Blue Elephant Dictionary

“What we call definitions are not definitions … they’re just hints that a person who already knows the concept can use to understand what’s really going on”
– Noam Chomsky


Active Listening #

Active listening is the close study and ongoing analysis of ideas, facial expression, body language, and tone of voice. In the context of negotiation, consulting, and other important business activities, active listening is the most intellectually demanding activity available; it’s high-effort and requires extreme mental discipline.

Add-on #

In the context of software or even B2B services solutions, an add-on is a feature or service that a majority of users don’t care about, but that those who do care about it are willing to pay extra for it

Agile #

Organizing group effort into small, iterative tasks to maximize efficiency and allow for flexible changes in plans

Anti-testimonial #

An anti-testimonial is truthful, balanced and critical. It begins with a doubt or objection that is then resolved. It may also include a wish for feature X or Y, or some minor unresolved complaint, as you’d expect when soliciting product feedback. Finally, anti-testimonials tend not to be published on the product/service website.

Anti-testimonials only work for valuable products and services; that being the case, they work much better than normal testimonials (100% flowery praise).

Art #

That which provokes significant and lasting emotional, spiritual, and intellectual surprise

B2B Sales #

A type of human, conversational sales where multiple buyers collaborate to make purchase decisions based on their desire to acquire value

Big Tech #

When the term was coined, comprised of Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. Enormous tech firms like these exercise monopolistic and/or interest-conflicted control over markets, media, and government. 

Boring #

In messaging, something stationary and circular; not moving an idea or a message from one person to another; not moving someone to act.

Brand book #

A brand book guides and defines a company’s brand identity and positioning. It typically includes information such as the company’s mission and vision, brand values, tone of voice, and visual identity guidelines. The brand book is a strategic tool and like a message map it helps to ensure the consistency and coherence of the company’s visual and verbal identity across all touchpoints. Unlike a message map, it doesn’t necessarily specify audience-personalized unique value propositions, product positioning, and other important talking points

Brand Community #

A brand community includes not just company ownership and staff but everyone who touches the brand. Chiefly this consists of past, present, and future clients (the “audience”), employees, competitors, and partners.

Brand Marketing #

An approach to marketing based on honesty, devoid of manipulation, and offering an authentic connection with a brand. Brand marketing assumes long-term relationships with the entire brand community  – past, present, and future clients, employees, partners, even competitors. It prioritizes those relationships over converting to action now, per the standards of Direct Marketing.

Brand Messaging #

Key phrases or words that put your positioning into use in business contexts.

Also see Messaging

Business Dictionary #

Defines or redefines words and phrases that are important to a given venture (a movement, a business, a community, a nonprofit, an individual’s work, etc).

As a glossary it provides better understanding of content produced by the venture. It also asserts ownership over new definitions or phrases. Most importantly, a business dictionary is the core set of ideas that reveal the venture’s unique point of view on how to solve important problems.

Business Manifesto #

In politics, a public declaration of principled policy aims.

In business, a call-to-action that responds to essential problems universal to a given audience.

Comprised of calls to fairness, changes in fundamental behavior, changes in standards, and promises of new benefits

Business Model #

At its core, a description of how and why a business solves a specific (set of) problem(s). A business model also describes the capital, time, processes, tools, knowledge, skills and strategy needed to deliver those solutions.

Also see Strategy

Case Study #

Originally in business scholarship, the impartial examination of a specific business venture, trend, or project, with numeric analysis of profitability. In B2B sales and marketing, a form of collateral following the predictable Problem/Solution/Results formula which demonstrates the potential profitability of purchasing a product, services, and/or solution.

Celebrity #

A profitable persona projected onto a famous person through the media and news industries

Choicecraft #

Helping people solve their problems by offering about three solutions with your favorite in the middle

Client Story #

Also known as Client Success Story, a personalized, subjective narrative that describes the human experience of a specific business activity, typically a B2B services engagement. In contrast to a case study, a client story doesn’t limit itself to numeric ROI. Its plot arc reveals the tangible and intangible ways that specific, named people and businesses profit from an engagement.

Also see strategic narrative and messaging


Coaching #

Providing iterative, expertise-based guidance and advice that improves the ability of another person, or team of people, to perform a specific set of tasks

Cognitive Bias #

The universal human condition whereby unconscious and irrational processes distort the way that we see the world.

