Jargon, eh? Every industry has it. Those terms, phrases, and acronyms chucked around in closed circles as shorthand for complicated ideas. Marketing, and particularly B2B marketing is no different.
Once upon a time, you might have been able to get by without knowing B2B marketing key terms and jargon. But in a world where most B2B marketers will be utilizing a large number of tools, consulting online guides, interacting with team members, and/or working with various freelancers or agencies, it helps to have an understanding of what means what.
The glossary of terms you need to understand is ever-increasing, so whether you’re a B2B marketing master looking for a refresher or someone who’s feeling lost in team meetings, this is a quick glossary of key B2B marketing terms, along with why they’re important to B2B marketers.
At a basic level, this is testing different versions of a piece of marketing on the same audience (we call it A/B testing because it refers to trying out two versions, but really you can try out as many as you have resources for. It’s just calling it A/B/C/D/etc. testing is a bit much).
For example, you might try out two different versions of an email, or different versions of a social media ad. Many platforms allow you to set this up pretty easily, ensuring that your target market won’t be seeing multiple versions.
A/B testing is important to B2B marketers because it allows them to refine many aspects of their marketing. You can fine-tune copy, try out different images and videos, and more: just about every variable you can imagine when it comes to a piece of marketing can be A/B tested.
Running extensive focus testing and surveys on every single tiny detail of your marketing would be ridiculously time-consuming and impractical, so this is the next best thing.
Account-based marketing (ABM)
B2B marketers are already aware that there’s usually not much point in blasting out your marketing to the entire world (that’s for B2C). You’re already just focusing on the businesses and industries your products and services are relevant to.
Account-based marketing (also known as key account marketing) is a strategy that takes that concept even further by selecting chief, important individual businesses (accounts) to market towards. You produce ultra-focused, tailored marketing towards those accounts.
Every marketer, not just B2B marketers, dreams of the day that their marketing can be fine-tuned to the level that it speaks to each individual directly. With the increase of data-driven automated customization, that dream might one day soon be a reality, but for now, it’s not a practical reality for most B2C marketing.
For B2B marketing, it’s a tad more reasonable, especially if your products and services are specific to one or a small pool of industries and sectors. You’ll identify important potential customers and market directly to them. You’ll look at who your most important existing clients and customers are and focus your upselling and customer retention directly on them.
It requires a concerted effort between sales and marketing teams, often with account executives who manage the marketing towards each account. Now, there are a few more complexities to ABM, but the results can be worth it, and this should be enough to get you started.
What’s better than having customers? Customers who produce more customers for you! People and companies who like you enough can become advocates or ambassadors who will extoll the virtues of your company and products through different channels, like social media or via word of mouth.
We know this is great for B2C in the form of things like customer reviews, but it goes doubly so for B2B. It takes more to influence the purchasing of a business due to all the moving parts and different levels of decision-makers than it does your average consumer. Having a business of a similar size or in the same industry singing your praises makes this decision-making process much quicker and is likely to generate leads.
Advocacy is a major goal of customer retention strategies as they represent the ultimate level of loyalty you can benefit from.
A form of performance marketing, where you have a third party promoting your business to others and you pay them based on how much they succeed in this. This will usually be based on things like traffic to your website or leads generated.
Affiliate marketing can take several forms. Some companies will have affiliate programs, where people or businesses can sign up to be rewarded for referring business to them. A classic example of affiliate marketing in the digital age is PPC, using platforms like Google Ads to post ads online, which you then pay for each click taking someone to your website or landing page.
Affiliate marketing is useful to B2B marketers because you are only paying for results, making it an effective way of seeing exactly what results you’re getting for your money. It also means others are doing work for you, which is always a nice bonus.
Backlinks are a major component of search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. To sum it up these are links to your website and content from other websites. The more authoritative those websites are deemed to be by search engines like Google, the higher you’ll appear on the results page of searches related to your products and services.
For example, if a widely regarded news source like The New York Times has posted links to your site, that would be considered a more valuable backlink than a link by a random website with a tiny audience (so no setting up hundreds of new websites designed to generate backlinks).
