Prove Marketing for Executives (Part 2): The Language Problem of Marketing

Marketers often talk about "quality," "value," "strategy," "performance," "reputation," "position," and "branding" – all important concepts.

However, your president, CEO, CFO, and other members of the executive team talk about "assets," "return on investment," "speed," "leverage," and (if you work in a public company) "P. / E multiple" and "fixed value." ".

All of these words form the common language of a company.

As I mentioned in my previous article (Proof of Marketing for Executives – Part 1), to get more respect from the C-suite, you need to translate marketing into business language.

However, marketing has another problem – the basic way marketers use marketing language.

The other language problem in marketing

Each business function has its own specialized vocabulary. However, when marketers from different parts of your company define marketing in different ways, you will create confusion and skepticism in your company, among other things.

You can understand why marketers' credibility can be compromised when marketers from two different departments use the same words but mean different things to them. The resulting confusion becomes especially damaging when marketers interact with managers from other parts of their organization (such as R&D, finance, and sales) and even other companies (e.g., advertising agencies).

In a way, the problem is only found in marketing. Accounting and finance, for example, have standardized languages. "Present value," "assets and liabilities," "cash flow statement," and so on, all have standardized meanings. The definitions for these business areas come from generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).

Marketing doesn't have such principles. Confusion about the meanings of terms leads to confusion about what the marketing department's strategy is and how that strategy should be carried out.

For example, a marketer might say, "Let's put our value proposition in this product brochure." But "Value Proposition" means different things to different groups and people in a company.

Your VP of Sales may consider the value proposition to be the price of a product or service relative to the price of competitive offers. The VP of Engineering may provide further understanding of the product's value proposition, e.g. B. how efficiently it can be produced compared to the offers of the competitors.

The same confusion arises when people use the word quality. What do you mean by "quality" in your company? Product reliability? The attractiveness of a product brochure? Something completely different?

Do other managers with whom you speak about "quality" give the same meaning to you? And what about your customers: how would they define "quality"? Often the word means something different for each customer – it further clouds the water about what constitutes a "quality" product or service.

Another confusing term is "reputation". For some people, reputation relates to a company's brand equity. For others, reputation means what a brand is good for. The problem is, you can have a reputation for anything: a reputation for reliability or good service, or just being a nice person.

"Image" is another tricky term. Some managers use "image" to refer to the image consumers see in their minds when they think of the brand (e.g., the physical product or logo). Other managers speak of "image" in relation to advertising. For example, an "Image Ad" does not contain much information about the product. Rather, it associates the product with a specific type of person or lifestyle.

How do you avoid the problems described above?

First, assemble your marketing team and list the marketing terms you use on a daily basis. Then you come to agreed definitions.

To convince people to invest time in the meeting, explain to them in advance the importance of clearing vocabulary. What are the benefits of developing a common understanding of the meaning of each term, such as: B. more generous support for marketing initiatives from the C-suite or a greater willingness to provide feedback on proposed marketing strategies.

Also, consider the following: Avoid using words such as "value," "quality," and "reliability" (or choose your favorite ambiguous term), which mean different things to different people in your company and which are widely and often confusing can ways. Instead, use words that employees across the company can agree on what they mean.

Translate your activities into business language

Use financial terms like "speed" and "leverage" as they are already part of the company's financial language.

Technically, "speed" is the frequency with which a company's products or services are sold and replaced with new inventory in a given period of time. But your marketing activities – like promotions and price cuts – actually increase the speed. In fact, these activities are all about selling more products and services as quickly as possible.

The more you can show executives how your work is speeding up, the more they will understand the relationship between marketing and measurable financial performance.

"Leverage" is the ability of one company to use another's assets to produce money for itself. Business jargon encompasses a variety of risk-related terms ("business risk", "financial risk", "risk averse", "risk neutral"), but for our purposes the word "risk" refers to the possibility of marketing the actual return on the investment will vary the expected return.

So let's say you want to use a brand to enter a new market. Instead, you can say that you want to use the brand to enter the new market. Whenever you have an asset (even an intangible one) that you want to use for something else, you use leverage.

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By creating a common marketing language, you introduce efficiency into your marketing meetings. Equally important is that you generate coherent marketing strategies that anyone can understand and execute as intended. Finally, you will find it easier to translate marketing vocabulary into the business language used by high-level executives in your company.

This article is adapted from Marketing Champions, co-authored by Roy A. Young, Allen M. Weiss, and David W. Stewart.

Here you can find part 1 of this two-part series of articles. https://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2021/44769/proving-marketing-to-execs-part-1

Additional resources on corporate marketing conditions

Change your language to gain credibility, influence, and relevance with the C-Suite

The 10 Biggest Mistakes Marketers Make – No. 2: Using metrics that don't matter to top management

Marketers Need To Learn Mars (AKA, The Language Of Business)

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