glossary definitionGuilty as charged. I read not long ago that a lot of folks confuse or conflate “lead generation” with “demand generation.” Ummm, I reluctantly raise my hand on this one, as I discovered my ignorance when we began compiling this informal digital marketing glossary.

Just as we talk about the importance of sales and marketing agreeing on the terms they use for the processes they share, it’s important for marketers to agree on the meaning of the basic terms we use to talk about everyday marketing activities. This glossary is a first draft, and we invite your feedback. Note that we’re developing glossaries for SEO and email deliverability, so most terms that apply in those disciplines are left out of this one.

The current rev of the glossary is running over 4,000 words, so we’re going to serialize it. Here’s Part 1, A through D.


Above the fold: This term originated in newspapers: important stories ran “above the fold” so that they could be read while the paper was folded. For online assets (like your website and emails), the term references the top portion of the page, that which is visible without scrolling.

A/B testing: Testing a campaign component for effectiveness by deploying an existing, known performer (the control, usually A) against a trial version (the challenger, usually B) to a limited group, and analyzing behavioral difference among recipients. Emails and landing pages are the most-tested properties.

Acquisition cost: In email marketing, the cost to generate one lead, newsletter subscriber, or customer in an individual email campaign; typically, the total campaign expense divided by the number of leads, subscribers or customers it produced.(The Email Experience Council)

AdWords: Google’s pay-per-click (PPC) search-engine marketing (SEM) program.

Algorithm: Step-by-step, ruled mathematical calculations. In digital marketing, search engines use algorithms to determine site rankings. Every search engine has its own unique, proprietary algorithm that gets updated on a regular basis. Google’s famously has more than 200 major components.

Anchor text: Any text on a website that is hyperlinked (“linked”). As an example, this anchor text links to Act-On’s Center of Excellence.

Assets: Items such as white papers, eBooks, case studies, infographics, web pages, recordings, datasheets, videos, images, signs, etc. that have value. Uses: Paid, earned, and owned media; sales, customer success, training, marketing campaigns, web pages, microsites, as offers, and more.

Attribution: Attributing something – a lead, an action, revenue – to a causal factor, such as a visit to a specific web page, or attendance at a specific webinar, or a click on a specific pay-per-click ad; or attributing something to a general tactic, such as social media. Attribution is often used to help determine which activity or group of activities lead to a desired action. Attribution is most often measured as First-Touch, Last-Touch, or Multi-Touch.


B2B marketing: Business-to-business marketing. (Examples: Intel, Gunderson rail cars, Sky Chef airline caterers)

B2C marketing: Business-to-consumer marketing. (Examples: Apple, Trek bicycles, McDonald’s)

B2G marketing: Business-to-government marketing. (Examples: Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, McKesson)

BANT criteria: “BANT” is an acronym representing Budget, Authority, Need, and (purchase) Timeframe. These are criteria used to help determine whether or not a prospect represents a qualified sales opportunity They are considered “explicit” criteria (the prospect provides the information, or it is obvious) rather than “implicit” criteria (usually behavior you can observe, such as web pages visited, content downloaded, or webinars attended).

Business rules: Rules that determine how a process will work and how different groups (e.g., sales and marketing) interact. Business rules may be accompanied by a Service Level Agreement that has a time constraint. An example of a process rule is the instructions inside an automated program, such as “If the recipient clicks on the link in this email, give them a lead score of 10 points and advance them to the next step.” An example of how groups (e.g. sales and marketing) might apply a business rule is “all leads achieving a lead score greater than 55 will be routed to sales within 4 hours.”

Buyer persona: A buyer persona is a model of a buyer that focuses on who the person is, what they want, why they want it – and when, where, and how they go about getting what they want. Good personas are created through researching your best customers, and represent a target group large enough to be important in a marketing plan. Personas are used to dial in messaging, plan campaigns, and more.

Buyer’s journey: Vendor-customer interactions used to be framed from the sales perspective, often termed the “sales funnel.” But buying patterns have changed: According to Forrester Research, the typical buyer is anywhere from two-thirds to 90 percent of the way through the buying process before agreeing to engage with sales. Buyers are more autonomous, and so many marketers find that seeing vendor-customer interactions from the buyer’s timeline and point of view – the “buyer’s journey” – allows them to build stronger relationships with prospects than adhering to the old sales funnel view does.


Call to action (CTA): A suggestion to someone to take an action. Often it’s an encouragement to buy now, or call now. In digital marketing, it’s often an invitation to click to receive some kind of benefit, such as the opportunity to register for a webinar or download a white paper. CTAs are most often seen as a banner, button, or some type of graphic or text on a website, in an email, or in a pay-per-click ad. The marketing goal of a CTA is to prompt a user to click and continue down a conversion funnel. CTAs can be tested with A/B testing, and they can be measured via a conversion rate formula that calculates the number of clicks over the times the CTA was seen.

Campaign management: The end-to-end process of planning, creating, executing, and measuring marketing programs, which are usually directed at specific audience segments.

Click-through rate (CTR) – The percentage of people who actually click on a link (e.g., in an email message or sponsored ad) after seeing it. Generally calculated as the number of email clicks divided by tracked email opens, or ad clicks divided by ad impressions.

Content marketing: “The marketing and business process for creating and distributing valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” (The Content Marketing Institute) It’s usually focused on meeting customer needs or answering inquiries rather than promoting a product. Whatever the content may be (a web page, an eBook, a tweet, etc.), and however it is distributed, there is always a business objective for using it.

Conversion: When a prospect takes another step in the buyer’s journey, such as when a visitor to your website fills out a form and becomes a lead, or when a lead meets your requirements to become a qualified lead, or when an opportunity becomes a closed sale.

Conversion rate (CR): The percentage measure of conversion in various stages in the buyer’s journey. For example, if one person in every hundred visitors to a landing page fills out a form, that page’s conversion rate is 1:100, or 1 percent. Another example: The number of leads that convert to an opportunity in the sales cycle. Conversion rates help you determine which marketing programs and tactics are working, so you can emphasize what works and fix what’s broken.

CRM: The phrase “Customer relationship management” is most often used to describe the technology used by a sales team to manage customer/prospect interactions, the sales pipeline, and closed deals. Examples of CRM technologies include, SugarCRM, NetSuite CRM, Microsoft Dynamics, and SalesLogix. The phrase is also used to refer to all aspects of interaction that a company has with its customers, whether sales or service-related. In that interpretation, CRM is often discussed as a business strategy that enables an organization to manage the entire customer lifecycle.

Customer lifecycle management: The process of a vendor actively engaging with a buyer throughout the buyer’s entire cycle, beginning as a prospect, through the funnel to qualification and closing, then retention, loyalty, advocacy, and re-purchase. The customer acquisition process gets a lot of attention, but given that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95% – and 80% of your future profits will come from just 20% of your existing customers – it makes sound financial sense to pay attention to the entire lifecycle, with emphasis on retaining existing customers. (Statistics from


Demand generation: Demand generation is the process of driving broad awareness and interest in a company’s products and/or services. It calls for marketing programs coupled with a structured sales process. Typically, demand generation programs involve multiple marketing and sales components facilitating a stepped process that could include: building awareness, facilitating discovery, supporting buyers as they consider solutions, and validating purchase decisions.

Demographics: Quantifiable statistics of people in a given population, and/or its quantifiable subsets. These are used to sort people into meaningful market segments. B2C demographics might include factors such as gender, age, or location. B2B demographics tend more to factors such as title or department. “Firmographics” apply similar factors to organizations; common attributes are industry, revenue, and number of employees.

Part 2 of the Digital Marketing Glossary will be published next week. Please tell us what you think.