A lot of my clients ask for help with their social-media efforts. And inevitably, we end up talking about content marketing.

7 tomatoesOr we launch a project to build out an e-mail marketing program. And…we end up talking content strategy.

Or they say e-book, and I say content upgrade. They say info graphic, I say content magnet. They say blog, I say content hub.

They say…anything. And I say…content.

You get the picture.

So, here’s the point: to-may-to, to-mah-to. It’s not the terms we use that matter (although they do – but give me a minute before I go there). It’s the concept that matters.

And the concept is this: communicate.

Communicate well.

Communicate strategically.

Communicate consistently.

(But don’t look to libbycortez.com as your role model on that last one.)

The Problem

Unfortunately, all the different ways that you or I might refer to a “piece of content” actually just get in the way of the real point of our conversation. So the fact that we use different terminology to describe this content thing really can matter (a lot) if we let it confuse our ability to think about – and stay tuned into – the big picture.

I’m guilty of this too – all full of “content marketing blah blah” mumbo jumbo when explaining things. So I’m quitting those words. Cold turkey. (Or I’m going to try, at least.)

The fact is, the terminology that marketers often use is usually overly ambiguous, misleading, or at worst, seemingly made to sound smart (which never really turns out smart at all).

To better understand – on a gut level – why this matters, allow me to take you into my personal experience as an over communicator who is married to a not-so-much-into-this-communication-thing communicator.

In my home life, I’m often guilty of using too many words to explain my point. And inevitably, after one of these over-complicated rants, I step off my soap box to find my husband’s eyes glazed over. He’ll try to summarize, and I’ll realize that my point was completely lost on him. All those fancy words just got in the way. (Honey, all I really want is for you to pick up your shoes. And maybe bring home flowers every once in a while.)

It’s the word trap. And it snatches the real message right out from under our feet.

The Small Business’s Word Trap: Starting with Tactics

Here’s what I hear businesses do a lot: “I need a new e-mail newsletter template.” (You can fill in that last part with anything – website, brochure, logo, you name it.)

But here’s the question: Are you sure that a newsletter template is really what you need? What’s the goal? No, no, not the goal of the template. If you approach it that way, you’ll end up trying to justify the reasons for the deliverable you’ve chosen, rather than getting back to the point.

What’s the business goal you started with? The one that took you down that first rabbit hole & ended you up in a place where you felt like you needed a new newsletter template?

Hint: the most frequent answer to this is something like “Jake from sales saw that one of our competitors had a great newsletter template and thought this could really help us attract new clients.”

I love sales people. (Yes! I’m a marketer and I’m saying it! Amazing!) And they need support materials. They need to be heard. And often, we need to just zip it and give them what they feel they need to succeed.

But it’s also important to note that for as many times as I’ve heard this type of reasoning, I have never, in 14 years of doing this, seen a single company list “pleasing Jake from sales” as one of its top 3 business goals.

The fact is, everyone (including Jake) probably wants something like more effective outbound communications, stronger branding, more consistent contact with prospects, etc. But instead, he brings up a template because the sight of someone else’s helped him realize something was missing in his toolkit. Nobody stops and gets alignment around why he thinks a new template would be important, so they never get to the heart of what Jake sees as a necessary area of improvement, and suddenly the term “newsletter template” becomes the thing, when it’s really not the issue at all.

And there you have it. Another small business gets confused into leading with a tactic, because they honed in on a specific word – a thing they needed – and lost track of overall goals.

Now, a new newsletter template might be exactly the right next step toward attracting more interest, establishing your brand, re-engaging your audience, whatever. Or (more often) it might be 1 of 60 different things you could do to achieve your goal – 12 of them better options for your current situation than updating your newsletter template.

Since most small businesses can’t do all 60 things at once, it’s important to stay laser-focused on your goal and make a smart choice from that list of 12.

To avoid this trap, just start with strategy.

  1. Goal first
  2. Roadmap to goal next
  3. Tools and tactics needed to travel roadmap last

Use this framework to make the best choice you can, and you’re off to the races.

The Marketer’s Word Trap: Getting too complicated too fast.

On the other hand, here’s what I see marketers do when talking to small businesses: “You need to design an algorithm to A/B test your landing page to optimize conversation rates for increased ROI.”

Oh, can it.

If you’re in a line of work where you just talk to marketers all day, then fine, use all the jargon you want.

But if you’re reading this blog post, that’s probably not you. My point is not that A/B testing your landing pages for better conversion is a bad idea. My point is that you don’t need to talk the talk to walk the walk.

So if you’re working with non-marketers – if you’re trying to help individuals, start-ups, ministries, small businesses, I’ve-got-a-dream chasers, or anyone outside of the marketing trenches – then keep them focused on communication, not jargon.

And if you want to talk to yourself and your marketing buddies about conversion metrics all evening long, go for it.

Just try not to bog them down – or bog yourself down, for that matter. Communication isn’t really that complicated. In fact, it’s best when it’s simple.

And P.S. Try to have a little fun in the process. It’ll show.

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