30 Marketing & Sales Terms Every Small Business Owner Must Know


Marketing has gotten more complex over the decades, especially as digital marketing strategies hold more influence on consumer behavior than traditional methods, like television and newspaper ads. As more individuals shop online or look up businesses to gauge their trustworthiness, it is crucial that business owners, big and small, understand key marketing terms to build more effective campaigns.

At Smith.ai, we’ve provided a list of 30 marketing and sales terms every small business owner must know, with definitions and practical, real-world examples to help you build a marketing foundation for your business.

1. Business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C)

Business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) are terms used to describe companies and their marketing objectives. The primary difference between these two terms is:

B2B companies primarily market their services to other businesses. For example, if you operate a web design business, you might want to market your services to other businesses that need to create or improve their websites.

B2C companies primarily market their services to consumers or customers in the public market. These companies exist as retail stores, restaurants, repair service companies, and various other service companies for the common individual.

If you decide to outsource marketing content or other services, you’ll want to know if the marketing company specializes in B2B or B2C marketing, depending on what type of company you own. Alternatively, if you want to enhance marketing for your company, you can look up B2B or B2C strategies that might benefit your target approach.

2. Content marketing

Content marketing is the practice of using written content to attract people to your website and purchase your product or service. In digital marketing, the phrase “content marketing is King” is often thrown around to showcase the importance of having:

● Good landing pages on your website

● Engaging content to keep your readers (potential leads) on your website

● High-ranking content so that your website shows up on more keyword searches on various search engines, such as Google or Bing

If you have a website for your business, one strategy to get more sales and interest in your company is to promote it with catered content. Investing in content marketing can also help build the relationship between your company and your target audience, be it another business or consumer.

Other related terms

If you’re interested in growing your content marketing plan, here are some other terms to be aware of as you discuss key objectives with SEO managers, content writers, and content marketers:

Blogging: Blogging is a derived word from “web log,” and involves short- or long-form word articles about relevant topics. Writing business blogs, specifically, can be a great marketing strategy because you can create content specific to your company’s services or industry. For example, if you have an air conditioning company, you can create blogs about how to spot common AC problems.

Crowdsourced content: Not everyone has the resources, skills, or even the time to create content for their business. Crowdsourced content allows businesses to hire freelance and contributing writers to produce content.

Content management system (CMS): Content management systems allow companies to index and manage the content they produce and publish on their websites. You can use web applications, such as WordPress or Magento, as your CMS or have a tech developer create a CMS platform for your company exclusively.

Content optimization system (COS): Content optimization systems operate like CMS platforms but also add features to enhance user experience on your website.

Editorial calendar: An editorial calendar helps you keep track of the content you’ve produced, keywords you’ve targeted, and upcoming projects you need to produce. You can also keep track of which days or types of posts garner the most response and engagement. Then, you can alter your content strategy accordingly.

Evergreen content: Content that remains relevant no matter what year a user reads them is called “evergreen content.” You want to extend the longevity of your highest-ranking pages by limiting timely information so that anyone can benefit from your content at any time.

Landing page: Landing pages facilitate lead generation. You might create several types of landing pages to target different types of audiences. For example, if you own a personal injury law firm, you might create separate landing pages for car accidents and slip and fall accidents to promote your legal services.

3. Search engine optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a marketing strategy that focuses on improving content on web pages so that those pages rank higher on search results. The objective is to have your website land on the first page of a search engine, like Google, and preferably in one of the top five results, if not the top result.

Some common SEO strategies include:

● Including target keywords into your content (e.g., using the keyword “hotel in Fort Lauderdale” in landing pages promoting your resort in that area)

● Making sure to include H2 and H3 headers in your content to make it more mobile-friendly

● Adding internal and external links to build your site map and add authority to your website

SEO strategies can vary from year to year—even month to month—because they rely on search engine algorithms. SEO marketers stay on top of Google’s algorithm updates so that they can maintain relevance on their companies’ websites.

4. Lead

A lead is a person or business that you want to target in hopes of selling your services to them.

People often use this term in various stages of a marketing strategy, so you may hear terms like:

Lead generation: Lead generation strategies focus on attracting people to your business via advertisements, website content, outbound calls, and other forms of marketing mediums.

Lead nurturing: Lead nurturing strategies understand that consumers or businesses must be influenced to purchase a product or service. So, reminder emails about abandoned items in a shopping cart, pop-up windows triggered by users about to leave a website, and other last-minute sale tactics may convince a lead to convert.

