All are terms from the fast-growing field of online marketing. Professional services marketing has grabbed the online marketing trend with both hands and both feet. But what passes for wisdom in online marketing sometimes doesn’t work in professional services. Or it works, but only if the ideas are adapted to professional services (see my definition of “Facebook pixel” below).
In posts #99 and #100, I presented an “Articles jargon demystifier,” which focused mostly on the world of print publications. This post is Part One of the “online” version, focusing on electronic publication and content marketing. It not only defines terms, but also gives my thinking on how to use those concepts to build the profile of a professional services firm.
So here’s my “Online marketing demystifier” – hope you find it useful.
Blind headline: A headline that doesn’t say much about what’s in the article. Most “promoted links” (a form of “paid content,” see earned-owned-paid media below) are like blind. Just a quick look through the links on a news site such as The Guardian turns up gems like ‘”New device leaves auto mechanics angry,” "The one stock that could make cryptocurrency…” and “US dad reveals simple tip to improve eyesight.” are annoying. They disrespect readers’ time. They’re also effective in getting a lot of clicks, though being low-quality clicks in that the clickers won’t necessarily want whatever you turn out to be selling. More specific headlines will result in traffic you actually want, and are more appropriate for a professional services marketing environment.
Blog: Short for “web log” (You didn’t know that, did you? And you can’t do one single thing with that bit of information). It’s an online publication, generally in text form, that is or should be published on a regular basis (more on that in Post #92). I’ve got a blog, and this happens to be post #103 in that blog. But it seems that the term has three meanings these days. (1) it’s a personal journal which someone writes from their bedroom, a coffee shop or an airport waiting lounge, “Here’s what I’m thinking about today.” (2) It’s an online newsletter in text form, very intentional about being useful, promoting a cause or some other purpose. (3) it’s a catch-all term or basket that applies to any online publication – a blog can include text, and also can include links to videos or embedded videos, links to podcasts, webinars and other content. It’s ‘home base’ for an organization’s content. Personally, I like #3 because it shows that content generation has to go beyond text, to meet other learning styles, like infographics (see here for more on that).
Call to action: It sounds quite stirring – a “call to action” like you’re being asked to save the world from something awful. But it’s usually quite mundane. A “CTA” would be something to put at the bottom of an email, blog post or other piece of content (called a “lead magnet”). “Click here to subscribe to our newsletter” might be one CTA. Or, “Click here to download our white paper”. It’s important to make it clear exactly what “action” you’re calling them to do. A CTA is a good way to start what will be an ongoing relationship with a prospective client.
Clickbait: A curiosity-arousing headline presented as “bait” so you’ll want to “click” on it. Some would say that “clickbait” doesn’t apply just to the headline, but to the content itself. Whatever it is, they’re annoying to the point that even if I want to avoid clicking on anything that looks like clickbait. I don’t want to give the writer the satisfaction. Some of these headlines are informative about what’s on the other side of that link – “Learn what problems you’ll have with OSHA Rule 24” is pretty specific, whereas the typical Buzzfeed headline, “You’ll never guess what happens next” is clickbait.
Click-through rate: That’s the number of people who actually click on a link on a web page or email, compared to the total number who viewed the page or opened the email. It’s an indication of how good you were at convincing them that there is something worthwhile on the other side of that link. Of course, if you’ve just put up an information-free “blind headline,” you’ll get some clicks but they’re of low-quality; these people haven’t self-selected for being actually interested in what you have to say.
Consumability: How easy content is to consume. Online content is hard to read if it’s massive chunks of text with no sub-heads or white space. It’s made easier if there are plenty of sub-heads, short paragraphs, bullet points, easily-understood diagrams, and if it’s short. It’s closely related to “accessibility,” which means it’s easy for anyone to read it.
Dead-tree publication: Anything printed on paper, versus on a screen.
E-blast: Mass distribution by email. Just be really, really sure that you have the permission of the people you’re blasting.
Earned/owned/paid content: “Earned” content is anything you had to work for, but didn’t trade money for. This would include pitching a story idea to a reporter or blogger, and that person then writes the article that at least in part refers to you or your message. “Owned” content is anything published on a medium that you actually own, such as your firm’s own blog or website. That kind of begs the question of whether content you post to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn (more on that here) or any other social media platform is actually “owned.” I vote “no” in that – if you don’t actually own the platform, you have no control over it, so no, it’s not owned content. “Paid” content is what you pay for – advertisements (including ads on social media), advertorials, infomercials, and most third-party-hosted webinars. I think it should include sponsored content too. This blog, by the way, is “owned” content in that it’s on my company’s website and distributed through my email mailing list.
Easter egg: A little hidden reward that you tuck into your content, maybe a subtle joke that only some people will get. This can work well if you’re targeting a Boomer-age audience because this demographic is most likely to be in a decision-making capacity. So you might make a pop-culture reference to a musician, movie, TV show or book that would have been popular around 1970. Maybe, “But we go to 11.” If you’re a Boomer, you’ll know what that means. If not, you’ll need to Google it. Easter eggs are fun and they help the right people feel included. They make the right kind of prospective client say, “Hey, this person sounds like they’d be fun to work with.” Well, okay, the “11” reference is from the mockumentary “This is Spinal Tap.” Maybe a Trekkie reference would work better.
E-book: It’s an electronic publication – longer than a blog post or a white paper, but beyond that there are three distinct forms of an e-book. (1) the electronic version of a regular printed book, with the pages reproduced on the screen of a device such as a computer, tablet or phone. (2) A mostly-text publication designed for reading on a device – it’s probably shorter than the 40,000 words plus needed for a respectable, credible book (Kindle Short Reads, designed to be read in 15 minutes or less, are such a platform) (3) a graphics-heavy treatment of a subject, generally published as a PDF, maybe longer and with more text than a slide show, which I’ll define in Part Two of this Demystifier). An e-book makes a great lead magnet (defined in Part Two).
I’ll go into other terms such as “responsive design” and “squeeze page” in Part 2 of this “online jargon demystifier.”