The Complete Marketing Definition List

marketing definitions

Inbound Outbound All Around

In our modern realm of marketing, there is a lot of noise – A LOT.

We can’t browse the internet, play games on our smartphones, or even take public transportation without having something marketed to us. It’s impossible (unless we blindfold ourselves and put in earplugs…).

As strategic communicators, we want to find the best way to gain more customers without being too intrusive.

Social media marketing and inbound marketing suggest we develop a human perception – basically, we appear as a friend to all potential customers, making them more susceptible to our marketing campaigns.

Yet the older forms of marketing, the forlorn “outbound” marketing, is still practices by thousands of businesses.

We have so many marketing options and channels to choose from, it can be confusing to determine the best one without trying everything. Coincidentally, this is the same reason we can’t do the most basic errands without being hit with dozens of marketing messages.

So, my point is that there is no “best marketing type”; rather, a palette of marketing options we can mix and match to ultimately enhance our customers’ experience and increase business revenue.

That being said, I figured it would be beneficial to others who feel overwhelmed by the plethora of marketing options to have the primaries listed out and defined with examples.

Let’s get started by defining the mother; marketing.

Definition of Marketing

According to Wikipedia:

The process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling that product or service. From a societal point of view, marketing is the link between a society’s material requirements and its economic patterns of response. Marketing satisfies these needs and wants through exchange processes and building long term relationships. Marketing can be looked at as an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, delivering and communicating value to customers, and managing customer relationships in ways that also benefit the organization and its shareholders. Marketing is the science of choosing target markets through market analysis and market segmentation, as well as understanding consumer buying behavior and providing superior customer value.


According to the American Marketing Association:

Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

The 7 Ps of Marketing

  1. Product – the tangible or intangible good or service that is subject to a unique life-cycle.
  2. Price – the amount consumer pay for a product, determined by market research, perceived value, and fluctuating value factors.
  3. Promotion – all strategic communication methods that inevitably increase product exposure and sales
  4. Place – the distribution process and the strategy behind it, such as providing products and convenient locations.
  5. Physical evidence – store elements; colors, uniforms, signs, copy, etc.
  6. People – all employees that customers and potential customers communicate with
  7. Process – internal organizational processes that impact marketing performance

Inbound Marketing Definition

According to Wikipedia:

Inbound marketing is advertising a company through blogs, podcasts, video, eBooks, enewsletters, whitepapers, SEO, social media marketing, and other forms of content marketing… Inbound marketing earns the attention of customers, makes the company easy to be found and draws customers to the website by producing interesting content.


According to Hubspot:

Since 2006 inbound marketing has been the most effective marketing method for doing business online. Instead of the old outbound marketing methods of buying ads, buying email lists, and praying for leads, inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be. By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests, you naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert, close, and delight over time…Sharing is caring and inbound is about creating and sharing content with the world. By creating content specifically designed to appeal to your dream customers, inbound attracts qualified prospects to your business and keeps them coming back for more.


Inbound Marketing Example: Flowcrete’s flooring blog with Dr Flowcrete to indicate heritage and experience (via Smart Insights)


Permission Marketing Definition

According to Wikipedia:

Marketers obtain permission before advancing to the next step in the purchasing process. For example, they ask permission to send email newsletters to prospective customers. It is mostly used by online marketers, notably email marketers and search marketers, as well as certain direct marketers who send a catalog in response to a request.


According to Seth Godin:

Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them. It recognizes the new power of the best consumers to ignore marketing. It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention. Pay attention is a key phrase here, because permission marketers understand that when someone chooses to pay attention they are actually paying you with something precious. And there’s no way they can get their attention back if they change their mind. Attention becomes an important asset, something to be valued, not wasted.


Permission Marketing Example: Dollar Shave Club

dollar shave club

Outbound Marketing Definition

According to WordStream:

The traditional form of marketing where a company initiates the conversation and sends its message out to an audience…examples include: Tradeshows, TV commercials, radio commercials, print advertisements (newspaper ads, magazine ads, flyers, brochures, catalogs, etc.), cold calls, and email blasts.


According to Chron:

Outbound marketing casts a wide net with the hope of catching a few customers from a sea of loosely targeted consumers. Broadcast and print advertising, billboards, telemarketing and direct mail are all examples of traditional outbound marketing that businesses impose on consumers without regard for the consumers’ desire to receive it.