Some ways you can encourage backlinks include asking customers to feature links to your products on their own sites, influencer marketing, guest blogger, and solid PR.
Getting people onto a landing page is just the first step. If they leave it without spending significant time on it or visiting another page, we say that these visitors have “bounced”. Keeping track of the bounce rate of people is important.
Firstly if the bounce rate is too high, it probably means you need to take a look at the design and copy on the page. Secondly, search engines like Google keep track of the bounce rate of sites they’re sending people to and will rank those with a high bounce rate lower on their search results pages.
While talking about brands and branding is fairly common among non-marketing laypeople, it’s a broad umbrella term which you’ll hear a lot in marketing circles. Brand is basically everything that other people experience in connection with your company, and a good brand is one that gives a positive impression.
There are the obvious top-level things to consider when talking about brand: the name of the company, the logo, the colors, and the names of your products and services.
But the best examples of branding look deeper than this, they consider the tone of voice of copy (everywhere that’s product descriptions, emails you send, social media, company blogs, and more) and video scripts, the journeys users and customers take when interacting with you, social media, customer service, employee uniforms, packaging, and really just about everything about your company that an outsider encounter.
And why is this important in B2B? Well, contrary to popular perceptions, B2B is still marketing to people and people are more likely to buy from a brand they like the look of, even when they’re choosing between seemingly identical products.
These are profiles you’ll create of your ideal customers. There are two types that apply in B2B marketing: company personas and decision-maker personas.
A company persona will be the types of businesses you’ll be targeting. It will contain information like their geographical location, industry, size, what status they have (such as start-up or mid-sized corporation), and their current business goals (building revenue, growth, brand building, etc.).
Decision-maker personas are the people within a company who influence whether or not a company will actually purchase your products or services. This can range from the people who will actually be using your products to the people in charge of the accounting and can range across many different levels of seniority depending on the size and complexity of the business you’re targeting.
Your persona profile will contain things like their roles within the company, their relationships with other people (such as a department head’s relationships with both their team and those senior to them), what influence they have, and their motivations within the workplace.
For more on decision maker profiles, go here.
These profiles or personas allow you to craft your marketing to address their concerns and needs by showing how your products and services benefit them.
As fun as it might sound to invent these fictional people, it’s a little bit more complicated than that. A good persona will be the result of extensive research across many different companies and people to get a broad picture. You can conduct this research in many different ways such as surveys, social media, or even just some good old-fashioned conversation.
A call-to-action (CTA) is when you ask someone to do something. There are obvious CTAs when it comes to digital B2B marketing, like buttons on your website saying “Buy” or “Call”. Trying out different formats for your CTAs can be a fruitful process: which words to use, the degree of politeness, whether to use pronouns or not, the position on the page, even the color of the button.
All of this and more is important to consider and can vary depending on your target market.
But CTAs go beyond just buttons and instructions. Putting a CTA at the end of a social media post, blog or other forms of content can be extremely useful, as then you can measure how successful that content is.
If people are following the CTA, it’s a good indication it’s a good piece of content. It can be as simple as ending with questions for the audience to answer (see the end of this article for examples).
Did you scroll to the bottom and come back? Well, there’s another simple CTA to put in your content: instructing the reader to navigate it in certain ways or go to another piece of content.
This is the number of people who click on an ad, link, or CTA button, and keeping track of CTRs is important in measuring the success of their placement, design, and language.
This is the practice of looking at the actions, products and marketing of your competitors. You’ll then use a process called competitive analysis to develop marketing strategies which counter, subvert or improve on theirs.
Content marketing is a pretty broad term for just about everything your company produces and publishes publicly that isn’t your actual product which would be of interest to your target market. It’s an umbrella term for many things, including company blogs, whitepapers, videos, social media, podcasts, and more.
Your content can be product adjacent, to help your customers get the most out of your products and service, like a how-to-guide. It can be about the industry you’re in or targeting, to show your company’s knowledge, like an article about market trends. It could be about your own company, looking at the company culture, or development process, like a behind-the-scenes video.
