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  • Simon Boardman

Are You Confused by Marketing Terminology?

Photo by Andrew Furlan on Unsplash

I was with a consulting client the other day, and we were walking through some of the components of a Demand Generation Model. As we started to discuss planning around Campaigns, Inbound and Nurturing one of the Marketing Managers asked what the differences were and whether Nurturing was a category of Campaign, and where did Drip Marketing fit in to all this? This marketing stuff's getting pretty complicated these days, right? We got campaigns, programs, projects, plans, tactics, strategies, goals, objectives. We got inbounds, outbounds, all-bounds; we got nurtures, drips, re-marketing, predictive, prescriptive, demand gen and lead gen. Ok, that's enough. Well, maybe. It's gotten more detailed for sure and has consequently become replete with renditions. One area where we see legions of labels are those used to group up certain types of marketing activities, as in the title of this blog…hang on, what's an activity?

While I will provide definitions of these terms and use some third parties as a point of reference, understand, there's plenty of disagreement and grey areas out there. But defining this terminology is similar to the principles of using lead scoring – just take the basics, plan it out and then consistently use what works for you. Get everyone on the same page, document it, reinforce it, and you're off to the races – don't become a victim of analysis paralysis. So, with no more ado – let's dive right in

Lead Nurturing

Marketo's 2nd Edition of the Definitive Guide to Lead Nurturing defines it as "…the process of building effective relationships with potential customers throughout the buying journey." That's pretty grand and seems more like a goal. Of course, the devil is in the detail; it's the "process" that's the challenging part. According to Salesforce-Pardot's Complete Guide to Lead Nurturing; "lead nurturing is a type of trigger-based marketing, a technique that allows marketers to deliver highly relevant messaging based on a prospect's response or reaction to an offer."

What's the Difference Between Drip Marketing & Lead Nurturing?

Again, according to Marketo's 2nd Edition of the Definitive Guide to Lead Nurturing, "drip marketing is the one-size-fits-all predecessor to lead nurturing." "A drip marketing program sends (drips) communications (email, direct mail, etc.) at a specific cadence set by the marketer, but, it does not consider their activity and behavior because it is static and non-adaptive. While it still has a place in the marketing mix, it has mostly become a subset of a lead nurture strategy. Since drip marketing tends to have the same response for everyone, not considering specific actions, it doesn't deliver the same value as lead nurturing, which is personalized and adaptive." So, drip marketing is fixed. Set up at the beginning and following a prearranged sequence that does not adapt to changes in prospect behavior. Although Salesforce seems to use the drip marketing/lead nurturing terms inter-changeably, I think we get the distinction. Good to know.

Inbound Lead Generation

According to PureB2B; "Inbound Lead Generation is when you allow your prospects to come to you through SEO and the provision of valuable content. Unlike outbound lead generation, it's the prospect who decides when and how they will reach you. The best example of inbound lead generation is content marketing, which is where you publish relevant content with the intent of attracting your target audience to your brand's website." Inbound leverages blogs, social media, SEO, paid ads and content offers.

Outbound Lead Generation

Again, according to PureB2B, in Outbound "the marketer initiates the first interaction by sending out a message to potential leads. The best examples of outbound lead generation are emails and phone calls."

BtoB Marketing perceived inbound as the savior of the industry a few years ago. Most companies have realized that (depending on price points and cost of sale) they must utilize a combination of inbound and outbound activities. Inbound and outbound disciplines will share the development and use of content assets.

The confusion I have seen arise here is where clients of mine will use an example such; if someone clicks on a link in an email and subsequently reads or downloads some content from a landing page…is that inbound or outbound? After all, in the above definition, there's an inference that content is only used for inbound. Fair point. My answer is again not to get wrapped around the axel on this one. Use definitions that work for you. State them and reach an agreement so that you don't continually debate them, and then move on.


The most meaningful definition I found is the explanation from Marketing MO: "…marketing campaigns are the main method for both communicating with their market to reinforce their positioning, and for customer acquisition. Good campaigns follow a theme and include a series of touches on the market. It's noisy in the marketplace, and a message delivered once through a single medium rarely makes a difference. While there's no magic number regarding the best frequency for a message to make an impact, opinions range from three to twenty times, with seven being an old marketing adage. Many marketing campaigns contain an overarching theme, which can be leveraged over extended periods of time with multiple variations, or different elements, to tell an entire story." Well done Marketing MO.


"A marketing program is a coordinated, thoughtfully designed set of activities that help you achieve your marketing objectives" – Yea? Not much help. Sounds like a Campaign. Campaigns are more permanent, planned and long term, as they were in military actions and wars. Therefore a Campaign will have multiple Programs as components of that Campaign. So there you have it.

The Verto Verdict

Definitions are like many things in life; they should be taken in moderation. Take the broad definition and then group the components and activities within it according to your unique needs. As long as they are plausible and consistent, that should be good enough. Once you have established the definitions and agreed on them with Sales and Leadership, don't spend any more time arguing semantics. Move onto the important stuff – the planning and actual execution of your assorted inbound, outbound, campaigns, programs, drips, nurture (here we go again).

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