We’ve all been there. You’re in a meeting, and a client keeps using that new buzzword. You nod, smile, and make a mental note to look it up when you get back to the office.
In B2B technology marketing, that’s not uncommon. If you know marketing, you might not know the tech… or vice versa. Especially if you’re new to the sector. It’s nothing to be ashamed of; they both move pretty fast.
Either way, we’ve got you covered.
We’ve compiled an extensive list of every term* you’ll need in the B2B tech marketing world, covering everything from messaging workshops to integrated development environments. These are simple, jargon-free definitions to help you stay up to date with the latest B2B and tech terminology.
*Okay, maybe not every term, but we’ve tried our best.
aaS – “As a Service”. As in “Software as a Service”, “Platform as a Service”, “Transport as a Service”, “Trousers as a Service”. Essentially, it lets you subscribe to the thing you want (usually delivering it through the cloud), rather than buying it. It’s convenient, and helps you keep things within your OpEx budget (see below).
A/B Testing – A/B testing is when you compare two versions of a single variable to see which performs better. In marketing, A/B testing is most often used on email subject line options, social seeds and CTAs.
ABM – Account Based Marketing is any marketing that’s specific to a certain account. ABM content is detailed and personalised, and to be effective needs to be well researched and written with authority. Want to learn more? Take a tour of the different types of ABM content.
API – An Application Programming Interface (API) is a set of functions and procedures that allow applications to access the features and data of an operating system, other application, or service. Or, in plain English…
Audio blog – Helpful for those commuting, an audio blog is an audio version of an existing blog post. These are a useful way for your audience to access your blog content even when they’re pushed for time. Need an example? Take a look at the B2B Content Audio Blog David’s been putting together.
B2B – Business-to-Business describes companies that sell, provide services to, or exchange information with other businesses.
B2C – Business-to-Consumer describes companies that sell products and services to consumers.
Blog – Blogs are a chronological series of posts covering a given topic (hint: you’re reading one, right now). In B2B marketing, this can be a platform to share helpful information, proving to customers and clients that you understand your industry and product area. The best B2B blogs are regularly updated to stay on top of industry trends and maintain a high Google search ranking. Here’s a multipurpose blog post structure.
Buyer persona – These are your imaginary customers. They’re a set of archetypes, developed from market research and data about existing customers. Buyer personas can be a highly effective tool for ensuring your content is always relevant and useful to your audience. If you don’t have a persona to aim for, a persona workshop might help.
BOFU – The last stage of The Marketing Funnel, good BOFU or ‘Bottom of the Funnel’ content helps prospects evaluate different products and services. By the time someone reads BOFU content, they’re usually well aware of the challenges they face and the types of solutions available, so little education is required here. Instead, you need to make the case that your offering is right choice. Case studies, product manuals and other kinds of content that focus on competitive differentiators are often considered BOFU content.
C/C++/C# – A popular programming language, C is used to create all kinds of programs and applications across a bunch of platforms. Supported by a wide array of development environments, it can be compiled using relatively straightforward software. C++ and C# are both offshoots of C. They are imperative, object-oriented languages, meaning code describes ‘how’ a program should operate, and focuses on the objects being manipulated by the application, rather than the logic required to manipulate them.
CapEx – Capital Expenditure is money spent up-front on big, chunky things that will have a significant amount of use in the company, usually for longer than one year. These might be computers, servers, office expansions, or big bits of machinery. CapEx often entails significant up-front payments that need to be signed off by Finance, where Operational Expenditure (OpEx) might come under a buyer’s budget control.
Chatbot – Driven by AI, a chatbot is designed to mimic human interaction, answering questions and providing information in a seamless and dynamic way. They either operate using text on screen or voice technology, just like the Alexa in your home. Expect chatbots to feature more prominently in the near future – especially in the world of B2B copywriting, where they need writers for both questions, and answers.
Containerisation – In software development, containerisation is when you take an application and wrap it up in its own container along with all the dependencies it needs to run. By having a complete app – including code, runtime, system tools, libraries and custom configurations – in a single container, it helps simplify migration and deployment across multiple environments, and offers a smaller footprint that improves app security and performance. It’s pretty cool.