All that matters is that it would be interesting to your target market!
But why do content marketing in the first place? There are a few different reasons.
Product-related content is pretty obvious, as you’re giving people the tools to use your products well. If they’re using it well, they’re more likely to buy more stuff.
Industry-related content shows your knowledge about the issues and trends, building up your status as a thought leader. People are more likely to become customers of companies that seem to know what they’re talking about in relation to their industries.
Content about your own company allows you to show off interesting or fun things about you and your team. It will help people get to know you, putting names to faces, and ultimately build trust between you and your customers.
Content marketing is also a great place to engage in SEO strategies.
You can get the ball rolling with content marketing by developing a content calendar, and we’ve got a guide to help you here.
A conversion is a general term for any person who successfully responds to the goals of your marketing. This can include the obvious end goals, like people becoming your customers, but it can also include specific actions you might be promoting through your marketing, like downloading a pdf or becoming a social media follower.
It’s worth keeping track of where your conversions are coming from so you can see which tactics and strategies are working best.
This is the amount of money and resources you’ve spent on acquiring customers. You can measure this at different levels, such as the channels, campaigns, or even individual activities.
This is easy to work out when working with an agency, as it’s literally “cost of their work” divided by the number of new acquisitions from it.
But with internally produced marketing, you’ll need to go beyond just the cost of ad placement (like on social media or PPC) to get the full picture of cost-per-acquisition. To get really accurate projections, you’ll need to take into account the cost of all the internal resources (from paper and pencils to the salaries of the staff involved).
Customer relationship management (CRM) system
These are pieces of software used to keep track of your company’s interactions with potential and current customers. You can see how far along they are in the buying process and which marketing they’ve interacted with. With this, you can determine which pieces of marketing are having the most success and which customers need the most focus.
Examples of CRM systems include HubSpot, Salesforce, and Microsoft Dynamics 365.
Customer retention funnel
This is a way of mapping out the marketing actions you take to retain customers. It’s a widely known fact that retaining customers is much more cost effective than developing new ones. This is a means of developing customer loyalty, enticing them to buy more products from you, and develop them into advocates.
Demand generation or demand gen is really just a fancy term for marketing actions that raise awareness for your products and services. Demand generation tends to occur at the broadest part of your marketing funnel. It’s not quite as simple as blasting out your marketing to the entire world, with B2B marketing you’ll be looking to target the right companies for your products, with the aim to turn them into leads.
Demand generation can also happen with existing customers, where you make them aware of any new offerings that might be of interest to them.
Direct marketing is any form of marketing that addresses the target on a personal level. Most ads and content marketing tend to be in the indirect marketing category, while things like sales pitches, direct mail (both email and the classic snail mail), text messaging, and even a phone call come under direct marketing, as they’re delivered directly to the audience.
Direct marketing exists in the B2C world, but it’s rare. It’s much more common in B2B marketing, especially if you’re following an accounts-based model, as they tend to be working with a smaller pool of prospective customers. It allows you to deliver marketing that directly addresses their requirements and build strong, personal relationships.
Also known as smart content, this is marketing that adapts to data you have on the recipient, allowing you to deliver personalized content and marketing. This could be something like the content of a webpage changing depending on their prior behavior on the site (tracked by cookies) or their location. Maybe your email newsletters automatically populate with content based on things your targets identify as their interests when they sign up.
As opposed to paid or owned media, earned media is organically gained coverage from a third-party source. This can include the press, invitations to speak at events, podcasts or other forms of interview (so long as your company isn’t sponsoring them), and really just about anything which gives you coverage that you haven’t paid for.
We can help you make the most of earned media with this guide right here.
Engagement is the interactions an audience has with a piece of marketing. It’s often used as a measurement for success when it comes to marketing. There are different types of engagement, with different tiers of value across different marketing channels.
For example, most social media channels have likes, comments, and shares as forms of engagement.