Lead conversion: Lead conversion strategies focus on getting the potential customer to actually buy the product or service being marketed. These strategies may involve creating catered landing pages, using calls-to-actions, and having online forms to streamline the sign-up process.

5. Buyer persona

A buyer persona is a profile of your target audience, including details about the people who commonly purchase your products/services or people you wish would give you business.

Buyer personas might include these details:

● The target age range of your consumer base

● Common issues your consumer base might be dealing with that could be remedied by your product or service

● Locations you serve if your business is not national or international

Depending on your product or service, you might also consider gender, political mindset, salary class, and other specific characteristics of your target consumer.

Companies create buyer personas to build customized marketing strategies aimed at those groups of people. You may have multiple types of buyer personas, depending on how varied your inventory or skill set is.

6. Engagement rate

Engagement rate is an analytic metric that measures how often people respond or react to your social media content. Social media marketers monitor engagement rates to observe what content generates more leads to the company’s website or converts them entirely.

For example, posts that have a catalog of products allow users to immediately browse popular items within the posts and click on the products they’re interested in, which increases the likelihood that they’ll purchase those products.

If you utilize catalog-type posts on Facebook or Instagram, you can monitor the engagement rate to see which products have the most clicks and which posts have the most likes based on the products you feature.

6 Ways to Calculate Engagement Rate

Engagement rate can also showcase the B2C or B2B relationship

Engagement rates indicate which strategies work for lead generation and conversion for your business, but they can also reveal which strategies enhance lead nurturing. As you monitor the engagement rate of your social media pages, keep track of:

● Which posts make consumers and businesses most excited about your brand, products, or services

● Which posts encourage consumers or businesses to provide feedback, which can help you build better marketing campaigns

● Which posts get little to no reaction, which can indicate which topics or approaches don’t reach your target audience

7. Bounce rate

Bounce rate refers to how many people visit your content, whether on a website or email, and then immediately leave without engaging with it (e.g., clicking on other internal links, filling out forms, or purchasing products).

Businesses should keep track of how high their bounce rates are on their websites or email campaigns. A high bounce rate percentage might indicate:

● The content is not relevant or interesting enough to have users want to read it.

● The design of the website or email is poor or outdated (or both).

● The landing page’s metadata is inaccurate and misleads users who come to the page.

● The landing page does not meet the user’s needs based on the keyword it is targeting.

● For emails, too many contacts on the company’s email listing are out-of-date or invalid.

Having a high bounce rate on your company’s website can also lower its SEO rankings, as Google and other search engines might consider your content as spam or irrelevant to target keywords.

8. Call-to-action (CTA)

A call-to-action (CTA) is a direct incentive to encourage consumers or businesses to purchase your company’s products or services. Common examples of CTAs include:

● Call today to receive a free consultation.

● Subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

● Sign up for SMS texts to receive weekly coupon codes!

● Pre-order today to get our new product when it releases next season!

Why are CTAs important?

The purpose behind CTAs is to eventually convert a lead. In most content mediums, CTAs offer leads an enticing incentive to interact with your business, which can then motivate them to fulfill a transaction.

Different types of CTAs can also generate key results in the lead nurturing stage. For example:

● Encouraging consumers to call your company indicates they can receive customized service or additional information about your business.

● Having people subscribe to your email or SMS listings can give you key data on the types of people you attract to your business and build better buyer personas.

● Offering pre-order options to consumers can encourage later sales and help you determine the supply-demand ratio.

When building CTAs, remember to keep these phrases direct, simple, and clear about what you want the lead to do (e.g., call, subscribe, buy now, etc.).

9. Conversion path

“Conversion path” refers to the clickthrough process a lead encounters when purchasing a product or service on your website. The objective of constructing a conversion path is to keep the lead engaged throughout their interaction with your website until they convert and fulfill a transaction.

A simple outline of a conversion path might involve:

Initial search: The lead searches a keyword and sees your website as one of the top results. They decide to click on the page title link after reading the meta description of your page.

Landing page: The lead visits your website and determines whether your content meets their interests.

Call-to-action: On the page exists a CTA that encourages the lead to buy a product/service or subscribe to other forms of marketing content, such as an email newsletter or SMS texts.

Thank-you pages: After the lead performs the desired action, they see a confirmation page for that action and a thank-you for engaging with your business.

10. Drip marketing

Drip marketing is another term for lead nurturing and involves strategies to retain leads’ interest so that they convert. In some cases, companies may create “drip campaigns” that use a specific conversion path to increase sales for a product or service. However, drip marketing itself generally caters to building relationships with consumers to retain their capital potential.

