CTA, RTB, WIIFM and 34 Other Need-to-Know Marketing Acronyms

need to know marketing acronyms

CTA, RTB, WIIFM and 34 Other Need-to-Know Marketing Acronyms

It’s the first day at your new job and it feels like your co-workers are speaking a different language. Someone just asked about an IRF, someone else said they’re going to kick the EMS and your cube-wall buddy just asked if you wanted to go to the CC with him.

Act cool. Act cool. First, nod and say yes. The CC is likely the company commons and it IS almost lunch time (phew…awkward eating-lunch-in-your-car-on-the-first-day moment avoided). An IRF is an information request form and don’t worry, your new co-worker isn’t going to kick an emergency medical services professional, they are likely annoyed with the email or event marketing service.

So, why do we abbreviate words, proper names and organizations? To make conversations and written messages easier to understand, as well as to fit more information into often-times tight spaces. You might think this tendency toward alphabet soup started with text messages and Twitter, but it’s actually been around for a long time. The telegraph, invented in the early 1800s, used electricity to transmit messages entered by an operator using Morse code. People paid by the word for this service, which of course, led them to find shorter and cheaper ways to communicate their message. Fast forward almost 200 years and pagers and then text messages were initially limited to 160 characters (Twitter didn’t make it up!)

But, if acronyms aren’t properly introduced (in writing or when speaking) they can be more confusing than helpful. In our own writing (and the work we do for our clients), we typically spell names out on first reference and use acronyms on second reference.

While every company has its own set of acronyms (consider creating a list of acronyms to include in your onboarding materials), here are some of the top marketing acronyms we see (bookmark this page for easy reference!). (P.S. Did you know it’s technically an acronym if you pronounce the abbreviation as a word—such as SCUBA—but it’s initialism if you pronounce the letters separately—like FBI.)

37 frequently used marketing acronyms and what they mean:

  1. SEO—Search Engine Optimization. SEO includes everything you do to ensure your website shows up in relevant search results. This includes keywords, page speed, good content, links and more.
  2. CTA—Call to Action. Used to do exactly what the name implies, calls to action are links or buttons designed to get you to do something—be it request more information, sign up for a newsletter or download a whitepaper.
  3. CTR—Clickthrough Rate. The CTR is the ratio of how often people who see your ad online end up clicking on it and can be used to determine how well your ads are performing and/or how much you pay for the ad.
  4. SERP—Search Engine Results Page. Landing your organization on the first SERP is every marketer’s (sometimes elusive) goal.
  5. CAN-SPAM—Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing. That’s a mouthful. The CAN-SPAM Act was enacted to help you get only the emails you want, meaning you need to sign up for emails or marketers (like us!) must ask for your permission before sending you emails.
  6. KPI—Key Performance Indicator. KPIs serve as guides letting you know how your company, campaign, initiative, etc., is performing.
  7. ROI—Return on Investment. ROI is used to measure how much money is being made compared to the money spent (in marketing, sales, etc.).
  8. EOD—End of Day. This is an easy one, commonly used in email subject lines like, “Urgent: Please review by EOD.”
  9. COB—Close of Business. With an ever-changing standard of when the work day really ends, close of business or COB usually refers to the end of your company’s normal business hours.
  10. B2B—Business to Business. Just like it sounds, B2B is when products or services are offered by businesses for businesses.
  11. B2C—Business to Consumer. B2C is when businesses target their products and services at individual consumers rather than organizations or companies.
  12. CSS—Cascading Style Sheet. CSS files define a website’s style—from the font to the colors and layout.
  13. CRM—Customer/Constituent Relationship Management. CRMs help you keep track of your prospects so you know who has been contacted, when (if) they responded, as well as when you should next reach out.
  14. CMS—Content Management System. A CMS helps ordinary marketers and business owners edit their websites without having to touch a line of code (unless you want to). Some of the most popular CMS include WordPress, Squarespace, Magnolia and Weebly.
  15. EMS—Email Marketing System/Software/Solution. An EMS functions much like a CMS where you don’t have to be a programmer to develop beautiful HTML emails.
  16. HTML—Hypertext Markup Language. Web pages are made up of HTML These files tell web browsers how the website is structured and how it should be displayed.
  17. WWW—World Wide Web. The WWW is a network of hypertext files (see HTML) that can be accessed via the internet.
  18. DNS—Domain Name System/Service/Server. A DNS is how domain names (aka the parts of a URL—see below) are translated into IP addresses, and it also controls the delivery of emails and the ability to search the web.
  19. URL—Uniform Resource Locator. A URL is the web address (“Hey, send me that link!”) that people use to find your website.
  20. PHP—Hypertext Preprocessor. PHP is a website programming language used to create dynamic website content. (Fun fact: PHP originally stood for Personal Home Page.)
  21. IP Address—Internet Protocol Address. Your IP Address is used by your computer to talk to other devices on the internet, kind of like a phone number.
  22. OOO—Out of Office. Maybe you’re on the beach, at a conference or taking a family vacation, but setting an OOO message on your email can alert your contacts to your unavailability and point them to another resource in the meantime.
  23. PM—Personal Message. In the world of over-sharers on social media, a private or personal message is used to contain your messages to a one-on-one email, chat or text message.
  24. PTO—Paid Time Off. Music to your ears, right?
  25. CPC—Cost Per Click. CPC is the price advertisers pay for each click in a pay-per click ad campaign.
  26. CPM—Cost Per Thousand. CPM is used to show how much you’re paying for each 1,000 users to see your ad. Why not CPT? The “M” is the Roman numeral for thousand.
  27. CPA—Cost Per Action. While it also stands for Certified Public Accountant, in marketing, CPA refers to ads where advertisers pay for particular actions, such as filling out an online form.
  28. SM—Social Media. SM is just a shorter way of saying social media, or the websites that display user-generated content, including sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and LinkedIn.
  29. PR—Public Relations/Press Release/Page Rank. This one is tricky as it depends on the context. Public relations refers to any activities—press releases, social media, events, etc.—that your organization uses to gain positive exposure with the media and general public. A press release is a tactic used to pitch stories to media outlets. Page rank is what Google uses to determine a page’s importance, and in turn, how high it shows up in search results.
  30. IM—Instant Message. IMs are great for asking quick questions—or asking your co-worker if they’re ready to grab lunch—via Google Chat or Skype.
  31. ICYMI—In Case You Missed It. ICYMI is frequently used on Twitter to repost a story for your followers who may not have seen it the first time.
  32. RT—Retweet. To RT something means to share another user’s Twitter post with your followers. You can also add comments before the original post.
  33. GA—Google Analytics. Your GA account shows you how many people are visiting your site, how long they’re staying, the number of pages they visit, etc. It can be used to gauge how well your site is performing and where improvements may be needed.
  34. DFTBA—Don’t Forget To Be Awesome. We had to throw a fun one in here too! DFTBA was originally made popular by vlogging duo Hank and John Green.
  35. FOMO/JOMO—Fear of Missing Out/Joy of Missing Out. FOMO on fun tropical vacations, important company-wide initiatives, etc. In a recent LinkedIn Daily Rundown, JOMO was described as a new approach to encourage employees to disconnect, especially during vacations.
  36. WIIFM—What’s In It For Me. In each project we work on, we ask our clients to identify a WIIFM for their target audience. It answers the question “Why should I care?” and guides us as we write copy and design marketing materials.
  37. RTB—Reasons to Believe. RTBs are the features that your brand will use to deliver on its promise to consumers and give them a reason to believe what you are promising is true.

If you’re struggling to find the words for an important company-wide change via email, looking to share your expertise via a blog post, want to make your voice heard through radio ads, or you’re just not sure where to start, Writing by Design is happy to help with all your business writing and marketing needs.

Kayde Kempen joined the Writing by Design team in 2016 as a Communications and SEO Specialist and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She has written hundreds of blog posts and e-blasts, both for Writing by Design and its clients, is the lead content writer for Writing by Design’s website/SEO clients, and assists with press releases, concept writing, script writing and more. Prior to joining the Writing by Design team, she was an associate marketing manager at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh where she worked for five years and led nearly 90 website redesign projects, wrote for the University’s alumni magazine and news website, and wrote and managed a variety of print and digital marketing projects.