.
In marketing, reach refers to the total number of people who are exposed to a message. We talk about reach often when discussing social posts or advertisements. The key thing to know about reach is that it doesn’t necessarily signal that people consumed your message; it only means that they have been exposed to it.
Engagement is the number of people who have engaged with a social media post. Likes, shares, and comments count as engagement. Unlike reach, engagement signals that people have consumed and shown some level of interest in your message.
Impressions are the number of times your message is displayed for your target audience.
40. Retargeting (Remarketing)
Many visitors to your site will not convert on that first visit. Retargeting advertisements allow marketers to send ads targeted directly to people who have already visited their website (or are in their contact database). These people have expressed some level of interest, so they are very valuable leads that you want to follow up on. With retargeting, you can even show them ads related to the specific pages or products they viewed.
Search Engine Optimization. The tactics involved in making sure that your webpages are visible in organic search engine results.
Search Engine Marketing. Like SEO, the objective is to improve the visibility of your website or page in search engine results pages. However, with SEM, it’s done through paid search engine advertising.
User experience. “All aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”1
User interface. (Related to UX, but a separate concept.) Where human and machine meet. UI designers work to create interfaces that are intuitive and pleasurable to use.
Content Marketing Terms
This one’s hard to put into my own words, so I’m going to borrow from a tweet by @rahelab in this article on the definition of content. Content is “contextual, human-usable data.” A video is content. A blog post is content. A case study is content. A Buzzfeed quiz is content. It’s information with a higher purpose, information that provides value.
46. Content Marketing
Using content to market an offering. The key is that the content has to be relevant and valuable to your audience—it’s educational rather than promotional.
A plant with leaves that are green all year—wait, hold on, nope. But the marketing meaning of “evergreen” does draw on this definition. Like an evergreen plant maintains its leaves, evergreen content maintains is freshness. It is long-lasting; it will still be valuable for years to come. For instance, this blog is full of marketing terms that are not going away anytime soon. People will still be looking for the definition of “evergreen” for years to come. A blog called “Marketing Trends 2019,” however, will not be of much use come 2020. There is a place for both evergreen and topical content in content strategy.
“Gating” content refers to putting it behind a form. For instance, if you sell email automation software, you might create an eBook about why and how to create autoresponder emails. You might gate this piece of content marketing, making it accessible only to those who provide their basic information (name, company, email address) by filling out a form, so that you can gain leads. Gating makes sense for some (i.e., high-value) content, but not all. Hubspot has a handy flowchart for figuring out whether or not to gate content.
The art of telling stories is central to marketing. Every piece of content, every ad, every blog, should tell a story. Why is it so important to use stories? Why not just focus on communicating information? Because stories simplify concepts, bring people together, and inspire and motivate. Because stories make words more than just words.
User-generated content. Content that is created by the users of the brand. It can be leveraged for content marketing. For instance, you could share or report a positive review of your product that someone posted on social media. UGC is trustworthy, because it is not brand-generated, so it can be an excellent tool.
Have other marketing terms that you would like defined? Send us an email, and we’ll get right on it!