Communications #

Communications is roughly equivalent to the aggregate of marketing strategy, messaging, and PR but is also a form of context-signaling. The context is non-private sectors, such as nonprofits, higher education, NGOs. government, and especially politics.

It often means exactly the same thing as content marketing and brand messaging but signals more purportedly pristine motives than turning a profit. Meanwhile, Strategic Communications is a military and Fortune 500 concept that purports total control over all forms of messaging.

Consulting #

Consulting itself is too overused and therefore meaningless to attempt to reclaim. Instead, it’s useful to think about the following loose, overlapping categories.

Expertise Consulting Providing valuable services (eg SEO, product design, coding, etc) backed by strategic insight about industry/market/audience. (Also see Freelancing)

Productized Consulting Providing expertise as products: productized services, courses, training, or other deliverables that are tightly defined and priced. Productized consulting is sold and delivered in a standardized, low-friction way. Also known as ‘Product Entrepreneurship’.

Strategy Consulting Providing business expertise as a custom array of execution-optional, open-ended ideas, as opposed to specific recommendations, outcomes, services, or any other deliverables. Also known as ‘Innovation Consulting’. Similar to but not to be confused with Coaching.

Management Consulting providing analysis and specific optimization/efficiency advice and activities (such as accounting), as opposed to open-ended ideas and advice. Often overlaps with but not equivalent to Strategy Consulting.

Independent Consulting Owning – and marketing/selling – a business that provides the above forms of consulting, most often some form of Expertise Consulting or Strategy Consulting.

Content Marketing #

Publishing ideas primarily in writing but also via audio and video in a way that teaches and helps a specific business audience while building trust and mutual understanding

Content Strategy #

Systematically producing, organizing, and managing content in a way that supports strategic goals

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) #

The manipulation of user experience such that users of a digital interface are more likely to convert into customers or leads

Copy #

Writing that is specifically designed to further the sales and marketing efforts of a business. Product of copywriting or thinking in terms of how words will be received

Creative Expression #

The ability to communicate ideas and feelings in an original, non-boring way, while retaining some individual personality or perspective

Creator #

We think of creators as those who make art or content, but anyone who creates solutions to problems is a creator. Sometimes these solutions take concrete form and sometimes they are conceptual.

Contrary-wise, someone who makes things off of someone else’s instructions is a non-creator – even if the creation is virtual, digital, or conceptual. For example, factory workers and digital marketing interns are probably both non-creators.

Most people are both creators and non-creators in different walks of life.

Thus, anyone who makes art, content, or solutions that have economic value is a creator.

Also see Consulting

Definitions #

In the context of this dictionary, a definition is the single most important or useful perspective on the meaning of a word or term. This approach ignores practical lexicography.

Definitions provide clarity or insight for a specific group of people; as such definitions are business assets. 

These can be either explicit definitions, such as this one, or explorations of meaning that form de facto definitions, such as this essay on ‘strategy’.

Outside the context of this dictionary, a definition:

  • is theoretically the objective, true meaning of a word (which doesn’t actually exist, of course)
  • a list of the most common meanings attached to a word through usage, as determined through lexicographic research (so rarely a single meaning)
  • may not exist in writing but can still be a part of one’s lexicon

Digital Transformation #

The process of digitalizing, specifically with respect to network connectivity, multiple, important parts of a business. 

Direct Marketing #

Uses psychological and creative techniques to pressure people into taking some kind of action as the direct result of engaging with content, trial, or samples. Similar to advertising but may not leverage paid advertisement.

Empathy #

In theory, The ability to recognize the perspective of a counterpart and the vocalization of that recognition. In practice, paying attention to another human being, asking what they are feeling, and making a commitment to understanding their world

Expert #

Someone with politically or economically valuable ideas, points-of-view, and convictions.

Founder-led Publishing #

An approach to content marketing that calls on the founder to take on a high-frequency, non-polished, interests-based publishing practice for a given period of time. Examples of publishing mediums would be LinkedIn status updates, Tweets, newsletters, videos, or essays. In founder-led publishing, the founder’s professional interests and inclinations dictate the content created – as opposed to a content plan.

Framework #

A set of defaults and conventions that make it easier to build something more quickly, more standardized, and more value-focused, then if you built the same thing without that framework. Most frameworks used in business are either computing frameworks or conceptual frameworks.

Freelancing #

Reactively providing valuable services, specific outcomes, or other deliverables in response to requests from clients.

