How to Sift Through the BS of Buzzwords and Marketing Jargon

I’m a fan of the inbound marketing strategy. Heck, I even spun up a website and brand for my personal marketing journey. The Inbound Evangelist has been fun to tinker with, but it’s also become a bit of a burden.

Despite our best intentions, the current marketing landscape has become saturated with buzzwords and industry jargon.

Is it inbound marketing? Content marketing? Digital marketing? Businesses the world over have to now sift through all the terms and ideas, and turn a discerning eye to any agency selling services to help with their modern marketing strategy.


The bottom line for businesses from solopreneurs to the Fortune 100 level is this: Does what we do drive revenue? If you have a website, and you should, you want to drive traffic there, convert them to leads and turn those leads into customers. At its very basic level, that’s what marketing and sales need to do.

That Traffic-Lead-Customer (TLC) problem all brands face is what we tackle in marketing. It’s what inbound marketing was meant to help with, in addition to doing without annoying people.

The issue is that, as with anything that gains popularity, opportunists join the bandwagon. Plus as Gary Vaynerchuck is known to say, marketers ruin everything. We had this great idea, and we hammered it into submission. We turned social media into yet another broadcast medium, feeling more like a one-way ad platform at times rather than a holistic experience of social interactions.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Whether you call it an inbound marketing strategy, content marketing, digital marketing or something else, the key is that we want to build traffic, get more leads and more efficiently convert those leads into customers. And if we can do it all without pissing off most people, we’re doing something right.

Snake Oil or Real Marketing? 5 Things to Look for When Talking Inbound Marketing Strategy

Do they talk about traffic, leads, and customers?

First of all, when you’re exploring any marketing strategy today, your agency, partner or new hire should be exploring how to drive more traffic to your website. Then they should look at how that traffic converts into leads, and eventually customers. If they aren’t looking at all three, you may want to look elsewhere.

It’s not just about more traffic or likes. It has to come down to your bottom line.

Ask questions like:

  • How can I convert website views into actual customers?
  • What tools should I consider for nurturing leads?
  • Where should I put calls to action on my website?

Then, your marketing agency should be offering ideas like:

  • Let’s test your CTAs to increase conversions.
  • Email nurturing is still powerful, when done well.
  • Implementing a video strategy can increase time on website, helping with SEO and driving more traffic and conversions.

If all they focus on is traffic, you’re probably talking with a snake oil salesman.

Do they focus solely on one tool, like a specific social media platform?

You don’t want to work with a one-hit wonder, or a one-trick pony. You want to work with someone who truly understands marketing strategy in the current marketplace. Simply knowing the term inbound marketing doesn’t make you a marketing strategist, any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

Too often we see situations where a brand has worked with someone because that individual (or agency) deeply understood one specific tool like Instagram or Facebook. Sure, they saw some success, but being too focused has its problems. Would you hire a home builder who only used hammers?

You want someone who understands more than one tool. If you’re focusing everything on one tool like social media, you’ll find yourself in trouble when social media stops working for your brand.

Instead, find a marketing partner who understands multiple platforms like search engine marketing, paid advertising, PR, video strategy and more.

Will they teach you and guide you or keep it all a secret?

Even if you haven’t heard about inbound marketing, you’ll understand that getting people to do business with you and trade their money for your product or service comes down to trust. People do business with those hey get to know, like and trust. Teaching and guiding builds trust.

You’ll want to do this with your prospects, and your marketing agency should do this with you. The bottom line is that you’re working with them because you don’t have the time to do it yourself, so you want them to handle it. But if they aren’t willing to teach, they may not be able to teach.

Sure, that’s not always the case. But in the information age where everything is available in milliseconds, there’s really no secret sauce. There are just agencies and people who are very skilled at things like conversational marketing, content marketing, and other strategies perfect for the modern business.

Those highly skilled marketing partners should be willing to work with you, teach, share data, and empower your brand to grow. Those earn your trust and build long-term relationships.

Do they have success stories to share?

If you want to make sure you’re working with a truly strategic marketer and not just another snake oil salesman, make sure they have proof of success. You can call them testimonials, case studies, customer success stories, or something else entirely. But make sure they have them.

You’ll also want to consider reviews online. Does their Facebook business page have any feedback? What about their Google business listing?

You can even search for terms like “agency name reviews” or “agency name problems.”

Ask your marketer – agency, in-house hire, or consultant – if they can share customer stories with you.

Can they share multiple resources?

The most successful CEOs read. They read a lot. It’s the same for marketing strategists. The more they read, listen, and learn, the more resources they can share. Strategic thinking comes from experience and wisdom.

Look for a marketing partner who can pull information from multiple resources, not just one source. If they’re quoting multiple thought leaders, they’re probably always learning and staying in front of trends.

A marketing agency that stays ahead of trends and brings multiple points-of-view to the table is a powerful resource. If they can be your hub of trusted information, you’ll lead the way in your industry.

However, if the agency or person you’re talking to only has one source of information, shares limited resources, and doesn’t seem to be well-informed, they’re probably selling snake oil from the back of their van on the weekends.

So don’t let the BS pile too high. Whether you’re calling it inbound marketing strategy, modern marketing, getting more leads, or digital strategy, finding the right marketing and branding agency is key. In fact, you may want to find a partner who offers a marketing audit or a tool like a conversion report.

Strategy photo by Startaê Team on Unsplash