Marketing Words To Avoid in 2014 (or Any Year)

marketingspeak word cloudI don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I do generally adhere to certain principles throughout my daily and professional lives. One of them applies to writing … in this case, writing about marketing. The philosophy is simple: Avoid marketing-speak. How do you write about marketing without using all these popular expressions, some may ask. To them I say: Very carefully. The following words and phrases I have banned from my marketing vocabulary in order to write with more clarity. I hope you consider doing the same. Both your colleagues and customers will thank you.

efforts: (e.g., Track your marketing efforts) This one has to stop immediately. It’s like black death in the Middle Ages: Every third person is infected. The answer? Lose the ‘efforts’ and simply say ‘marketing.’ Imagine talking about an athlete or actor: We don’t talk about LeBron James’ or Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance efforts; instead, we say, “His performance was wonderful.” The word speaks for itself. Talking about marketing should be the same … to use efforts in this way is just plain lazy.

results-based, results-driven, data-driven: Anybody doing anything online is collecting (and hopefully skillfully analyzing) extensive data these days; no need to hype it anymore.

tactics and strategies: You probably only need one of these words per sentence.

metrics: I know it sounds cooler, but I rarely see occasions where you couldn’t make the same point about tracking the success of your marketing efforts (no!) by saying data or stats. This word might be less objectionable if it weren’t used all the time to make things sound more important than they are. Instead of saying, “Let’s examine the data,” we say “Let’s look at the metrics,” and suddenly everyone thinks we’re sharper?  Then the word is used 4 times in one paragraph, like a kid who wants to show off how cool the birthday presents are: “See what I’ve got?” I’ve written about this previously, but this word has not gone away in the 4.5 years since I first raised the point. Here’s what I wrote back then: ‘A fancy way to say stats or measurements. Was it MLB’s sabermetrics that made this word popular?  Once upon a time, I thought metrics referred only to meters, liters and grams.’

Other phrases are really close to meaninglessness due to overuse:

personalized messaging: This one is really easy to be vague about. Are you talking about custom dynamic content insertion on a mass scale, or just saying that you try to communicate with a human touch?

demand generation: I understand there is an entire industry built around this term (marketing automation), but unless we’re really talking about what makes individuals interested in a particular topic/product/service, we’re just throwing around the word carelessly. Marketing automation as a system attempts to satisfy customer demand for valuable content by making it easier to deliver and refine such content. Knowing this about marketing automation (MA), it’s best to not add another easily misunderstood 2-word noun phrase anywhere near it, especially when you’re already talking about lead generation and lead nurturing, which any discussion of MA typically includes.

In this time of fresh starts and goal-setting, here’s to writing more clearly!

About Paul Richlovsky

Paul purposefully merges a creative writing and teaching background with his decade-long marketing career. He advises clients on content strategy, editorial direction and PR/distribution. He is a perpetual critical thinker who has written/edited hundreds of blog posts and multiple long-form marketing guides, including those aimed at audiences as varied as healthcare, higher education, financial services, B2C brands and manufacturing. With a BA in English from the College of Wooster, he is also the author of a collection of poetry, "Under the Lunar Neon."He gets really excited about the science of elite performance, usability, brand voice, headlines, digital governance, ballroom dancing, bachata, racquet sports, and romping with his niece and nephews.

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