The Dictionary of Digital Business

“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

 

Agile #

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

Art #

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

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 Marketing #

An approach to marketing based on honesty, devoid of manipulation, and offering authentic connection with a brand

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 #

The definition of all systems and processes that contribute to sustainability. It identifies not just what problems an organization solves and how – products and solution services. A business model must also document how it supports problem-solution behind the scenes, as well as how it generates value for all stakeholders, from owners, to employees, to community.

Also see Strategy

Celebrity #

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

Coaching #

Providing strategic or expertise-based guidance or advice that results in specific actions over an extended period of time. 

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

Dictionary Definitions #

Perspectives on word meanings designed to provide context or insight.

“What we call definitions are not definitions, they’re just hints. If you take the OED, the one you read with a magnifying glass, and they give you a very long definition of a word. But they’re not really definitions, they are just hints that a person who already knows the concept can use to understand what’s really going on”
– Noam Chomsky
(transcribed from this interview)

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.

Expert #

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

Framework #

A set of defaults and conventions that make it easier to build something more quickly, more standardized, and otherwise containing more valuable, than 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.

 

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

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

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

Lead #

A unit of demand for your business

Marketing #

Building trust and creating clarity by listening, teaching, and guiding over a long period of time

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.

Notes
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.

Messaging #

Shaping ideas with words and context in order to change how people think or feel about something. Also see Brand Messaging, Propaganda, and Strategic Narrative

Notes

  • Messaging is a creative act whereas propaganda is the quite literally the propagation of already-minted messages

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 sales and 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.

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 

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.

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. 

 

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.

Point of View #

In digital consulting, content creation, software design, and other forms of contemporary 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 #

Embedding what you provide in the mind of your audience so it’s clear why it’s unique and compelling

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.

Propaganda #

The repetition-based propagation of point-of-view or information that benefits whoever creates it; attempts to create unanimous consent among its primary audience

Psychographics #

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

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”.

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.

SEO #

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.

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.

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. Specifically, presiding over one or more public platforms from which one’s Points of View influence the thinking, vocabulary, and business strategies of the majority of people in your professional community. Thought leaders have a greater exertion of influence on professional peers but also influence clients.

[Often mis-used to mean “popular” or “interesting”]

TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU #

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

Value #

The emotional experience something creates and sustains.

Notes

  • Value fluctuates over time, even from moment to moment
  • Value is subjective 
  • Value is usually primarily expressed as a monetary quantity
  • But value is unquantifiable
  • And never equivalent to financial profitability

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.