A freelancing practice may evolve into Expertise Consulting, which combines valuable skills and business expertise into custom services.


Go-To-Market Strategy (GTM) #

The positioning, branding, targeting, and publicity strategy that brings a new brand, product, or service to market. GTM is usually oriented around a launch date and consists of two primary phases: before-launch and post-launch. Because it’s an inherently challenging form of marketing, GTM usually (a) focuses on the ideal, early adopter segment of its total addressable market and 

Growth Hacking #

For many, the term is meaningless and nothing more than a synonym for digital marketing, of which it’s actually a subset. In growth hacking, relatively little effort goes into creating trust, establishing quality or expertise, or otherwise designing a long-term marketing strategy. Instead, emphasis is placed on iterative quick wins through generating hype and other direct marketing techniques. Growth hacking often translates to placing creative small bets (targeting influencers, hosting private events, guerilla/small-dollar ad spend) that spur adoption, downloads, or engagement; it applies typically to mobile apps or SaaS software.

Growth-Driven Design #

Justifying incremental investment in design and development work

Guru #

A person who engages deeply with a small number of powerful individuals in leadership roles and privately challenges/enables them to make better decisions.

Related to some forms of consulting.

As distinct from pundit.

Headline #

The most visible unit of information in an area of focus.

Most commonly consists of words in a visual area-of-focus, such as the homepage of a website before-scrolling. Equally applicable to audio and video formats.

Also abstractable to concepts or feelings.

Ideation #

The emotional and intellectual process of merging data, feelings, thoughts and other memories to summon new ideas

Impact #

In marketing and communications, impact refers to the purportedly meaningful results of a public good campaign or program. 

It’s meant to distinguish the value of such activities from “income” and other purely monetary measures, ie., revenue, profit, etc.

Thus, a philanthropic org commissions “impact studies”.

In advertising, impact is…

“That quality in an advertisement which strikes suddenly against the reader’s indifference and enlivens his mind to receive a sales message”
– Raymond Rubicam 

Greatest Advertisement of All Time for B2B Services


Infoslogan #

A concise, utilitarian description product description that feels and looks like a normal slogan and answers the questions, “what is the most important thing it does?”. See also: slogan and tagline

Innovation #

The creation of new solutions to important problems

Intellectual Property (IP) #

IP is knowledge, information, ideas, or creative work with the potential to provide a competitive advantage or economic value.

Lead #

Concretely, a person who has some interest in your person (employee, investor, customer, partner, affiliate, etc.)

In abstract terms, a quantifiable unit of demand for your business

Lead magnet #

A free product (or service) whose purpose is to make leads consider purchasing an related product or service that creates even more value.

(What it is not: a way to build a mailing list)

Lexicon #

Everything you know in your head about your business but may not have put into writing, either as explicit definitions or as de facto definitions that amount to explorations of the meaning of a word or term

Marketing #

Creating visibility and clarity as to the value of a business, solution, or ideas

Marketing Automation #

Using software algorithms, or algorithmic human processes, to make marketing decisions. Such decisions revolve around:

  • say/display/show/send
  • when, how much, or how frequently to do so
  • to whom the above applies to
  • when to stop doing the above

Common types of marketing automation include email drips, outreach email marketing, display advertising, content personalization, customized interactivity such as daisy chains, internationalization, and retargeting.

Marketing automation is under-utilized but when it is utilized, it’s typically over relied upon. The more a business automates marketing, the more room there is for (a) mistakes at scale and (b) expertise-based decision making.

Message Map #

A message map is an analytical process that creates a tactical tool, perhaps captured in a document, that investigates and documents elements such as:

By taking stock of all of these elements in one place, and understanding their relationships, a messaging map becomes an approach to creating effective messaging.

Secondarily, it can create messaging uniformity across large teams and disparate sales and marketing campaigns, materials, etc. As such, it can be useful to capture the messaging map as a single document, such as a slide deck.

Messaging #

Messaging is the clarification of value using words, images, and other contextual hints, in order to impact how people think or feel about a brand, its products, or just its projects and initiatives.

If it doesn’t affect or reinforce positioning, it’s not messaging.

Also see Positioning, Brand Messaging, Copy, Propaganda, and Strategic Narrative

Messaging statement #

In business, a messaging statement captures a key value proposition in a thorough and exhaustive manner and the expense of punchiness.

Useful for certain situations and audiences but generally not ideal in sales and marketing.