Copywriting – Technically, copywriting is the act of writing text that convinces a reader to take a specific action. Copywriting can take many formats, and features heavily in sales, marketing and PR content. Pretty much all the words you see on infographics and companies’ social media accounts, read in emails, whitepapers and Ebooks, or even hear in videos, are written by copywriters like us.
CTA – Call-to-Action is an important one, as it’s usually the main purpose of the copy. The CTA is the bit (generally a button or text link) that directs the reader to take action. For example, here’s a CTA to a useful piece by George showing you how to write great CTAs: read five ways to write a good CTA, here.
CTR – A Clickthrough Rate measures the percentage of users that click through to the next step of your marketing campaign. It’s often used as a way to measure the success of emails and online ads.
CRM – Companies use Customer Relationship Management software to keep on top of their potential and existing customers. CRM software is useful for keeping track of customer contact details, their level of interaction with a company, and a wide range of other data categories.
CVP – A Customer Value Proposition is the suggested value a customer will receive upon purchasing your service, product or anything else you’re providing. Simply, it’s the reason they want it.
Database – A collection of stored data that can often be accessed from a computer system by many users. The database often forms a core part of enterprise applications used in both the back office and customer-facing situations.
Data lake – A data lake is a big, central repository of all an enterprise’s data, including raw copies of data stored in their natural format, used for tasks like reporting, visualisation, analytics and machine learning.
Data warehouse – Similar to a data lake, a data warehouse stores data from operational systems that has been cleansed and categorised. They provide a single source of truth for reporting and data analysis.
DevOps – A process that helps accelerate software development by automating the processes between the software development (Dev) and IT (Ops) teams.
DM – A direct mail or DM is a physical item sent directly to a chosen recipient – normally a key decision-maker or part of the C-Suite – encouraging them to take action. Most often, it’s the physical equivalent of a marketing email. Direct mail pieces often include gimmicks or creative concepts to help them stand out on a crowded desk.
Ebook – Ebooks aren’t just something you download to your Kindle; they’re used in marketing every day. Often weighing in at around 2,500 words, content marketing ebooks are a chance to go deep into a subject. Unlike white papers that also explore topics in depth, Ebooks often contain visuals, diagrams and other design features that break up the text and improve readability. Here’s a guide to writing an ebook for a B2B audience.
Edge Computing – When data is processed closer to where it is received, at the edge of your network, it is called edge computing. Data collected by the Internet of Things is processed at the point it’s collected, or very close to it, meaning data can be analysed and used in almost real-time.
EDM – An EDM or electronic direct mail is another term for a marketing email that you may hear crop up from time to time.
ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning involves integrating a big company’s main areas of business into a single system. ERP solutions often unite various computer systems or pieces of software within a company, allowing different divisions to communicate and share information more easily.
FinTech – FinTech is shorthand for financial technology, a term covering new technologies and innovations that disrupt the traditional way of providing financial services. New, agile FinTech companies are fast becoming major competitors for traditional high street banks.
FinServ – An easy one, this. FinServ is industry shorthand for the financial services industry.
FTP – The File Transfer Protocol is a method of securely transferring files from a server or host machine to a client device over the internet. Seldom used now in favour of cloud storage platforms like OneDrive and Dropbox, some organisations still use FTP to ensure data privacy and security when moving large files.
GIF – The Graphics Interchange Format is a form of short video or series of images that automatically plays on your website or email without sound. These can be useful for offering informative video content without requiring your audience to manually start a video. (Fun fact: it’s officially pronounced “jif”, although you’d get funny looks if you said that out loud.)
HTML – Hypertext Markup Language is the standard markup language for developing web pages. HTML is what produces colours, graphics, buttons and all the other fancy bits on your website.
HCM – Human Capital Management is the process of managing a company’s people, whether they are future recruits or current employees, to optimise the company’s performance. HCM usually involves using core HR apps, talent management apps, or even a system that contains all of the above, to track employee performance and wellbeing.
IaaS – Infrastructure-as-a-Service is an IT infrastructure provided over the cloud, that can be managed depending on the level of usage you need. Using IaaS, you remove the need for physical servers or data centres, making infrastructures more accessible and easier to manage.
IDE – An Integrated Development Environment is a user interface that helps developers build software applications by providing all the tools they need in one place. IDEs often include a visual coding interface, along with built-in debugging tools and other features that automate key coding and testing processes.
