Bruce’s Guide to Navigating Marketing Terminology

Confusion with marketing terminology

As with many fields, Marketing has its own language. A firm’s Brand and Positioning are not specific to Marketing, so Marketing works best when embraced across the entire firm. Specialized lingo doesn’t help. Confusion fuels concerns by non-marketers that Marketing is mostly smoke and mirrors. Below is a list of common marketing terms and what they mean for typical professional services firms.

I’ve included links to some alternative definitions at the bottom.

Your BRAND is what other people say and how they feel about your firm. It’s intangible, so it can be hard to define in concrete terms. Other people define your brand; you cannot create or control your brand.

Other people define your brand; you cannot create or control your brand. #marketing #branding Click To Tweet

BRANDING is traditionally defined as the expression of your brand using various marketing tools: logo, color palette, web site, social media, etc. I avoid the term BRANDING because it suggests you control your brand. Agencies prefer the term BRANDING because it implies you can control your brand, often using Branding as a noun to refer to everything related to a firm’s brand and positioning.

BRAND EQUITY is the power of your brand to persuade people. “Companies can create brand equity for their products by making them memorable, easily recognizable and superior in quality and reliability.” (Investopedia)

POSITIONING is what you say to others about your firm. Positioning can influence your brand, but does not define it. Positioning has greater impact when consistent with your brand. When Positioning is inconsistent with your brand you come off as salesy and self-serving. Positioning is most valuable when it describes how your firm is better than other options, not merely different.

DIFFERENTIATORS set your firm apart from others. To not be dismissed by potential clients, differentiators much be:

  1. True – It must be grounded in reality.
  2. Relevant – If it doesn’t matter to your clients, it doesn’t matter. The best way to be relevant is to help them make a decision regard which option to pursue.
  3. Provable – You must be able to prove it. Otherwise, competitors will make similar claims and potential clients will dismiss it as “marketing.”

TOUCHPOINTS occur when clients interact with your firm and experience your brand. Touchpoints range from web site visits to invoices. Touchpoints are where your brand gets defined.

CLIENT EXPERIENCE (aka BRAND EXPERIENCE) is the tangible interaction between a client and your firm. The overall client experience aggregates individual Touchpoints covering content, people, and processes.

The BRAND PROMISE is what your firm stands for. It’s a projection of your positioning in the form of a commitment. Wal-Mart’s brand promise is “everyday low prices.” Brand Promises that work as tag lines are powerful.

MARKETING is the broad set of activities used to communicate with potential clients. Marketing that focuses on helping your target clients make the decision to select your firm over other options is more powerful than when marketing focuses on describing your stated offering.

MARKETING STRATEGY defines strategic marketing initiatives and ties them to broader firm goals. An example of a strategic initiative is to nurture past clients to drive referrals and repeat business.

MARKETING PLANS convert a strategic initiative into concrete processes, activities, and metrics. A plan for nurturing past clients provides a roadmap of resources and activities used to generate referrals and repeat business from past clients.

MARKETING TACTICS are individual activities and tools that support the broader Plan, Strategy, and Firm Goals. Social media is a tactic, not a strategy. Tactics for the above nurturing example might include specific campaigns, content, and activities targeting past clients for referrals and repeat business.

The Dreaded Marketing-Speak

Some Marketing terms are aimed mostly at other Marketing types. This type of jargon doesn’t help Marketing become a strategic capability recognized by firm management and benefiting the entire firm.

When customers feel your company (your brand) can solve their problem better than other companies (their brand), your brand is attractive and has BRAND GRAVITY. While a sense of how powerful your brand is useful, “gravity” is a universal force acting on everyone the same way. Your brand and positioning are not–and are not intended to be–perceived the same by everyone.

MARKETING & BRANDING is a catchall that is so broad as to be unhelpful. Once again, it implies you can control your brand. Agencies like the term because it puts what they do at the center of the marketing universe.

Other Sources

Here are some other sources of marketing terms and definitions:

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