10 marketing terms that have lost their meaning

These words and phrases are bandied about with diminishing specificity. Don’t fall into that trap. Be sure you say what you mean and mean what you say.

The following 10 words or phrases are so overused or misused in B2B marketing that they have lost nearly all meaning. If you are using these terms today, it is time to stop and explain what you really mean.

Otherwise, we may hear you, but we will think you mean something completely different.

1. Thought leadership

Almost any type of content has been labeled thought leadership marketing in recent years. Unfortunately, much of it reflects zero thought and leads nowhere.

If you use the term thought leadership, explain what you want to be seen as a leader in. Is it perspectives on where your industry is going, best practices, or technical expertise? Clarity is crucial.

2. Integrated

“Sure, we can add a Twitter icon to our email. Should it link to somewhere?”

To some people, this is an example of integrating their disparate marketing efforts. To others, integration means something far bigger and more challenging to execute.

3. Strategy

When you say strategy, are you referring to your 50-year strategic plan that considers things like the lack of potable water and the impact of peak oil on your business? Or are you referring to a Twitter strategy that includes your auto-responder rules, mass following tool, and auto-shared content sources?

4. Engagement

“We want to increase engagement with our brand.”

To one marketer, that might mean more time spent on their website. To another, it means increasing customer retention. To yet another, it’s a metric from Facebook.

5. White paper

All white paper means anymore is a PDF from marketing. A best practices guide, vendor comparison, industry perspective, and even a sell sheet have been lumped under the heading of white paper by many marketers.

6. Leads and lead generation

Leads may refer to anything from a list purchased from Jigsaw to prospects that have full BANT qualification. (That is, they have Budget allocated for a solution like yours, they have the Authority to purchase the solution, they have a defined Need for a solution, and they have an established Timeframe to purchase a solution.)

Depending on the definition, the cost of a lead may be 50 cents or $1,500. If you are talking about leads and lead generation, setting the definition is essential.

7. Demand generation

At many companies, demand generation has become synonymous with lead generation. At others, it refers to more traditional advertising metrics, such as increasing intent to purchase or interest in the product.

8. Awareness

Awareness is easy to define, but B2B marketers who are more focused on direct marketing results use the term far too liberally. Are you referring to awareness of your brand or company name? Your product name? Recognition of brand or product attributes? Affinity for your product?

Be specific. The differences impact your marketing program and measurement.

9. Brand

Your name and logo? The values you present to the market? Or the perception your audience has of your company? All of the above?

Like awareness, brand can easily be defined, but without additional context it confuses rather than clarifies the discussion.

10. ROI

Version one: Our $20,000 Facebook campaign drove 1,546 new likes. Awesome ROI!

Version two: Our $20,000 investment drove $100,000 in revenue but only $15,000 in incremental profit. Our ROI was -25 percent, yikes!

These are not empty terms. They are widely used in planning discussions, in agency briefs, and in the media, but they no longer clearly communicate your intent.

If you are using these terms, particularly if there are new people on your team or you work with agencies or consultants, stop and take a minute to clarify what you mean. Your communication, and the programs that result, will improve.

Your turn

What other terms are overused by B2B marketers and have lost their meaning? Add to the list in the comments below or share your reaction with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

Eric Wittlake heads Babcock & Jenkins. A version of this article first appeared on B2B Digital Marketing.

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