Infographic – A visual compilation of information, infographics offer a lot of information at a glance. This makes them especially effective when posted to social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook, as they are attention-grabbing and easily shareable. This infographic on the 7 types of B2B copywriter is a pretty good example, even if we do say so ourselves.
Internet of Things – The Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to the interconnection between everyday objects through embedded computer devices that allow them to send and receive data. If you’d like to know more, our colleague George wrote an article about how to write content about the Internet of Things.
IVR – Interactive Voice Response is the fancy term used for those phone lines that ask you to “press one” or “say yes” to choose an option. It was officially voted the worst invention ever, but some plucky companies are trying to make the experience less painful.
Java – Java is a programming language that can be used to develop a wide range of applications. It is frequently used in the development of web apps. It’s not to be confused with…
KPI – Key Performance Indicators are used to measure the success of a company, a team, an activity they are performing, or an individual employee. In an ideal world, all those things will align so when your people hit their KPIs, your business does too.
Keyword – These are words that help you get noticed in search engines. Choosing keywords is an important process, as there’s a fine balance between a keyword’s search volume and how easy it is to rank with it. Thankfully, though, the days when Google liked you to stuff your page full of as many keywords as possible are long, long gone.
Landing Page – The web page you arrive on when you’ve clicked on a CTA (usually in an email or ad). They’re often specially written for the job, and ideally the content will align with whatever the thing was you clicked on. Frequently, a landing page holds the key asset a company wants to share (the thing you were promised before you clicked), whether it’s an ebook, a whitepaper, or even a product. If so, you might see a form requesting some of your details before you can go further. We have separate advice on how to write a landing page.
Lead – If somebody has visited your website and subscribed to a mailing list, or shown an interest in your services or products in some way, you might consider them a lead (for more on this, scroll down to Q for qualification). These are your potential customers, and with some further engagement can become your new customers.
Lead Generation – The process of developing interest in your products or services from potential customers. Today, B2B lead generation primarily focuses on tactics like search, social, email and content marketing. It can also include telemarketing, though this seems to be getting less common as times moves on.
Longpage – Optimised for modern, mobile browsing, a longpage is a type of webpage design that is, well, long. (Indeed, some clients simply call it a “long-ass web page”). It requires the user to continually scroll down to read content, as you would when browsing on a mobile phone. There are all kinds of designs, and several longpages featured in our rundown of the best B2B content of 2018.
Marketing Automation – Marketing automation software automates marketing actions, taking away the hassle of repetitive administrative tasks like sending emails or posting social media content. Be warned, though: the need to complete automated schedules and nurture journeys can lead some marketers to create content to feed the machine, rather than serve the reader. This seldom ends well.
Marketing Funnel – The Marketing Funnel is a model illustrating the theoretical journey a customer makes before they’re ready to buy a product or service. In its most simple form, the funnel consists of three stages, TOFU (Top of Funnel), MOFU (Middle of Funnel), and BOFU (Bottom of Funnel). However, there are rumoured to be other, mythical funnel stages that many marketers neglect.
MOFU – Another stage in The Marketing Funnel, Middle of the Funnel content is used to further develop potential prospects, focusing on a more refined audience who are further into their decision-making process. Your MOFU content is a chance to go beyond discussing the challenges your readers face, and start to convince the reader that your product/service area can help them. Because you already have the reader’s interest, this is where chunkier content like ebooks and white papers can really come into their own.
Messaging – In a B2B marketing context, messaging refers to all the phrases, arguments and proof points your sales and marketing teams use to sell a product or service. Defining your messaging is essential if you’re going to create consistent content that is aligned with a brand’s tone of voice and values, as well as what the sales team say every day.
Messaging House – A messaging house (see, it’s literally a house) is designed to help develop campaign messaging by grouping your key messages under an umbrella statement or main value proposition. A messaging house will normally consist of your umbrella statement at the top, several core messages below this, and evidence and proof points below that. Once completed, a messaging house can form the basis of the rest of your marketing campaign.
Messaging Workshop – Messaging workshops help businesses tease out the ideal messaging around their products or services, and make sure everyone’s on the same page. Messaging workshops are an ideal opportunity to really work out what the unique selling point of your product is, and how to position your offerings against potential competitors. If you’d like to know more, here’s what happens in a B2B messaging workshop.