Example messaging statement:

“Box provides secure collaboration solutions for businesses, enabling them to work safely and efficiently with anyone, on any device.” 

Compare the above to example ‘messaging‘ – capturing the same value proposition but more to the point and more effective:

“Secure collaboration with anyone, anywhere, on any device:

Mood Bullying #

In common parlance, the attempt to alter the mood of another person by coercion or some other kind of subtle pressure (eg, “Why aren’t you smiling?”). In direct marketing, the presumption of how your audience feels, how it should feel, and how it wants to feel – with the goal of selling something.

MVP (Minimum Viable Product) #

The first version of a product or productized service that has value both significant value to the user and to the business providing the product. For a product to be considered MVP, if has to have enough value that users are happy to pay for it.

Commonly misunderstood to be the first version of a product that has some value to the user – usually not enough that they are willing to pay for it.

Negotiation #

The exchange of emotional and material needs by which a group of people collectively agree (or attempt to) on a set of outcomes.

Negotiation is not:

  • rational exchange
  • quid pro quo bargaining
  • reducible to economic interests
  • a problem-solving situation

Neophiliac #

A person who is addicted to the thrill of learning how to use new products and services.

Neophobiac #

A person who is change-averse and reluctant to try new products and services 

Neuroresonance #

The neurological alignment of brains, as perceptible from brain scanning, that results from a mutual understanding of feelings and ideas. This understanding is created through good communication and observation of face, gestures, and tone of voice.

Neuroresonance is the physiological basis of empathy.

Omnichannel #

Omni-channel marketing, aka multichannel marketing, often materializes as a marketing-software Rube Goldberg machine. In these creations, a business constantly syncs customer data among multiple applications, platforms, or other data sources. The idea is that the customer experience is smoother, less given to redundancy.

More recently, this is also called ‘Layered Marketing’ or ‘Layered Media’.

Peter Principle #

A workplace-psychology phenomenon whereby it’s extremely difficult to de-promote someone once they been granted a promotion – no matter how badly suited they are for their new role.

Coined by Kevin Kelly:

a person in an organization will be promoted to the level of their incompetence. At which point their past achievements will prevent them from being fired, but their incompetence at this new level will prevent them from being promoted again, so they stagnate in their incompetence. 


Pitching #

Selling in a non-conversational way by trying to either impress with features, benefits, data AND/OR by giving away discounts, creative ideas, and strategic ideas. 

Platform #

In digital marketing and communications, a space for reaching a well-defined, new, or larger audience. The term is used loosely; thus, a platform could be YouTube as a whole, a specific YouTube channel, or even just the YouTube advertising network. Platforms are assets, conceptually.

Poet #

This definition comes from William Wordsworth:

I ask what is meant by the word Poet? What is a Poet? To whom does he address himself? And what language is to be expected from him? He is a man speaking to men: a man, it is true, endued with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, who has a greater knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul, than are supposed to be common among mankind; a man pleased with his own passions and volitions, and who rejoices more than other men in the spirit of life that is in him; delighting to contemplate similar volitions and passions as manifested in the goings-on of the Universe, and habitually impelled to create them where he does not find them. To these qualities he has added a disposition to be affected more than other men by absent things as if they were present; an ability of conjuring up in himself passions, which are indeed far from being the same as those produced by real events, yet (especially in those parts of the general sympathy which are pleasing and delightful) do more nearly resemble the passions produced by real events, than any thing which, from the motions of their own minds merely, other men are accustomed to feel in themselves; whence, and from practice, he has acquired a greater readiness and power in expressing what he thinks and feels, and especially those thoughts and feelings which, by his own choice, or from the structure of his own mind, arise in him without immediate external excitement.

Point of View #

In consulting, content creation, software, and other avenues of contemporary/digital entrepreneurship, a Point of View is an idea or set of ideas, about where, how or why value is created, or even how value is hidden or locked, in your marketplace.

Because of its linkage to value, others in your industry should find this idea impossible-to-ignore and should be likely to take action on it. A Point of View is often a personal and industry-specific take on some long-existing common wisdom. A Point of View is the prerequisite for Thought Leadership.