Outbound Marketing Example: Bic Razor Billboard Ad (via Ads of the World)

bic razor


Outbound Marketing Example 2: Air vacuum breakers via BCS Switchgear; standard ad with double incentives.

bcs switchgear

Interruption Marketing Definition

According to Wikipedia:

A pejorative term that refers to promoting a product through continued advertising, promotions, public relations and sales. It is considered to be an annoying version of the traditional way of doing marketing whereby companies focus on finding customers through advertising. (Confusingly, the ambiguous term outbound marketing is sometimes used as a label for interruption marketing. This gives rise to an ambiguity because in the past the term had a different meaning, namely that information about finished product capability was flowing out to prospective customers who have a need for it i.e. benign marketing communication and product marketing.)


Seth Godin has said:

The interruption model is extremely effective when there’s not an overflow of interruptions. But there’s too much going on in our lives for us to enjoy being interrupted anymore.


Interruption Marketing Example: YouTube pre-watch ads

youtube ad

Interruption Marketing Example 2: Social Media Today pre-read ads

social media today ad

Social Media Marketing Definition

According to Wikipedia:

The process of gaining website traffic or attention through social media sites. Social media marketing programs usually center on efforts to create content that attracts attention and encourages readers to share it with their social networks. The resulting electronic word of mouth (eWoM) refers to any statement consumers share via the Internet (e.g., web sites, social networks, instant messages, news feeds) about an event, product, service, brand or company. When the underlying message spreads from user to user and presumably resonates because it appears to come from a trusted, third-party source, as opposed to the brand or company itself, this form of marketing results in ‘earned media’ rather than ‘paid media’.


According to Search Engine Land:

The process of gaining traffic or attention through social media sites. Social media itself is a catch-all term for sites that may provide radically different social actions. For instance, Twitter is a social site designed to let people share short messages or “updates” with others. Facebook, in contrast is a full-blown social networking site that allows for sharing updates, photos, joining events and a variety of other activities.

Social Media Marketing Example: Lays “Do us a Flavor” Facebook Contest

Lays Do Us a Flavor

Word of Mouth Marketing Definition

According to Wikipedia:

An unpaid form of promotion—oral or written—in which satisfied customers tell other people how much they like a business, product, service, or event. According to Entrepreneur Media, word-of-mouth is one of the most credible forms of advertising because people who don’t stand to gain personally by promoting something put their reputations on the line every time they make a recommendation.


According to WOMMA:

“Any business action that earns a customer recommendation,” but, in the big world of creative campaigns and engagement techniques, WOMM means much more. WOMM is about harnessing the power of people to build brand awareness.

Word of Mouth Marketing Example: Read this Facebook post. Since it’s on Facebook, this is a mix of social media and WOM marketing, still, the story and discussion section skyrocketed, resulting in a grand WOM effect. This example can even be tied into our next marketing option:

Relationship and Customer Service Marketing Definition

According to Wikipedia:

First defined as a form of marketing developed from direct response marketing campaigns which emphasizes customer retention and satisfaction, rather than a dominant focus on sales transactions. As a practice, relationship marketing differs from other forms of marketing in that it recognizes the long term value of customer relationships and extends communication beyond intrusive advertising and sales promotional messages. With the growth of the internet and mobile platforms, relationship marketing has continued to evolve and move forward as technology opens more collaborative and social communication channels. This includes tools for managing relationships with customers that goes beyond simple demographic and customer service data. Relationship marketing extends to include inbound marketing efforts, (a combination of search optimization and strategic content), PR, social media and application development.


According to Robert W. Palmatier:

The process of identifying, developing, maintaining, and terminating relational exchanges with the purpose of enhancing performance.

Relationship and Customer Service Marketing Example: Reddit Gold Bonus Features

reddit gold

Mobile Marketing Definition

According to Wikipedia:

Marketing on or with a mobile device, such as a smart phone. Mobile marketing can provide customers with time and location sensitive, personalized information that promotes goods, services and ideas. This involves SMS (short message services), MMS (multimedia message services), Push notifications, app-based marketing, in-game mobile marketing, QR codes, Bluetooth, infrared, proximity marketing, and user-controlled media.


According to the Mobile Marketing Association:

Mobile Marketing is a set of practices that enables organizations to communicate and engage with their audience in an interactive and relevant manner through any mobile device or network.

Mobile Marketing Example: Cherry London discounts via Econsultancy

cherry london

Email Marketing Definition

According to Wikipedia:

Directly marketing a commercial message to a group of people using email. In its broadest sense, every email sent to a potential or current customer could be considered email marketing. It usually involves using email to send ads, request business, or solicit sales or donations, and is meant to build loyalty, trust, or brand awareness. Email marketing can be done to either sold lists or current customer database.