Email would have opens, views, and click-throughs.
You usually measure this with an engagement rate, which is the proportion of the audience which is interacting with your content. Got a big audience, but not many people interacting? That’s a low engagement rate. Got a small audience, but they’re all interacting with your content? That’s a high engagement rate.
Keeping track of your engagement is important as it allows you to refine your content towards your target audience, and generate and nurture leads.
This is content that’s hidden from most of the public. Usually you’ll require people to provide you with details before they can access it. It could be behind a paywall or subscription, they need to sign up as members, or it can be as little as providing you with an email address. Sometimes they might have to be customers already.
By doing this, you’ll ask them to agree to receive further marketing from you. This is a great way of generating leads, but you’ll need to make sure the content behind the gate is worthwhile, or you’ll see people drop out and remove your ability to send further content.
This is just a quick way of saying a piece of marketing or content will be delivered to people in a specific geographical location. Most social media platforms allow you to do this both organically and with paid targeting.
This is important if certain parts of your business only apply to certain places (like some products only being available in certain countries), or if you’ve tailored your marketing campaign seasonally (no point in a summer-themed campaign in January in Australia).
Growth hacking or marketing is a term for the range of skills and marketing activities that are most conducive to rapidly increasing the revenue and audience base of a company.
Growth hacking experts are often of most use to startups and it often involves coordinating marketers, sales, engineers, developers and product managers, all with one goal: growing the user base of a product as quickly as possible.
This is the number of times your content appears on someone's screen, such as in their social media feed. Impressions should never be used as the only measure for success, as it doesn’t really tell you anything. It doesn’t tell you if someone has read or watched the content, it doesn’t tell you if they’ve clicked any of the links, only that it appeared in front of them. Even then, they could have scrolled right past it.
It should only be used as a baseline against other forms of measurement, like engagement. If you’re getting loads of impressions, but not much else, then you need to take another look at that content.
Rather than running ads (outbound marketing), inbound marketing is a strategy that involves populating your site with useful, easy to discover content so that interested parties come to you. It’s the umbrella term that covers things like content marketing and SEO strategies.
Inbound marketing is particularly useful to B2B marketers, as it doesn’t require spending money on media placements for ads, which can often be inefficient as you can’t guarantee that every single person who sees that ad will be your target market. Instead, good content and proper SEO strategies means it’s more likely that the people coming to your site will be the right audience.
The process of utilizing an influential brand ambassador to promote your company. You’ve probably heard of influencer marketing in the realms of B2C marketing, but it’s got equally valuable applications in B2B marketing. It’s just unlikely you’ll be utilizing the Kardashians.
You’ll identify well-respected experts and thought leaders in the industries your products and services are connected to, whether they work in those industries or cover them (like bloggers) and work with them to promote your company.
Key performance indicators (KPI)
KPIs are the metrics you use to measure the success of your marketing projects. Having consistent KPIs which you establish ahead of time allows you to compare the success of different campaigns and activities. Clear KPIs allow you to communicate your successes to different stakeholders and departments, as well as see where you need to improve.
Looking for help with social media KPIs? We’ve got you covered.
Search engines are based on keywords and matching sites to the terms people enter into the search bar. An SEO practice involves occupying your website and content with keywords your target market is likely to use.
A good practice is to build up a bank of keywords to use frequently through the process of keyword research.
You can’t get away with overloading content with keywords, as search engines like Google will look at the keyword ratio in comparison to the rest of the content on the page to make sure you’re not just stuffing content nonsensically with keywords.
These are pages on your websites you’re expecting visitors to reach from external sources, like search engines or social media, that aren’t necessarily pieces of content. They’ll be specially designed to get a desired result from a customer, such as signing up for a membership or your emails, downloading something, or acting as an entry point into the rest of the site.
These are potential customers who have shown some kind of indication of interest in you, usually by providing some details that will allow you to market to them further. They can take the form of email subscribers or social media followers, or even an old-school rolodex of names.
Leads are frequently categorized as marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs).
