Marketing Alphabet Soup

Posted: September 9, 2015

Acronyms abound in the marketing industry. From strategy and planning to management and measurement, it seems that everything is abbreviated. Combine that with a specialization in higher education (another acronym-heavy industry) and it’s enough to make your head spin.

For the seasoned professional, acronyms serve the purpose of making conversations shorter and note-taking much faster. However, anyone who is new to the industry must quickly overcome the challenge of learning to speak a whole new language. The following example tells the story of a basic marketing project. See if you can follow along.

As Told In Acronyms

Your institution is considering a partnership with a B2B marketing agency. You send out an RFI just to test the waters. Once you’ve finalized the budget, you send out an RFP. After hiring VisionPoint (we’re being presumptuous for the sake of this example), we finalize the SOW together and get going as soon as you sign the CSA.

The project kicks off with strategy. First we’ll talk to your SMEs and do a SWOT. We know that WOM isn’t achieving the results you want, so we define some KPIs to measure your ROI. We’re glad that you have a CRM system, but find that the CTAs you’re using within your ESP aren’t as strong as they could be. Don’t worry, we can fix that and still clearly communicate your UVP.

Let’s start with the website. The existing UX is less than desirable because of a complicated IA. We work together to improve the overall UI with some new designs that we create as a PSD. We’ll share them with you as a PDF so that you can get approval from your institution’s CMO.

Now it’s time to get rolling with development, assuming you’ve already selected a CMS. We’ll start by creating the HTMLCSS and JS. After the initial coding is done, your IT team can integrate any third-party functionality into the website using APIs. It’s possible that we’ll run into some issues with FTP, so we may have to VPN to your server to set up the site on the live URL. We’ll need the IP Address of your host to put the finished product there. Then we’ll add content using the WYSIWYG on the back-end. After that, we’ll both do some QA and it’s time for launch.

Now that your website is updated, let’s build some TOF awareness. You should do as much SEO as possible within your website content. PPC advertising is another good option if you can keep your CPC low. A CPL pricing model may be best if you’re more interested in conversations than clicks. With great design and content, you should have a high CTR on all your ads. We’ll use CRO to ensure that your ads are achieving your desired CR.

Now that the project is complete and you’re seeing some great results, you probably want to share your success with others in the industry. NAGAP is a great opportunity to learn and share for graduate programs. If advancement is your focus, CASE is the place to be. NCMPR represents community colleges across the country. We can’t leave out AMA, as it hosts one of the largest annual higher education conferences in the nation.

Speak English Please

If you struggled to understand the story above, that’s completely understandable! It’s a challenge to master the acronyms relevant to your specific discipline (think design vs. technology) let alone to comprehend the whole process from start to finish. Below, we’ve attempted to categorize and define some of the most common acronyms we hear and use on a daily basis.


  • B2B = Business to Business – The type of transaction that occurs between a business and another business involving the exchange of products, services or information.
  • B2C = Business to Consumer – The type of transaction that occurs between a business and a consumer involving the exchange or products or services.
  • RFI = Request for Information – The process of collecting information about the capabilities of various vendors for a specific purpose.
  • RFP = Request for Proposal – A request made by an organization, with the intention of procuring a product or service, for vendors to submit a proposal based on the organization’s specific needs.
  • SOW = Scope of Work (or Statement of Work) – The final document that clearly defines the products or services that will be provided by a vendor under contract for a client. This often includes deliverables, deadlines and assumptions.
  • CSA = Client Services Agreement – A legal document, signed by both parties, which defines the business relationship between VisionPoint and the client.