Examples of general drip marketing tactics include:

● Sending the lead a notification or follow-up email about items they left in their online shopping cart

● Sending SMS alerts about flash sales, coupon codes, and new releases to keep leads interested in your business

● Posting regularly on your social media platforms to keep leads updated on the latest products or services your business offers

Sending the lead a follow-up email or phone call with customized messages based on the online form they filled out on your website

● Sending the lead suggestions for other products or services you offer based on their website activity or transaction history

11. Marketing funnel

Like conversion paths, “marketing funnel” refers to the process by which a consumer or business becomes aware of your brand, interested in a product or service you offer, and then willing to complete a transaction. Various terms exist to describe the different levels of the marketing funnel, often referred to as:

TOFU (top of the funnel): This refers to the first stage of the consumer’s journey, meaning they become aware of your brand/company, as well as your products and services. One method involves providing a solution to an issue they might have. Once they start to interact with your website, they become a lead.

MOFU (middle of the funnel): The second stage of the marketing funnel may involve educating the lead about your products and services as a means of filtering out leads who are likely to convert versus those that aren’t. For example, if you run a chiropractic facility, you may provide content informing leads about the injuries you treat so that they can determine whether you provide the medical care they need.

BOFU (bottom of the funnel): This is the final stage of the marketing funnel, which involves actually converting the lead. BOFU tactics can be a two-part process: you may provide a CTA to entice the reader to speak with your sales representatives and complete a transaction, or you might encourage a lead to sign up for other content you offer so that they can purchase products regularly at later times.

12. Analytics

Analytics is a general term that applies to various analytics software or application programs companies can use to monitor activity on their website, social media platforms, and sales as a way of observing key patterns in their consumer base. Analytics tools may include:

Google Analytics

● Social media analytics, such as on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter

● SEO analytics software programs, such as SEMrush or Moz

● Business analytics software programs, such as DOMO or Power BI

Observing analytics can help you spot trends about which landing pages perform better versus other content that might need reworking or a different approach altogether.

13. A/B testing

A/B testing refers to the practice of testing two different strategies for a single variable to determine which route performs better and leads to more conversions. A/B testing allows marketers to experiment with different formats, styles, tones, or content in general to see what attracts more people to their business and encourages them to complete transactions.

You may perform A/B testing to see:

● Which landing pages keep people more engaged based on the topics they discuss

● Which email formats encourage readers to scroll through the email and click links

● Whether pop-ups keep leads from leaving your website

● Whether having online forms at the end of your landing pages leads to more conversions

Marketers also use A/B testing to enhance user experience with your brand. It’s good to remain open-minded about changing your approach to reach different types of audiences as you build marketing campaigns.

14. Churn rate

“Churn rate” refers to the percentage of how many consumers you lost within a specific timeframe, such as within a month. Alternatively, it can help you better understand the percentage of how many consumers you retain.

How do you calculate churn rate?

Calculating the churn rate in a set timeframe involves these steps:

Select the timeframe you want to measure: For example, let’s say you want to measure the churn rate of your consumer base between October and November within the same year.

Calculate the difference: Take the totals at the beginning and end of the timeframe and subject the difference between them. For example, if you had 1,000 consumers in October but had 800 consumers in November, the difference is 200 consumers.

Divide the difference from the initial total: Now, you are going to divide the difference from the total of consumers you had at the beginning of the timeframe. Following our example, you would divide 200 by 1,000 to reach 0.2, or 20 percent. This percentage is your churn rate. This means you lost 20 percent of your consumer base within a month but also retained 80 percent in that timeframe.

Why is churn rate important for small businesses to keep track of?

If you are still growing your business or have a small consumer base, being aware of your churn rate is crucial to spotting sales declines. If your churn rate exceeds 50 percent, you might not be able to break even with your company profits, which then puts you at risk of going out of business entirely.

Following your churn rate can help you determine whether certain marketing strategies are benefiting or damaging your business. If you notice a higher churn rate, consider editing your approach and asking for feedback from your consumer base to determine how best to cater to their needs.

15. Clickthrough rate (CTR)

“Clickthrough rate” refers to the metric that measures the percentage of users who click on hyperlinks that navigate them further down the marketing funnel. You may inquire about your website’s clickthrough rate to determine:

● How many people are clicking your landing pages’ links after searching target or related keywords

● How many people are clicking links from direct calls-to-action, such as subscribe or buy button links

● How many people are clicking internal links to read more content on your website and engage with your brand

● How many people are clicking links from the emails you send out

● How many people are clicking links from your social media posts

These metrics showcase engagement from your consumer base, which can indicate how strong of a conversion path you’ve built. If no one is clicking on any pages beyond your website, then you may need to enhance your CTAs, website design, and overall content to reduce your bounce rate as much as possible and instead increase your clickthrough rate.