Also known as lead gen, these are marketing activities designed to produce leads. This can include both outbound and inbound marketing practices. Leads generated are often used as important KPIs for many activities.
Lead generation activities sit at the very top of your marketing funnel.
Feeling lost with lead gen? Here’s a great place to start.
These are activities that turn your leads into customers. Traditionally, these activities were undertaken by the sales departments, but modern thinking advises a more combined approach between marketing and sales.
You’ll provide content and marketing materials designed to persuade interested parties that they’re making the right decision buying from you.
Lead nurturing activities occupy the middle of your marketing funnel.
Lifetime Value (LTV)
The amount of profit your company can gain from a customer across their entire relationship with you. Often used to calculate ROI, you can determine which customers are best for your marketing and sales teams to target. It’s good to be aware of what your overall company goals are.
For example if you need to build revenue fast, you might target customers which would generate high value over a short lifetime.
If you’re looking to build more sustained sources of revenue, you’d go for aim for customers likely to yield a long lifetime relationship.
These are specific phrases containing keywords. You’re less likely to get high volume traffic from something this specific, but people who do search for these phrases are more likely to become conversions if your content or products are exactly what they’re looking for.
These are platforms or software which automates certain aspects of your marketing. This could include auto-respond emails, sending out mass emails, social media posts or emails on specific dates or at certain points along a timeline after someone becomes a lead, or when they progress to the next section of your marketing funnel.
This is a means of mapping out the different types of marketing you aim at potential customers as they progress from leads into customers. It’s often broken up into different stages that fit under categories like lead generation and lead nurturing.
This is a term for all the things a company can control to influence people to buy from them. It’s often summed up as “the four Ps”: product, price, place and promotion.
For more on the marketing mix and the four Ps, go here.
Marketing qualified lead (MQL)
These are leads that have been assessed to be most likely to become customers, and as such will be the main focus of your marketing. You’ll have tracked their behavior and engagement with your own content and possibly others. They’ll be the main focus of your lead nurturing efforts until they become sales qualified leads and ready for your sales team to engage with.
This is a technique for dividing up your target market into different categories, so that you can target them with appropriate marketing. There different methods of doing this, and the ones you choose will largely depend on your company’s resources, products, and the intended goals of your marketing.
For more on the methods for B2B marketing segmentation, head here.
This is the practice of ensuring your digital content will display well on the majority of mobile phone devices. In fact it can be common practice to have a separate mobile-optimized version of a website to guarantee this happens.
It involves making sure the site loads fast enough when loading over mobile networks, that it can be read clearly when in both portrait and landscape dimensions of the majority of smart-phone screens, and that it can be easily navigated by touch screen.
In the B2C world, the majority of internet users access it via smartphones, and while it’s less prevalent in B2B circles, it’s still vitally important.
Paid advertising that fits the form and function of the platform it appears on: in other words an ad that appears like a social media post on a social media platform, or a longform ad that appears like an article on a news or blogging site.
In more unruly days of digital you used to be able to get away with fully disguising the fact that something was an ad, but these days most platforms are required by laws to indicate the content that has been paid for by advertisers (usually with a label saying something like “Ad” or “Sponsored content”).
The practice of coordinating your marketing across all the various channels you utilize. This is important to make sure you’re communicating the correct information across all your channels. This doesn’t necessarily mean having the exact same thing on every channel, as you should be tailoring your marketing to the channel and audience.
This includes seemingly similar channels, like social media because their audiences and tools can be different (e.g. your Facebook content shouldn’t be exactly the same as your LinkedIn content).
Developing a strategy that works goes across all of your channels and links them together is called an omni-channel strategy.
These are marketing activities which will generate your traffic over time, usually without you paying for them (beyond the internal costs of salaries and creative, of course).
These are search results which appear on the results of a search engine, as opposed to PPC ads. The purpose of SEO strategies are to get your site’s content to appear as high up the search results page as possible. This is important as the majority of internet users will click the top results (hardly any even go to the second page).