Newsletter – Newsletters are regular messages you send out your audiences up to date with your company or your industry (usually by email, and generally weekly or monthly). These are used all the time in the B2B world to give audiences a quick summary of the latest content companies are releasing, with links throughout leading the reader to pages on the company website. For brands, newsletters are a great way to develop a bank of warm prospects, and build a reputation as an industry expert and thought leader. Some B2B newsletters can even make you a better writer. Ahem.
OEM – Original Equipment Manufacturer. This one’s a bit confusing, because it gets used a handful of ways. Sometimes, it means the company that actually made the things another brand sells. But these days in B2B, it more often means the top-level manufacturer that puts together components from various suppliers, and puts the product out into the market. And if you’re thinking “Hey, that’s kind of the opposite”… you’re right.
Omnichannel – In B2B marketing, an omnichannel approach involves using a variety of communications channels in unison to deliver a seamless experience no matter how the customer chooses to interact with your brand. You’ll also see the phrase used in areas like customer services, and retail (where it means enabling people to buy in various different ways).
On Premises – Essentially, this is the opposite of the cloud. It’s having physical servers and software and infrastructure and stuff in your actual building. Some people in IT regularly use the phrase “On Premise”, although this makes no grammatical sense whatsoever, so if you see the abbreviation “On Prem”, it usually means that somewhere there’s a B2B copywriter avoiding this argument.
OpEx – Operational Expenditure is the everyday spending of a business, including things like paying employees, printing costs, and the stationery needed to run the office each day. Where capital expenditure (or CapEx) looks at big purchases that will last a significant amount of time, OpEx just focuses on the day-to-day. One of the big selling points of “as-a-Service” business models is that they let the customer buy stuff using their own OpEx budget, rather than having to build a case for a CapEx lump sum.
PaaS – Platform-as-a-Service is a cloud environment where developers can build applications and software over time. It provides all the hardware and software tools needed for development, over the internet with no need for stuff on premises.
PPC – Pay-Per-Click refers to online advertisements that are paid for based on how many times a user clicks through (usually to the advertiser’s website). These adverts are often tied to a keyword and pop up when a user searches for that keywords on engines like Google and Bing, although some display ads can be billed this way too.
Podcast – Once the preserve of entertainment, podcasts have now become widely-used throughout B2B marketing (though some of us have been doing it for years). A podcast is comparable to a radio series, with audio episodes that involve discussions about topics in the B2B world. Need an example? Our podcast Good Copy Bad Copy discusses B2B copywriting and content.
Python – A multi-purpose, high-level programming language, Python is a popular choice for programmers as it puts code readability at the front of its design. It’s flexible, supporting several approaches to programming, and can be used to develop different kinds of applications across many different platforms.
Qualification – just because someone has opened your content, connected with you on social media, or subscribed to your email, doesn’t mean they’re ready to buy something from you. They might be a jobseeker, or a competitor, or just someone who doesn’t have a need (or the budget authority) right now. Qualification is the process of working out whether someone really is a potential customer. If you do this based on marketing metrics (like the pages they’ve read), they’re a Marketing-Qualified Lead (or MQL). If they’re then vetted and accepted by the sales team, they’re a Sales-Qualified Lead (SQL) or Sales-Accepted Lead (SAL).
Readability Score – A readability score is generated by an algorithm that analyses a piece of text and appraises its simplicity or complexity. It can be a useful guideline, but some organisations lean on readability scores quite quite heavily. It’s important to remember that readability scores are not capable of judging the quality of a piece of writing, only its supposed complexity. This is especially true in B2B, where some standard terms automatically fall foul of an algorithm’s scoring system.
ROI – Return on Investment is a measure of how effective a company’s investment is, by comparing the net profit to the cost of investment. In the B2B world, you can expect companies to be providing services that claim to increase or accelerate ROI.
Ruby – Ruby is another multi-purpose programming language that supports a range of coding paradigms. Designed to help coders be more productive, Ruby has proved a popular language for developing web applications. If you use it on the Rails application framework, it’s called “Ruby on Rails”.
SEO – Search Engine Optimisation is the process of making your content easier to find in search results. This can be done by tweaking keywords, inbound links, title tags, and meta data… and also by writing great content.
SMB – Small-to-Medium Businesses are businesses that have under 250 employees. They’re sometimes also called Small-to-Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which gets confusing (see below). Remember, too, that this category covers more than 99% of all businesses, so “SMBs” is not really a meaningful target group.