Positioning #

This term is used in three ways; the first way is the de facto definition of positioning:

  1. Perception. How an audience perceives your brand, as opposed to its alternatives. Perception includes how people think about it, feel about it, talk about it, and even engage with it, financially or otherwise. This is the actual positioning of your brand vs the desired positioning.
  2. Strategy. The strategic activity of deciding on the desired audience(s) and positioning of your brand. This is an iterative and nonlinear process since desirable positioning frequently changes in response to market changes, including audience changes. It is a semi-objective decision-making process to the extent that it hinges on basic market economics.
  3. Creative Expression. Orchestrating the transition from actual to desired positioning with creative output – ideas, words, images, sounds, or even experience. This is related to, if not identical to in many cases, Messaging, Thought Leadership, and Design Thinking. 

Practice #

The routine used by a creator to gain and express insight, design, art, or solutions.

“A rigorous, proscribed regimen with the intention of elevating the mind or spirit to a higher level. Its goal is to achieve success in one’s field but also union with something greater than oneself.”
-Stephen Pressfield

Pricing #

The seller-side art and science of determining the amount of money associated with a given item of value, be it a service, product, or combination thereof.

Pricing considers both the amount of money to be exchanged between buyer and seller as a matter of profitability. It simultaneously factors in the brand messaging value of an item’s price.

Problem Messaging #

The messages coming almost verbatim from clients and/or client’s end customers about painful problems they experience. Problem messaging is also the way you reiterate these problems in a way that can be used in your marketing, as in the case of the Anti-Testimonial.

Propaganda #

The propagation of points of view, perspectives, and/or facts that are false and misleading. Propaganda attempts to create agreement among a great majority of its audience while benefitting a small minority of it. Propaganda tends to favor the status quo.

Psychographics #

Understanding the people in your market by assessing long-term emotional realities, values, opinions, mindset, interests, and lifestyles

Pundit #

The Sanskrit-borrowed term to describe an eminent authority who influences a broad audience in his or her domain. Unlike a guru, whose remit is to influence impactful decision-making, a pundit may or may not influence decisions made by people in leadership positions.

Also see thought leadership.

Ranter #

A compound name derived from portmanteau’ing “rant” and “banter”. Long-winded comments, posts, or recordings with the energy of a rant but with more enthusiasm than opposition or bitterness.

Redefinition Thinking #

A thought process and business practice that consists of closely examining a word we use in our business, deciding that we want it to have some new meaning, committing to the redefinition that comes out of that process, and publishing it in our marketing materials.

The practice attaches a 2nd (or 100th, as the case may be) definition of every word, term, or phrase that is important to one’s business.

Research #

In the context of independent consulting and creative work, research is small-scale, non-academic, and typically qualitative as opposed to quantitative. Thematically, it’s both specific and general. Its primary goals include reducing client risk around making decisions and generating new options/outputs. It is both an activity – materials-gathering – and a type of structured thinking.

Retargeting #

Used interchangeably with remarketing, retargeting tracks a person’s visit to a website (via a browser cookie) in order to subsequently show ads to that person on other parts of the Internet.

For example, you visit a web page which details a book you are interested in. Then a month or even six months later, the book seller shows you an ad for that book on Instagram, or anywhere else on the Internet.

You can think of retargeting as “reminder advertising”.

Rhizomatic #

The tendency to have unlimited inputs, outputs, and interpretations, as in a game of charades with no rules. Can be applied to software, technology platforms, or consulting processes.

Rich #

Rich is the subjective experience of a set of feelings, freedoms, and specific financial realities. As with success, rich varies from person to person and must be defined for oneself.

For some independent creative and technical people (the author of this dictionary, for example), being rich combines feelings of security, happiness, and abundance with de facto freedom of association and movement, along with earning power and acquired wealth that lets one do the kind of work one want for whomever one wants. 

For such a person, rich might not mean, for example, extreme wealth, freedom from work, or freedom from routine.

Sales Management #

The ability to educate, cultivate, and inspire a group of individuals in the art of selling to another group of individuals

Sales Messaging #

The systematic arrangement of words, messages, slogans, and concepts that support a sales team

Also see B2B Sales

Sales Team #

A cohort of professionals, with and without sales roles, with a unified understanding of positioning, value offer, and unified messaging

Self-Categorization #

The creation of a new category of business that applies only to your own brand. This can be either an industry category, a capability/expertise category, or an audience category.

Self-categorization is both a brand identity exercise and a positioning effort. Its meant to influence how your audience thinks about your brand by preventing comparisons to competing brands in more generic categories.

It’s also meant to highlight a special trait, such as a special capability. As such, a self-categorization often becomes a brand’s de facto tagline.