According to the U.S. Small Business Association:

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to keep in touch with customers. It’s cost effective and, if done properly, can help build brand awareness and loyalty. At a typical cost of only a few cents per message, email marketing is quite a bargain in terms of price and time when compared to direct mail. In addition, response rates on email marketing are strong, ranging from five to 35 percent, depending on the industry and format. Response rates for traditional mail average much lower, barely cracking the three percent mark.

Email Marketing Example: Runkeeper email via Hubspot

runkeeper ad

Drip Marketing Definition

According to Wikipedia:

A communication strategy that sends, or “drips,” a pre-written set of messages to customers or prospects over time. These messages often take the form of email marketing, although other media can also be used. Drip marketing is distinct from other database marketing in two ways:  the timing of the messages follow a pre-determined course; the messages are dripped in a series applicable to a specific behavior or status of the recipient.


According to Investopedia:

Drip marketing used to be done chiefly with paper mail and flyers. The internet is now also commonly used as well. Many forms of drip marketing rely on the “Law of 29″, which states that most prospects will not buy something until they see an ad for it at least 29 times.


Drip Marketing Example: Sales Nurturing Drip Marketing Campaign via Pardot

drip sales marketing campaign

See Also: The Basic of Drip Campaigns [INFOGRAPHIC] 

Account Based Marketing Definition

According to Wikipedia:

Also known as key account marketing, ABM is a strategic approach to business marketing in which an organization considers and communicates with individual prospect or customer accounts as markets of one. While business marketing is typically organized by industry, product/solution or channel (direct/social/PR), account-based marketing brings all of these together to focus on individual accounts.


According to ITSMA:

ABM is more than a sales or marketing approach; it is a collaborative strategy that engages sales, marketing, and delivery professionals, as well as key executives in the chosen client account to determine where and how to best meet the client’s unique business imperatives. With deep insight into the client’s business and key goals, this collaborative team creates a well-orchestrated marketing and sales campaign for a single account.


Account Based Marketing Example: Xerox ABM campaign wins Killer Content Awards via TopRankBlog

xerox abm campaign

See Also: ABM Adoption Model

Discoverability Marketing Definition

According to WhatIs:

The practice of making it easier for customers or potential customers to find products when they are actively looking for them or have demonstrated a need for them. Examples include using SEO, contextual marketing, and less intrusive marketing forms.

Discoverability Marketing Example: Facebook Local Search

mobile discovery


Discoverability Marketing Example 2: Optimizing for local search with Lititz PA heating repair

lititz pa heating

See Also: SEJ’s The Coming Trend of Discovery Marketing and What it Means for SEO

Contextual Marketing Definition

According to Wikipedia:

A form of targeted advertising for advertisements appearing on websites or other media, such as content displayed in mobile browsers. The advertisements themselves are selected and served by automated systems based on the content displayed to the user.


According to Mashable:

There’s always a context to your marketing, just like there’s a context to every action…contextual marketing means something more specific


According to PC Mag:

Delivering ads to users based on their preferences. Adware programs analyze a user’s Web surfing habits to determine the type of merchandise they are likely to purchase. As a result of the analysis, “contextual ads” are made to pop up periodically. Contextual marketing is widely implemented by search engines. They display ads on the results pages based on the key words users enter for a search. In addition, contextual marketing is available for Web sites in general. The service offers to place ads on pages that are geared to the audience likely to visit the site.


Contextual Marketing Example: Google’s Contextual Suggestions

google contextual marketing

Contextual Marketing Example 2: Amazon’s Contextual Suggestions

amazon contextual marketing

I know  there are dozens of other marketing forms, but I felt those were a bit too niche, such as in-game marketing. If you’d like me to add any to this list just let me know in the comments and I’ll gladly continue updating it, cheers!

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Jesse Aaron

I'm a blogger, homebrewer, and community manager. Aside from writing, I have a passion for music and design.

6 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Wow! Super comprehensive. Certainly we don’t need all these definitions, but they provide great food for thought as we navigate the brave new world of content marketing (aka social media marketing aka branding). Thanks so much!

    • Thanks for stopping by Claire, I’m glad you found it useful! – half the reason I made this was to try and clear up the confusion myself haha, what’s more; there’s at least a dozen more marketing options I could add >.<

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