I recently provided a list of 12 phrases to avoid in sales emails.  Today, it's phrases that marketers should avoid, not because customers hate them, but because the use of these phrases encourages bad marketing.  Here they are:

1. "Demand creation"

Example: "This trade show is a demand creation activity."

No amount of marketing can "create" demand. Either customers need a product or they don't.  If they do, then the demand is already there.  If they don't, then demand doesn't exist.  The most marketing can do is help connect the demand with the product.

This phrase results in bad marketing because it encourages marketers to think that their job is to do something to the customer rather than for the sales team.

2. "Drive sales"

Example: "This program will drive sales into new industries."

This phrase implies that marketing is in control of the sales activity. But for every product that requires a salesperson, only a salesperson can makes a sale happen. All marketing can do is to help the sales group fulfill its goals.  It's not "driving" anything.

This phrase results in bad marketing because it folds the sales function under the marketing rubric, rather than the natural order, which is t'other way 'round.

3. "Brand equity"

Example: "This advertisement will increase our brand equity."

The entire concept of "brand equity" is mostly a scam. While huge, instantly-recognizable brands (like Coke and Sony) do have value (though probably less than they claim), most brands could disappear off the face of the earth and nobody would notice.

This phrase results in bad marketing because the squishiness of the concept makes it impossible to measure whether any given marketing activity was worth the cost.

4. "Hot sales lead"

Example: "We passed some hot sales leads to the sales team."

A sales lead is only "hot" if a salesperson can close it quickly.  Because of this, marketing only knows whether a sales lead is hot after a salesperson has closed the sale.  Declaring that a sales lead is hot before it closes is fundamentally wrongheaded.

This phrase results in bad marketing because it encourages marketers to judge the quality of sales leads based upon their own guesstimate rather than actual usefulness.

5. "Under embargo"

Example: "This product announcement is under embargo."

Marketers use this phrase when sending out press releases, hoping that an air of secrecy will pique media interest. However, the PR folk would be absolutely delighted if they got some early ink.

This phrase results in bad marketing because business reporters have an attention span of about 10 minutes and delete anything that they can't immediately write about.

6. "Investment"

Example: "We are making an investment in market research."

With an investment, there's a direct connection between the money you put in and the money you take out.  If the connection is vague or indirect (as with most marketing activity), it's spending not investing.

This phrase creates bad marketing because it encourages marketers (and everyone else in the company) to forget that marketing is always an expense.

7. "Robust"

Example: "Our new product requires a robust set of features."

What does this word mean, exactly?  For me, it conjures up the image of a red-faced, slightly-overweight, middle-aged guy wearing Speedos while running down the beach and calling out: "Hey, everybody, look! I'm robust!"

This phrase encourages bad marketing because it allows marketers to have arguments and discussions over a term that has no real meaning.

8. "Customer-focused"

Example: "This ad campaign is customer-focused."

What? What?  If a marketing activity isn't about the customer, why would anybody bother to plan, fund or execute it?  Shouldn't everything be about the customer?

This phrase results in bad marketing because the fact that a marketing group labels an activity as "customer-focused" implies that some of what they're doing isn't.

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