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Does Marketing Terminology Hurt Your Business?

This blog is designed to help you evolve marketing strategies and content messaging in ways that boost engagement, trust, connection and relationships in consumers.

There is so much psychology around words, and we all understand why.

Words have power in many ways, including the weight behind interpretation of meaning and generation of a response. You've likely heard advice encouraging people to quit thinking about "negative" words that hold them back from "positive" words that inspire meaningful action.

For example, it's easy for someone to automatically view a layoff as a "job loss" by focusing on the idea of "loss." This could negatively impact motivations to make something good come out of the situation. So, viewing the layoff as a path toward a "new opportunity" can empower better motivations and create greater outcomes.

That's why motivational speakers encourage people to change their words to change their lives. For example, Tony Robbins says, "The human brain likes to take shortcuts. It conserves energy – and it also keeps us stuck in patterns that don't always benefit us."

The Harvard Business Review points out that our brains tend to stop paying attention when they think they've seen enough of something and know everything they need to know.

"This phenomenon — the general neuroscientific term is habituation — probably points to an efficient way in which the brain operates. Neurons stop firing once they have sufficient information about an unchanging stimulus. But this does not mean that habituating is always our friend."

So, what does this have to do with the business of marketing?

Today, many businesses need help making meaningful connections with their consumers. This is because consumers demand more from them now than they did 20 years ago. And even if a business knows it needs to evolve, it may struggle.

Why is that?

It could be the words marketers use to define their work - words that have been used so much the brain doesn't think about them anymore. For example:

  • Marketing

  • Marketing Strategy

  • Lead Nurturing

  • Conversion

  • B2B

  • Branding

It may be time to get marketing brains to think about them again.

Maybe these words provided everything they needed long ago, and it's time for new ones.

What if we could change those words in ways that can turn struggles into successes?

Let me explain what I mean.

Change "Marketing" and "Marketing Strategy"

The Oxford definition of marketing is:

​"The action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising."

The Oxford definition of marketing strategy is:

"A plan of action designed to promote and sell a product or service."

The emphasis is on promoting and selling - the very things that annoy today's consumers. Even if marketers know things need to change, the exact words marketing and strategy have inherent connotations that can keep their mindsets focused solely on self-serving goals and turn consumers (people) into numbers and wallets.

As such, plans are developed to get specific amounts of money and generate stats. Just knowing a job is rooted in a selling and promoting construct can create barriers between marketers and human beings. If the brain is limited by outdated concepts rooted in selling, promoting, money and stats, it will be reflected in their communications with their audience.

In turn, this creates challenges and frustrations for businesses and consumers.

Change "Marketing" and "Marketing Strategy"

Consumers hate the number of promotions and advertising they are bombarded with daily. To cope, they will do everything from skip, fast forward, ignore or pay extra money to remove them.

​Too many marketers spend time trying to intensify efforts and force ads on them anyway. On social media, studies show consumers hate to be told what to do ("click," "buy," "come to our sale," etc.), but we still see plenty of that on the internet.

So, it's time to stop the "marketing" and start the "sparketing."

​That's right. Marketers need to become Sparketers.




Spark emotions


Spark actions

One-sided benefits

Mutual benefits

Instead of a marketing strategy focusing on what needs to be done to get consumers to realize they need something or achieve a numerical goal, let's work on a relationship foundation.

Dr. Jenny Palmiotto is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist known for effectively using well-researched treatment methods, including Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Relationship Development Intervention (RDI), Behavioral and Brief Models. ​She says three qualities essential for creating a healthy, enduring relationship are respect, friendship, and trust.

Marriage has been an excellent analogy for the modern marketing era because many companies try to get consumers to buy (accept a marriage proposal) before building a relationship (going on some dates).

So, let's apply Dr. Palmiotto's essential qualities and apply them to marketing.

Respect - Respect the consumer's intelligence and their ability to know when you're trying to trick them with clickbait, SEO-stuffed blogs, gated content traps and more. Also, respect them enough to ask and answer questions, and avoid dictating what you think they need to know.

Friendship - Consumers want relationships with the people at a company. This is demonstrated in why people follow brands on social media.

Trust - Consumers want to see a genuine interest in addressing their needs through a relationship that builds trust over time.

These three qualities can spark the consumer's emotional and logical responses that go into making a buying decision.

​Marketing Strategy

Relationship Foundation

"How can we achieve these numbers?"

"How can we tap into their needs?"

"How can we get them to click?"

"How do we lower their skepticism?"

"They need to know this."

"How do we spark the best reaction?"

Side note - Sparketing Strategy could also work as a replacement term.

Change: "Lead Nurturing" and "Conversion"

I'm not saying "lead nurturing" campaigns are doomed to fail. However, it can fall into an unhealthy emphasis on numbers that disrupt opportunities to build relationships. Ethan Beute explained the issues this causes in email campaigns during our conversation on Get the Message.

"And then all of a sudden, it takes new stat updated. It's 15 touches to get a prospect reply. And now it's like 21. And then what's the logical conclusion? Are we going to get to 65?"

He points out that businesses focus on more of everything, including touches and posts. This looks like a classic case where the brain tells people they need to succeed by constantly focusing on the numbers.

Human-Centered Communication
Ethan's Book

"One, we're asking more interesting and better questions. It's going to ask us maybe to get into un-scalable one-to-one conversations with our current best customers to make discoveries that will inform our approaches so that we can find our next best customers. But you know, some of the lies that we tell ourselves and some of the things that were led to believe come from a variety of sources, but it's this bias toward efficiency and scale over effectiveness, which sometimes gets us into un-scalable activity."

That leads to increased odds of getting blocked and ignored. It also contributes to what he calls "digital pollution." If more businesses added that term to their terminology (as something to avoid), it could dramatically improve consumer results. So instead of focusing on numbers, sparketers can focus on people and long-term success. Ethan said the key to a change for the better is focusing less on how much is achieved by aligning the odds of success with extensive lists of names and spending more time on getting the most out of quality engagements. For example, he says if a goal is ten deals from a list of 8,000 people by automating all of the touches or closing ten deals or ten transactions, try spending human-focused time and energy cultivating better lists and messaging by making more personal, specific engaging touches. When re-thinking the process, Ethan says it's about lifetime value as the thoughtful approach to a hundred or a thousand people instead of the automated machine-driven system to 8,000 or 10,000 people to get the same initial closes, number of closes, and the same value.

How comfortable would you feel knowing someone said they're trying to convert you to something or put you through some form of conversion? In most cases, probably not very comfy. In pop culture, I think of the 1980s sci-fi series V when the aliens "converted" humans to their side through extreme psychological torture. The Oxford definition for conversion is: "the proportion of people viewing an advertisement and going on to buy the product, click on a link, etc." So the psychological torture of spamming people with ads in hopes that it makes them do something that benefits the advertiser, right?

That might be a bit extreme, but I do think ads can sometimes make consumers feel like this.

New Terms: Value Cultivation and Validation

Instead of a term sounding like the company is nurturing something for its own benefit, value cultivation is about a genuine effort to prove value and spark more impactful responses and actions. As Ethan said, the change can empower long-term value in a way where the consumer is always engaging and coming back when they need something.

Instead of efforts to convert someone, companies can work to prove they're worth the consumer's time, money and loyalty through validation efforts.

This is about trusting the consumer to know value when they see it, and the company knows how to communicate proof that they have the consumers' best interests at heart.

​Lead Nurturing

Value Cultivation

Numbers diminish humanity

Human-focused effort

Scale over effectiveness

Lifetime value for both parties

High threat of negative response

Mutual benefits



Make consumers want something​