16. UX

“UX” stands for “user experience.” There are many ways to enhance user experience, so UX strategies ultimately vary by industry, brand, buyer persona, and technical ease. In general, marketers try to improve UX by getting into the mindset of their ideal consumer and seeing how they would want to be treated by your brand before purchasing a product or service.

For example, you can implement online chat services to your website to interact with potential leads who might have inquiries about your services. At Smith.ai, we provide 24/7 website chat for our clients to filter through leads and determine which consumers are likely to complete a transaction with your business. Our receptionists provide warm, friendly customer service to appeal to your consumer base and encourage more sales as we transfer them to your team.

17. Inbound marketing

Inbound marketing focuses on improving inbound traffic to your company’s website. This type of marketing utilizes SEO strategies to make a company website easier to find online for specific keywords, which then brings in more organic consumers. Depending on which search queries led to your website, you may also attract consumers who already have an incentive to purchase your product or service.

Small businesses often use inbound marketing to maintain an online presence for their brands and generate leads toward their websites. This method of attracting consumers can also be more cost-effective than outbound marketing techniques, which rely on purchasing advertisements in mediums that reach wider audiences, such as television, newspapers, or online ads.

18. Opt-in email marketing

Opt-in email marketing is a type of marketing campaign that focuses on getting consumers to sign up for your email content, be it a weekly or monthly newsletter or email notices about flash sales and product releases.

If your business relies on having a recurring consumer base purchasing products from your inventory, you may want to use opt-in email marketing techniques to build your email listing. This is also a form of lead nurturing, as it allows you to build relationships with your email subscriber base and observe which:

● Email content leads to more clicks to your website

● Products generate more interest based on product release response

● Email campaigns lead to more conversions (e.g., product release emails versus flash sale emails)

● Time of day and/or day of the week does your subscriber base read your email content

19. Marketing automation

Marketing automation involves using software to automate and manage specific marketing processes to nurture leads as they engage with your website. Companies can use marketing automation software tools to trigger responses when users perform certain actions on their websites.

For example, ways to automate marketing processes include:

● Having pop-ups appear when the user’s mouse moves to click out of the website tab or window

● Revealing similar items underneath a product that the user recently liked

● Sending out a survey to collect feedback on a product the user purchased

Marketing automation can help businesses save time on lead nurturing. Additionally, if your marketing team is small, using automation software can fulfill time-consuming tasks. This way, your marketers can focus on creating good quality content for your website, social media platforms, email newsletter, and SMS campaigns to generate and convert leads.

20. Return on investment (ROI)

Return on investment (ROI) is a metric used to gauge the performance of a marketing investment. This ratio lends insight into how efficient certain strategies are at generating and/or converting leads. The metric can indicate whether profits increased, decreased, or stayed the same for a business using specific marketing techniques.

If you are outsourcing marketing content, you may inquire about ROI during quarterly reports to measure whether a marketing company is performing well for your business.

21. Key performance indicators (KPIs)

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are used to measure how well your marketing employees or strategies are performing. KPIs is a general term for various metrics, such as:

● Customer acquisition cost (CAC)

● Inbound traffic rates

● Engagement rates

● Bounce rates

● Clickthrough rates

As a business owner, keep track of your KPIs so you can determine which stages of your marketing funnel need adjusting. These metrics should include which employees should lead certain strategies based on their sales skills and performance.

Not all KPIs indicate accurate performance rates for all businesses

Keep in mind that while KPIs serve as tools for measuring performance, you also need to establish definitions on what serves as a good metric for performance for your company specifically.

For example, if your company offers niche services, your inbound traffic rates might not be as high as companies that provide general services. So, this metric might not accurately show whether your marketing strategies perform well. Instead, you might focus on engagement rates from the inbound traffic you receive to determine whether your content appeals to your desired niche audience and encourages conversions.

22. Customer acquisition cost (CAC)

Customer acquisition cost (CAC) is the metric that measures how much it costs in sales and marketing investments to retain each customer in a specific timeframe. This metric compares your total sales and marketing budget costs to the number of customers you converted in a set time period. Then, it divides the difference to assign value to each customer you obtained.

For example, let’s say your total sales and marketing budget is $100,000 per month. If, in one month, you gained 100 customers for your business, then the CAC is $10,000 per customer per month.

