‘Think Outside the Box’ and Other Marketing Phrases You Need to Stop Using

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As a marketer, you may appreciate some good old hype words or phrases now and then. (Some marketers just adore them! They love using hype words or phrases even more than Kanye West loves Kanye West.)

Hype words aren’t all bad, but when overused—like the one in the headline, for example—they look silly.

What Makes a Hype Word?

A hype word is a word that has a very ordinary meaning (or unclear meaning) yet manages to appear attractive and innovative. At least, it does at first sight.

A hype word confuses the listener, and it hides the speaker’s shortcomings and inability to explain a topic in simple terms.

After hearing or reading a hype word, targeted audience members ask themselves, “What did the author (or speaker) have in mind?”

Let’s go through some of the most “interesting” hype words and phrases, and talk about why you should be careful about using them in your marketing materials.

1. Skyrocket

You could say, “Grow really fast.” But that would sound too basic, not creative enough, too ordinary, right?

Going back to our hype word definition, using “skyrocket” allows you to convey a really simple meaning, and, at the same time, to confuse the listener. Example use: “This new tool will skyrocket your search engine rankings.”

2. Growth hacking

The term “growth hacking” is nothing more than a fancy way of saying “running a business.”

Granted, you can find some specific online definitions of “growth hacking,” but the fact is that everyone running a business is a growth hacker. I don’t know any business owner who wouldn’t want his or her company to grow.

In most cases, “growth hacking” is an attempt to make a relatively dull term (“running a business”) seem sexy again.

3. Creating quality content

These days, everyone’s creating quality content. Google wants you to create quality content, your audience wants you to create quality content, you want to create quality content.

The only question is: What the heck is this quality content?

No one knows.

Whenever people use the phrase “creating quality content,” they use it because they don’t have a clue about how to be more specific and to provide actual insight.

4. Thinking outside the box

In plain English, that phrase just means “being creative.”

If you want to be creative in saying that you are creative, saying that you think “outside the box” is not really creative.

5. Passion-driven

Marketers love saying they are “passion-driven.” Or at least, they want everybody to think they are.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing bad about passion. But mentioning that you are passion-driven on every occasion is like being that one annoying vegetarian friend who takes every opportunity to talk about how great he or she is for not eating meat. No one wants to hear that all the time.

Nobody cares if you’re “passion-driven.”

6. Outreach

“I’m doing outreach” is the most inhuman way of saying you’re contacting people for some purpose.

Calling contacting people “outreach” makes the whole experience seem mechanical and devoid of emotion.

Be careful with the term. When you want to contact someone for the first time, just call it “contacting someone for the first time” instead of “doing outreach.”

7. Building a relationship

Marketers keep referring to the practice of constantly nagging their customers via email and promoting one thing after another as “building a relationship.”

If you think that nagging and promoting gets you closer to people, let me break the news to you: It doesn’t!

Building a relationship should be about much more than just sending an occasional promotional email.

8. Thought leadership

The problem with the phrase “thought leadership” is that, judging by the wording, it suggests “the one who leads other people’s thoughts,” which is just scary and sounds like something from one of Orwell’s novels.

However, people just use “thought leader” because they feel that “expert” doesn’t sound fancy enough.

9. Solo-preneur

Is this term necessary? Isn’t “business owner” enough?

People use the term because they’re proud of the fact that they are the only person running their business. They are proud that they can handle everything on their own.

But using the term in every piece of your marketing materials feels creepy. The term makes you sound somewhat like those people who start every sentence with “as a proud mom/dad of…”

We get it.

10. Inbound marketing

There’s no problem with the term as long as it’s used in tune with its meaning. According to Wikipedia, “inbound marketing refers to marketing activities that bring visitors in, rather than marketers having to go out to get prospect’s attention.

That definition means inbound marketing relies on such methods as blogging, podcasting, video recording, and other forms of sharing content and knowledge to get people to pay attention to your brand.

That’s fine… but some marketers just treat the term “inbound marketing” like something that all clients need to hear when they pitched on a marketing strategy. Marketers use the term, regardless of whether inbound marketing really will be used.

11. Content marketing

Back in the day, “content marketing” was simply called “blogging.” Since when is “blogging” no longer a trendy enough term?

Editor’s note/update: Clearly, “content marketing” entails much more than blogging… although it’s possible that some people, in an attempt to sound hip or savvy, might use the term “content blogging” even when they merely mean blogging.

12. Building engagement

“Building engagement” always refers to some form of creating a relationship between the marketer and another person (a client, blog reader, etc.).

Saying “I’m building engagement with my readers” sounds OK, but imagine saying, “I’m building engagement with my wife.” That sounds just flat-out hilarious, even though both the readers and the wife are people.

Just ban “building engagement” from your dictionary entirely. It’s an emotionless expression that refers to something where emotions should play a big role.

13. Email newsletter

“Email newsletter” is a perfectly fine phrase, but it can go really bad really quickly in some cases.

The whole problem is that too many marketers use the term “email newsletter” when they refer to their purely promotional sequence of automated email messages. For example, a marketer may say, “Join our newsletter! We share valuable info every week!” But the only thing that follows is promotion after promotion after promotion.

An email newsletter should be more than promotion. It should be something that provides value on a certain topic. It shouldn’t be something that consists purely of random affiliate links or sales page links without any free info that people would consider useful.

Don’t be the person running a fake email newsletter.

* * *

Most of the phrases described above are fine when used in moderation (maybe except “building engagement”) and not just shoved down everyone’s throat 24/7.

I don’t want to offend any readers, but the reason I am blunt is because, that way, the message gets across better.

MarketingProfs All In One

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