5 Marketing Terms to Avoid When Speaking to Non-Marketers

By Callie HinmanMar 13 /2017

Marketing-Terms-to-AvoidIn German, "gift" means "poison." It's true.

If you were unaware of this interesting fact and decided to travel to Germany during the holidays, you might find yourself in a rather uncomfortable situation.

Before embarking on a trip abroad, most tourists spend time learning about the region to which they're headed. This helps them know how to communicate properly with local residents (and avoid faux pas like the one above).

Smart marketing professionals take this same approach to prepare for meetings with the executive team or non-marketers. They know that to prevent misunderstandings, they must translate their vernacular into a language an audience who is generally unfamiliar with marketing can easily comprehend.

marketing terms to avoid when speaking to non-marketers

1. Customer Engagement

What It Means to Marketers

Constantly updated measurements of the frequency and level of enthusiasm with which a buyer connects with a brand.

Why to Avoid It

Outside of marketing, engagement implies "short-lived"—for example, a couple is only engaged until they get married and contract positions are referred to as temporary engagements. But customer engagement is an ongoing strategy focused on maintaining and growing relationships with buyers long after they've signed a contract.

And since customer engagement is broad term that encompasses many measurements, it's easier for non-marketers to understand when each individual element is discussed separately.

How to Translate It

Break down engagement into the core metrics (clicks, views, conversions, etc.) and describe the process as a way to see the brand from a customer's point-of-view. Explain that engagement is about collecting data on a lead's continued interactions with the company's content and using this data to improve your marketing campaigns.

2. Lead Score

What It Means to Marketers

The value of a lead and its potential benefit to a brand, calculated by predetermined criteria, which is agreed upon by both sales and marketing.

Why to Avoid It

Decision-makers who aren't on the sales or marketing teams aren't necessarily interested in the specific details of how the quality of a lead is determined. They likely just want to know if the lead is "good" or "bad"—for instance, whether the lead has a high potential or low potential of becoming a customer.

How to Translate It

Keep it simple. When discussing a particular lead, explain the basic reasons why the lead is being pursued or not, how you and the sales team anticipate the lead will help the company and the next steps in the process. You don't have to get into the nitty-gritty of lead scoring.

3. Reach

What It Means to Marketers

The size of potential audience to whom a brand can deliver its marketing content.

Why to Avoid It

Reach, unlike some of these other marketing terms to avoid, is a concept that is easily translated into language anyone can understand. It simply means the number of people or households a brand can contact via a single campaign. So, when talking to non-marketers, using reach makes the conversation unnecessarily complicated.

How to Translate It

One of the great things about reach is the fact it's an objective figure, not a relative calculation based on varying factors. This means when discussing reach, you can state hard facts and figures in the context of audience size instead of using "reach" and then having to take the time to explain to the other meeting attendees what exactly it is.

4. Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)

What It Means to Marketers

The number of visitors who have interacted with a brand and indicated they have a higher level of interest in the company

Why to Avoid It

A lead's designation as an MQL—or for that matter, a sales qualified lead (SQL) or a sales accepted lead (SAL)—is an extraneous piece of information to the executive team. While your non-marketing colleagues and clients will certainly be glad to hear how many higher quality leads are making their way through the pipeline, they're likely not concerned with what exactly these leads have done to show they're interested in the brand.

How to Translate It

Ultimately, the C-suite wants to know whether your marketing efforts are working. So rather than saying, "Here is the number of MQLs," and opening Pandora's Box, discuss the general strategies to which leads have been responding particularly well (for example, email marketing, pay-per-click campaigns or social media marketing).

5. Share of Voice

What It Means to Marketers

The percentage of online content and conversations dedicated to a specific brand as compared to its competitors.

Why to Avoid It

Share of voice is one of the most difficult to define terms on this list. Should you use it in a meeting with non-marketers, you'll probably spend several minutes just clarifying what the phrase means before you can even begin discussing the numbers themselves.

How to Translate It

Of course, the executive team wants to know how they rank against the competition, making share of voice an important metric. However, like reach, marketers should focus more on the straightforward, measurable values:

  • How many people shared the company's content on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn?
  • How many followers does your brand have?
  • How many times has your brand been mentioned on social media?

Then, answer these questions for your competitors and show how your brand stacks up.


Every team within an organization has its own language made up of industry lingo and department-specific slang. And for the marketing team, a group that often deals with more abstract concepts than absolute numbers, it's especially important to know how to translate their vernacular into terms other departments can understand.

Just as successful marketing campaigns depend on the marketer's ability to put themselves in the shoes of their buyers, successful interdepartmental communication depends on the marketing team's ability to put themselves in the shoes of their clients and colleagues and know exactly which marketing terms to avoid.

Having trouble communicating marketing data to your C-suite? Download our free guide, How to Present Marketing Data to the C-suite, to learn how you can better connect with your executive team.

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The Author

Callie Hinman

Callie's passion for writing started when she began drafting short stories in elementary school. That adoration led her to earn a B.A. in English from the University of Texas. Prior to joining Kuno, she oversaw the retail marketing compliance team for a global auto manufacturer. She then managed the digital marketing efforts of several enterprise SaaS companies across the U.S. There was no denying her first love, though, and when Callie started at Kuno, she knew the world of inbound marketing was where she belonged. When she's not creating thoughtful and strategic marketing content, Callie can be found playing soccer and kickball or cheering on the Horns.