Making content appear near the top of search results.

Forms of SEO include text, audio, image, and video. SEO is practiced on multiple platforms in addition to Google search, such as YouTube, Google Images, Pinterest, Bing, Quora, Reddit, and Facebook.

Acronym of search engine optimization.

Shirky Principle #

“Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.” Clay Shirky’s words – Kevin Kelly coined the term.

The target for this principle is the big nonprofit industry, major corporations and organs of government (to wit, the “Military Industrial Complex”). 

But the Shirky Principle is conceptually (if not literally) applicable to independent expertise businesses. People who run such institutions are subconsciously inclined to amplify or exaggerate the problems they solve. For organizations like these, the workaround the Shirky Principle is to be diligent in recognizing non-problems.

Slogan #

The distinctive cry, phrase, or motto of any party, group, or person.

Storytelling (Strategic) #

Storytelling was originally an advertising technique but is now associated with brand strategy. It is also called, for added polish, Strategic Storytelling. This is a concept and a professional practice, as opposed to a copywriting technique. As such, it is a form of Strategic Consulting.

Strategic storytelling calls for creating stories about how people experience a brand. Thus, things like features, benefits, and UVP are revealed through characters’ experience with them in a brief story rather than through, for example, bullet points. Story characters could be customers, constituents, employees, owners, execs, etc. 

Other common business-world synonyms include the slightly more abstract concepts, Narrative Messaging and Strategic Narrative. 

Strategic Communications #

An umbrella concept under which all forms of communications, from messaging to advertising to publishing to “talking points memos”, are supposedly guided and united by strategic imperatives. Largely used in the context of the military, corporate manufacturing, and Fortune 500 in general. More closely related to Propaganda than to the term Communications by itself. 

Strategic Narrative #

A form of Messaging which focuses on human characters experiencing emotions related to a brand. The experience may be implied rather than described; a plot isn’t necessarily required.

You could argue that its synonym Storytelling is more concerned with creating narratives with an actual plot arch. In practice though, storytelling, strategic storytelling, brand story, and strategic narrative are largely interchangeable in business.

Strategy #

Deliberately interlocked ideas that inspire a move to a long-term position of advantage.

Success #

In business, success is the creation of financial and non-financial value for everybody involved: owners, employees, contractors, customers, partners, community members, fellow citizens, etc.

In a nontangible sense, success is also the regular attainment of a “flow state” as you work.

Tactical Empathy #

Whereas Empathy is more like a personality trait, Tactical Empathy is strategic negotiation behavior. It’s probing deeper and quickly – understanding the feelings and mindset of another at the moment and also hearing what is behind those feelings so you increase your influence in all the moments that follow. It’s bringing one’s attention to both the emotional obstacles and also getting an agreement done.

Tagline #

A phrase that communicates all or most of a brand’s unique value proposition. Narrower remit than a slogan.

TAM, SAM, and SOM #

Respectively, these acronyms stand for Total Addressable Market, Serviceable Addressable Market, and Serviceable Obtainable Market. 

When talked about together, the idea being emphasized is that your theoretical market size and your actual market size are never the same thing – the latter is always smaller.

Teardown #

A teardown is a brief analysis of the critical problems with a product or brand, often delivered impromptu. Usually used in the context of digital, creative, and industrial product design (examples: websites, CPG packaging, database schema, brand book)

Technology #

Technology at its essence is a cognitive process by which an animal transforms its natural environment into a tool, material, or resource by leveraging accumulated group knowledge and skills.

  • Examples of animals: homo sapien, homo erectus, raven, chimpanzee
  • Example of natural environment: sticks, basalt stones, silicon
  • Examples of tool, material or resource: stone axe, silicon chips, chopped meat

The 1000 Fans Theory #

A theory coined by Kevin Kelly holding that an artist or other content creator needs just 1000 enthusiastic customers to forge a career. The simple math employed in this widely cited and influential article reckons that the enthusiastic fan will pay $100/yr, yielding net revenue of $100,000/yr for the creator.

Whether the specific math is right, or whether it be 100 fans or 2,000 fans, is not the point. The point is to focus on cultivating small, targeted, niche audiences. 

This theory is mis-applied to consultants and entrepreneurs; they have customers, not fans. Thus, they may need far more or far fewer than 1000. For example, a healthy consulting services business has between 8 and 12 customers a year, for a total of perhaps 100 over a business-lifetime.

