Plenty of products and services help people, making them healthier and happier. For those things, marketing is great — but sometimes, the way we talk about ourselves is absurd. Yeah, I said it, it’s absurd, but it’s all right because this post has a happy ending (stay tuned).
If you work in any sort of marketing role, you might have noticed that as a collective, we’ve done something incredible:
We’ve turned buzzwords into real, salaried jobs.
You can be a Growth Hacker these days, or a Content Marketer. If you work somewhere really cool, you might even be a Conversion Ninja. Plenty of people do these jobs (myself included) and one day we’ll have the awkward pleasure of explaining to our grandchildren what it was like being paid to be a Solutions Architect, or a Dev Mogul.
“Neat, grandpa! Did you invent a new form of calculus?”
“No, son. But I had over 25,000 Twitter followers. I was an influencer.”
This is the part-time nihilist’s guide to all those marketing terms you hate (but need). It might also clarify why your parents will never understand what the heck your job is.
Homer gets back to basics with marketing. Video: Fox.
Disclaimer: This post tears down marketing terms and the idea of becoming an influencer. We hope that it is popular and that you share it. We see the irony, and we’re disgusted by it, so just move on, okay?
Being considered an “expert” or a “genius”
To be considered an expert in most other professions, you need to have studied and practiced for years and years and years. You study, you’re tested, you pass, you advance. After what feels like a lifetime of this, people trust you as a voice of authority, as an expert.
There are expert marketers, of course: people who have been to school, who dedicate their lives to the craft of combining insight and communication into the most irresistible calls to action. But if you’ve got a profile photo, maybe a Linkedin Premium account, and a byline on somewhere like Unbounce (Hey, that’s me!), you might be considered an expert.
This will do one of two things to you:
- It’ll make you lazy, because you’ll think that you’ve reached the top of the mountain. (By the way, there’s no top. There’s no mountain either.)
- It’ll scare the crap out of you, and you’ll work your ass off to become a genuine expert, or at least, someone with useful insights.
I hope for everyone’s sake that it’s the second one.
Bonus option: You’ll develop a nasty case of Imposter Syndrome, where you’ll live in constant fear of being called out. It’ll make you triple your efforts, but it’ll never be enough.
Pursuing “thought leadership”
As a marketer, when you have a good idea, you call it a thought leadership piece and you milk it until it’s red and sore. Never mind the idea that “thought leadership” sounds like some sort of mind control, it’s just damned impressive that we managed to turn the act of having ideas into a tool for marketing.
In a way, being considered a thought leader is a lot like being considered an expert. Not so long ago there were real thought leaders, people like Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King Jr.. Now, all you need to do is tip that scale from 9,999 followers to 10,000 and praise, be! You’re a thought leader.
“One of us, one of us, one of us.” Video: Fox
Free infographics and ebooks
The only real way to tell whether a post is legitimate — whether the author’s really serious about the information they’re giving you — is to check for an associated infographic or ebook. At Unbounce, they call these in-post giveaways Conversion Carrots. Some other places call them Lead Magnets. I call them necessary evil.
“Can we make it go viral?”
I once worked at a place where a department, armed with five grand, asked us if we could make them a viral video. In their defense, they didn’t understand the process of how something becomes viral (another gross marketing term), so points at least for the thought. But directly asking for a viral video, or setting out with the intention of making a viral video, is like marrying a stranger for the tax benefits, and not because you love them.
Hey bud, if you RT me, I’ll RT you.
As a marketer, you want eyeballs. You’re hungry for eyeballs, you want to pour them all over your website. Some people have lots of eyeballs looking at them; those people are called influencers, and if you’re kind to them, sometimes they’ll let you borrow their eyeball collections.
People with a lot of eyeballs in their collection tend to be good at making things go viral. They often make infographics and eBooks, as well. They are the Aaron Orendorffs of the world (Hey, man!), and they are all-powerful.
“We simply could not function without his tireless efforts.” Video: Fox
“Epic,” “unicorn,” “guru,” etc.
No, it’s not. No, they’re not. No, you’re not.
“We need more user-generated content.”
The idea behind user-generated content is sound; it’s word-of-mouth for a digital age. Having a strategy to develop user-generated content, though?
Do you ever watch those videos publications like Gothamist do on some donut shop in Brooklyn that’s been around for 140 years? You think, “Wow, they must have a lot of user-generated content!” No, they just make great donuts. If you want your users to generate more content, just make stuff they like.
“Can’t get enough of that Sugar Crisp!” Video: Fox
Time to follow in mommy and daddy’s footsteps?
For over 20 years my dad spent most of his days with his hands plunged into ice water, gutting and slicing one fish at a time. I spend my days trying to get prospects to type their names into a CTA form field. In those final years before the sun explodes and we’re all plunged into an every-man-for-himself scenario, who’s going to be more useful? My money’s on the old man.
I told you that there was a happy ending, and in a way, the sun exploding and annihilating everything from Mercury out past Pluto is a happy ending. It’s a reminder that we’re all in this together, from your parents and their grinding manual labor jobs, to us word-pickers and graph-checkers who moan when we can’t find the right long-tail keywords to optimize conversion rates. One day everyone that’s left will go together, burning up with all the finest email lists, and all the leads. It’s all going to be fine.
People make some great stuff, and for the short time we’re here, it’s up to us to help get it in front of as many of the right people as possible. That’s your job, and it’s a fun one.
What are some of the marketing terms you hate to need? Drop them in the comments below, then download this free infographic. Jokes, there’s no infographic.