  • SME = Subject Matter Expert – An authority on a particular topic or area who is able to provide expertise knowledge.
  • SWOT = Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats – An analysis of a business or organization that identifies and evaluates strengths and weaknesses as well as potential opportunities and threats.
  • WOM = Word of Mouth – Passing of information (about a company or otherwise) from person to person through conversations.
  • KPI = Key Performance Indicator – A performance metric used to measure the success of a business or organization.
  • ROI = Return on Investment – The benefits an investor experiences based on an investment in a particular resource.
  • CTA = Call to Action – A clear instruction to audiences to take immediate actions. CTAs include phrases like “Register now,” “Find out more” and “Sign-up today.”
  • CRM = Customer Relationship Management – An approach companies use to interact with current and prospective customers, generally involving the use of technology to organize and track sales and marketing activities.
  • ESP = Email Service Provider – A third-party service that provides email marketing for a company. ESPs may also provide features like email tracking and address list segmentation.
  • UVP = Unique Value Proposition – A statement of the benefits a company offers to its customers, how that company’s products or services meet customers’ needs and what differentiates it from the competition.


  • IA = Information Architecture – The structural organization of websites to facilitate the site’s usability and improve user experience.
  • UX = User Experience – All aspects of the user’s interaction with an organization and its products (e.g. website).
  • UI = User Interface – Includes all of the elements (design and functionality) that a user interacts with on a technology platform, most likely computer, tablet or mobile device.
  • PDF = Portable Document Format – A file format that provides an electronic image (of text and/or graphics) that looks like a printed document.
  • PSD = Photoshop Document File – The default file type that is produced when creating a document in Adobe Photoshop.
  • CMO = Chief Marketing Officer – The executive within an organization who is responsible for all activities involved in creating and communicating offerings that provide value to the customer.


  • IT = Information Technology – In higher education, this is usually the department or office that handles all aspects of an institution’s technology platforms, including the website.
  • API = Application Programming Interface – The protocols and tools for building software applications. It provides information regarding a software component’s operations, inputs and outputs.
  • CMS = Content Management System – The tool used to manage content on a website. Popular options for higher education include OmniUpdate, Terminal4, Drupal and WordPress.
  • CSS = Cascading Style Sheets – The style sheet language that is used to describe the visuals and format of a document written in a markup language.
  • HTML = Hyper-Text Markup Language – The  most common markup language used to create web pages.
  • JS = Javascript
  • FTP = File Transfer Protocol – The networking procedure used to transfer files from one host to another over the internet.
  • VPN = Virtual Private Network – This allows a user to access a private network from a public location.
  • IP Address = Internet Protocol Address – The unique identifier of each computer consisting of numbers separated by periods.
  • WYSIWYG = What You See Is What You Get – A content editor that allows the user to see content formatted as it will appear on the live website.
  • QA = Quality Assurance – The process of testing a product or deliverable to ensure that all design, functionality and content is operating as intended.
  • URL = Uniform Resource Locator – The specific address of a website on the internet. It’s a combination of a reference to the IP Address and the actual protocol used to access information there.


  • TOF = Top of the Funnel – The earliest stages of the engagement cycle beginning with awareness. Prospects become aware of your organization and offerings.
  • SEO = Search Engine Optimization – The use of strategies like changing content and information architecture to increase a website’s ranking on search results pages like Google and Bing.
  • PPC = Pay Per Click – An internet advertising model in which advertisers pay the publisher or host only when a user clicks on an ad.
  • CPC = Cost Per Click – An internet advertising model that requesters the advertiser to pay when an ad is clicked.
  • CPL = Cost Per Lead – An internet advertising model in which advertisers pay the publisher or host only when a customer interested in the advertiser’s product completes a sign-up form (i.e. becomes a qualified lead).
  • CTR = Click Through Rate – The percentage of all users seeing an advertisement that actually click on the ad.
  • CR = Conversion Rate – The percentage of all visitors to a website that take action beyond viewing the site’s content (e.g. completing a sign-up form, making a purchase, etc.)
  • CRO = Conversion Rate Optimization – A systematic approach to improve the performance of your lead generation efforts based on data and historical performance information.
  • CPM = Cost Per Thousand – The price a company must pay for its advertisement to receive 1,000 impressions.


  • NAGAP = National Association of Graduate Professionals
  • CASE = Council for Advancement and Support of Education 
  • NCMPR = National Council for Marketing and Public Relations 
  • AMA = American Marketing Association