Thought Leadership #

The act of leading the thinking of a significant group of other people in the context of business, politics and media. Not necessarily an original or innovative thinker. Ideally, a thought leader presides over one or more public platforms from which to disseminate point of views and thereby influence the thinking, vocabulary, and business strategies of a market. Ideally, thought leaders influence both buyers and sellers in a given industry/sector/market. 

Also see pundit, which you can think of as a credentialed thought leader, often tied to one or more institutions.

To Bot #

A verb describing the practice of responding to AI-based chatbot communications with your own AI-based chatbot, especially when both bots are mimetic. Botbacking levels the playing field between large, monopolistic companies and their customers.


These acronyms stand for Top of Funnel, Middle of Funnel, and Bottom of Funnel. Useful for thinking about a content marketing strategy in terms of its audience’s readiness to engage with a business or even transact financially.

Trust-based Marketing #

A variant of Brand Marketing that emphasizes authentic connection based on trust; trust is built by providing ample proof of value and by giving away value for free

Unique Selling Proposition #

In advertising, at first, but now also in marketing, a USP is a short and snappy “sales message” intended to stick in the memory. It’s predicated on the unproven theory that people can only remember one thing (ie. from an advertisement). Thus a USP is supposed to hold some claim or logic, making it a sales message as opposed to a slogan.

A USP differs from UVP (Unique Value Proposition) in that (a) it refers to a piece of creative messaging work, not a positioning concept, and as such (b) it’s short and memorable. 

USP is also a theory of advertising, branding, etc. And it’s currently the most popular such theory. But like all other theories of messaging, marketing, branding, PR, and advertising, it is unproven and probably unprovable.

Usability Gap #

The gap between the potential usefulness of a feature and people’s ability to use it.

Having a feature but people can’t use it
– Jakob Nielsen

Also see Value Gap

Value #

Ultimately, value is the net positive emotional experience something creates and sustains.


  • Value is subjective 
  • All kinds of value constantly fluctuate
  • Value is usually primarily expressed as a monetary quantity
  • But value is unquantifiable
  • Value is similar to, but never exactly equivalent to, financial profitability
  • Value often carries an element of surprise

Thus you can define value as the price you pay for something, or the profitability it creates – as long as those aren’t entirely defined monetarily either.

Value Added #

An unexpected, hidden, or deliberately layered-on side benefit

Usually, this benefit is for the buyer or end-user of the thing, but it can benefit anyone connected to it – maker, seller, investor, partner, etc.

Value Gap #

The gap between the potential value of a solution and the actual value it creates.

Also, see Usability Gap

Value Pricing #

Setting a price for a thing based on the value it creates for the buyer. A value-priced fee is typically X percentage of the value to the buyer of whatever they buy, such as 1% or 50%.

Value pricing differs from

  • commodity-pricing strategies
  • hourly pricing (aka “hourly billing”)
  • various fixed-fee pricing approaches

Value pricing is determined through conversation and negotiation but is completely different from Value Selling.

Value Selling #

Value selling is a Messaging approach in which features and benefits are mapped to distinct value propositions that help sell. These value propositions are in turn mapped to specific customer types and are essential to good Positioning.

In theory, value selling works better than simply “benefits selling”, let alone “features selling”.

For example, might say:

Box is a single, secure, easy-to-use platform built for the entire content lifecycle, from file creation and sharing, to co-editing, signature, classification, and retention. Transform your business with a new approach to content.

Where the value selling Messaging Map looks like this:

Features: “single, secure, easy-to-use, file creation and sharing, to co-editing, signature, classification, and retention” 
Benefits: “for the entire content lifecycle / a new approach to content”
Value: “transform your business”

Note that in a given piece of actual copy, these elements may be completely intermixed, hinted at, or omitted, depending on what’s most effective. Value selling is applied universally though, allowing for variations in how companies use it in their sales and marketing.

Villain #

For a given brand, a villain is another, competing/alternative brand that presents a series of problems – not just for the given brand’s own business, but also for the given brand’s end users or customers.

For example, for 1990s Apple, a competing brand, Windows, presented a series problems to both Apple and to a segment of Apple’s users and customers. Apple named Microsoft/Windows as its villain publicly in various advertising campaigns.

Sometimes a brand doesn’t name its villain or does so obliquely, as in the example the Roam notetaking app calling out Evernote as its villain by using the medium of “testimonial”.Villain strategy