23. Customer relationship management (CRM)

Customer relationship management (CRM) refers to software that companies use to keep track of their consumer base. CRMs can help small businesses keep track of their:

● Email subscriber list

● Social media follower lists

● Registered phone numbers and other contact information of consumers

● Appointments with consumers

As your consumer base grows, using a CRM software program can help keep your consumer contact lists organized and up to date as you gain more customers.

24. Unique selling proposition (USP)

Unique selling proposition (USP), also referred to as a unique selling point, is the core reason or characteristic that sets your brand apart from your competitors. Understanding what makes your company unique also sets the tone for your marketing strategy.

For example, say you operate a law firm that handles wrongful death cases. Your USP might focus on the compassionate and empathetic customer service you provide to families who have had to experience the trauma of losing their loved ones. While promoting your firm’s legal services will be important, so will promoting customer service, like patience and responsiveness.

25. Responsive design

Responsive design refers to website designs that adapt to different devices a person may be using to see your website. Responsive design becomes more important as technology advances and people adapt to changes.

For example, having mobile-friendly responsive design included with your website design has become a priority in recent years. According to Statista, 52.2 percent of worldwide website traffic came from mobile devices, meaning more than half of the world’s population uses the internet via their smartphones or tablets instead of laptops or desktop computers.

Appealing to multiple device screens will enhance UX for your website, which can lead to more conversions.

26. Cross-selling

Cross-selling is the act of promoting similar products or services to consumers based on what is in their online shopping cart or their order history.

You can automate cross-selling options on your website as leads browse your product inventory. You can also train sales representatives to promote other services when speaking with prospective clients.

27. Social proof

Social proof refers to the perception of a business based on its follower base, testimonials, and reviews. Word-of-mouth marketing is still a powerful method of promoting (or damaging) a business, so adding social proof to your business can help build a positive reputation.

Social proofing can include:

● High follower counts on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and other social media platforms

● Positive reviews on various feedback platforms, such as Google, Yelp, or Glassdoor

● Testimonial videos of former clients who have worked with your company

● Video posts on your social media that show long lines coming out of your business due to high demand and excitement

● Shoutouts from high profile individuals, such as celebrities, social media influencers, or industry experts

28. Personalization

Personalization refers to the practice of curating content to meet a user’s interests. Examples include recommended items based on their order history, customized email messages based on their clickthrough behavior, and customized SMS texts to collect feedback from the user.

29. Referral

When a customer refers your business to a person they know, this is called a referral. As mentioned, word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful form of social proof. Consumers are likely to engage with your business if someone they trust refers your company to them.

You can encourage referrals by offering discount codes to the referring individuals. This helps build your consumer base and also gives an incentive to the referring consumer to stay with your brand since they receive rewards for their loyalty.


“CAN-SPAM” stands for “Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing.” The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enacted this federal law in the United States in 2003 to establish rights for the consumer to request that companies stop sending marketing content to them.

Essentially, this law requires a company to comply with a customer’s request to stop receiving promotional materials from its business via email or other messaging platforms.

Why should small business owners learn marketing lingo?

It takes more than making a high-quality product to generate good business. People have to know about your brand and the services you offer. However, balancing production, business management, and marketing are all full-time jobs in their own right, making it impractical for small business owners to wear each hat long-term.

Understanding marketing lingo can help you as a business owner dictate the kind of goals you want to achieve with your marketing team. These terms can help you begin thinking about how to define your brand, current clientele, and ideal target audiences.

Establishing brand identity can also shape how you approach customers, which Smith.ai can spread as we handle initial communication with leads.

Smith.ai offers receptionist services to transfer good leads to your business

Building marketing campaigns takes time, skill, and effort. At Smith.ai, we offer services to companies like yours to help reduce time and resources spent on filtering leads. Our receptionists can handle lead intake, then transfer qualifying consumers to your business to fulfill their transactions. This allows your company to invest in more resources to improve your marketing funnel and maintain the quality of the products/services you provide.

Some of our main services include:

● 24/7 phone answering services

● 24/7 website chat services

Appointment bookings

Payment collections

Outreach campaigns

Sales development

SMS text answering services

Outbound call-backs to web leads

If you would like to learn more about our services at Smith.ai, you can schedule a free 30-minute consultation. Feel free to also look at our general pricing, plus Smith.ai has been recognized by Clutch as a top sales outsourcing provider. For more information, call our sales representatives at (650) 727-6484 or email us at hello@smith.ai.

Business Education
Small Business
Marketing Advice
Sales Tips
Written by Sean Lund-Brown

Sean Lund-Brown is a current Marketing Assistant for Smith.ai. A graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver, Sean graduated with a BA in Music and an individualized degree in Teaching Vocal Pedagogy.

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