SaaS – Software-as-a-Service is a software delivery model. SaaS applications are hosted outside of the user’s data centre and accessed via the cloud. SaaS tends to have pay-per-month cost models rather than upfront costs, making them more flexible than buying software outright. If you’d like more information, George write a whole blog post on how to write about SaaS.
SME – An SME, or Subject Matter Expert, is shorthand used in marketing to describe the person in the know. They might be a design engineer, a product expert, or a consultant. Whatever their role, this person will provide the valuable information and expert knowledge a copywriter will need to add true value to a piece of marketing. For this reason, they’re one of the people your B2B copywriter definitely needs to meet. (Side note: if this definition doesn’t work in the context where you heard it, it might also mean “Small-to-Medium sized Enterprise”; see SMB above.)
Subject Lines – After your email address, this is the first (in fact, usually the only) thing someone will read when they receive your email. This means it needs to convey your message, while also prompting the reader to open the email. Showing a statistic or asking an intriguing question is often a good way to get the reader’s attention, but the challenge is avoiding frustrating click-bait. Take a look at Fiona’s advice on what makes a great subject line.
Supply Chain – The supply chain is all the companies that have a hand in producing a product, then deploying and delivering it to the consumer. The supply chain involves the network a company has between its suppliers and distributors. In manufacturing, the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) sits at the top of this chain; its direct suppliers are “tier one suppliers”, their suppliers in turn are “tier two” and so on.
SQL – Structured Query Language is the standard language for relational database management systems. Or, in simpler terms, it’s the language used to communicate with a database.
TOFU – Another part of the marketing funnel, Top of the Funnel content relates to the initial stage of the consideration process. TOFU content is generally there to identify a problem, lightly approach a topic, or gain awareness, without going into extensive detail. The product or service is not usually introduced at this stage, instead it’s just to lead the reader in the right direction.
TOV – Tone of Voice (or, more accurately, voice and tone) is the way your company sounds when it communicates customers. It’s a way to bring your brand’s character out through your content. Clearly defining your brand’s tone of voice is important to producing consistent, effective content that’s appropriate for your various target audiences. While often seen as interlinked, tone and voice are different beasts (one shifts to suit the context, the other is fixed), and an editorial style guide is something else again, as we explored in our podcast.
Thought Leadership – This is a type of content that shows audiences your expertise, without necessarily showing them your products. Often seen as the antithesis of product-focused marketing, thought leadership pieces fully explore industry trends and topics while offering a personal perspective. Sadly, too many B2B thought leaders have too few leading thoughts.
USP – A Unique Selling Point refers to a quality or feature that makes a product, service or organisation stand out from the competition. Something you have, that they can’t match.
UX – User Experience (UX) refers to the entire experience a customer has with a business, including everything from their initial interaction to their moment of purchase. Some people just use it in the context of websites.
UI – A User Interface (UI) is everything a user interacts with to control a software application or hardware device. B2B buyers will often see easy-to-use interfaces as a significant selling point.
Virtualisation – Virtualisation is a term used in computing to describe the creation of a virtualised version of a computing asset (like a hardware platform, storage device, network, or server) that has its own properties but doesn’t physically exist. For instance, one physical server could host several virtualised servers at once, to make the most of the physical resource. (When told a concussed striker couldn’t remember his own name, football manager John Lambie is reputed to have said “Tell him he’s Pele, and get him back on”. Virtualisation is a bit like that.)
VOIP – Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) is a way to send telephone and multimedia signals over the internet, instead of a phone line.
VR – Virtual Reality involves a headset that creates real-time 3D environments as you move around. This may sound like a primarily consumer-focused device, but B2B companies are increasingly using VR to showcase 3D models of products such as oilfield generators and network convergence systems. Katy wrote a blog post about how to write VR scripts.
Webinar – An online session, usually in live video format, where companies can talk about their product or service and attendees can interact and ask questions. Webinars are a great way for brands to show expertise and engage with their audience. They can also be a great starting point for follow-up content, maximising the marketing return on the preparation time.
.NET Framework – A software framework designed by Microsoft, the .NET Framework enables multiple coding languages (including C#, F# and Visual Basic) to work together. As it is designed by Microsoft, the full framework is only available using Windows, although the framework and its languages can be ported to other platforms.