This is the term for classic advertising and marketing: putting out ads on public platforms that anyone can see as a means of lead generation. This includes the old favorites like television, radio, magazine, trade show presentations, and posters/billboards. Outbound marketing has become less popular in B2B marketing as it’s not always as cost effective as targeted or inbound marketing.
As opposed to earned or paid media, this is content and materials a company produces themselves and has control over their distribution, for example blogs hosted on their website. It can include media hosted on websites that you don’t own (like social media posts or videos on YouTube), so long as you aren’t paying for them to be there (like social media ads), which would count as paid media.
If you want to get started using owned media to the max, our guide is a great place to start.
This is content which you pay for the placement of on different channels. It includes social media ads, PPC, and sponsored content. Paid media is often used as a means of lead generation, as the majority of the platforms with paid options allow you to target the audience you require.
Most paid search advertising uses a pricing model where you pay for each click, so we use the terms pay-per-click (PPC) as the title for this type of marketing. It’s not quite as simple as it sounds, as you need to make sure you’ve got the right copy in the ads and that it’s placed correctly, as you don’t just want clicks, you want clicks from the right people who could become leads and eventually customers.
If you’ve ever noticed that you see ads for sites you’ve visited on other websites, that’s because of retargeting. It’s the process of using people’s browsing data or cookies to the ads that appear to them online. Retargeting is good for keeping your brand and products top of mind with leads, reminding them of what you have to offer and encouraging them to come back to your site.
Return on investment (ROI)
A common KPI or measuring the effectiveness of your marketing by determining how much you're spending on your marketing and how much profit you’re making as a result. It’s a good idea to keep track of ROI and be able to make sensible projections when setting up new campaigns so you can communicate your budgeting to other departments.
Request for proposal (RFP)
If you’re bidding for a client or business, it’s likely at some point there will be a request for a proposal, which is usually a document or a live presentation/sales pitch where you lay out everything to do with the deal you’re looking to make.
This will include the actions your company will take, what products and services will be included, and how much it will cost. You’ll also show the ways the potential client will benefit.
Almost every proposal will be unique, as it will be tailored to the company you’re looking to be in business with, but it’s good to have a standard layout and language you’ll have developed and tested prior to the request.
Need help responding to RFPs? Check out our guide to get you started.
Sales qualified lead (SQL)
These are leads that are towards the end of your marketing funnel and are most likely to become customers. In ye olde days, this would be when the marketing team stepped back and sales moved in, but many companies are moving towards models that see marketing and sales coordinating efforts even at this late stage.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
Getting your site and contents to the top of organic search results is important, and this can be done by formatting and structuring the site in different ways, as well as developing backlinks. These practices come under the umbrella term search engine optimization (SEO).
There’s a LOT that goes into SEO, but it’s important to look into to develop your organic traffic and improve the success of your content marketing.
This is a technique that usually happens at the early stages of your marketing strategy planning, as a way of identifying both internal and external factors in your marketing and business. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
Strengths are what you’ve got going for you, like a strong product.
Weaknesses are things you need to work around, which could be a small budget.
Opportunities are things you need to take advantage of, like an upcoming event related to your industry.
Threats are things you need to watch out for or avoid, like a rival company releasing a new product.
A thought leader is a prominent person or organization that other people within an industry trust for advice and will go to for information. It’s part of marketing practices because people will be more likely to buy your products if they trust that you know what you’re talking about in relation to the product’s industries.
You can establish yourself as a thought leader through content marketing or connect yourself with other thought leaders through influencers, customer advocacy, or affiliate programs.
User experience (UX)
This is the way of charting all the different ways a person or company interacts with your brand. You’ll consider the journey they’ll take through your website or apps and look at ways to optimize the experience. This includes both the journey they take from lead through to purchase, but also their experience once they become your customers, particularly if your products are digital in nature.
This is the promise you make to your clients and customers: what you offer and how you operate, and how they both benefit them. Having a consistent, established value proposition is important to stay consistent and on message at all times.
Anything we’ve missed? Maybe you want more details on a particular subject. Let us know!