You are only as good as the capabilities you remember

How many marketing tools, tactics, and strategies do you know?

If you stopped to think about it just now, chances are you’d struggle to remember more than a few. You probably remembered ones you’ve used most recently, or ones that are part of a project you’re working on now.

However, your potential is much greater. You’ve got a lot of knowledge locked away that you haven’t brought forward and you don’t keep loaded in your head.

As a result, whenever you have to brainstorm, chances are your brainstorms are lackluster. You probably come up with the same 5 ideas over and over again.

How do you defeat this cycle of mediocrity?

The answer is to map out your capabilities, your potential. Map out what you can do, what you know how to do, so that when you face new problems, you’ve got as big a picture of your solutions as possible.

For example, this is a hilariously large mind map from a couple years ago about how to market a podcast:


(for a version you can actually read, click here for the PDF)

When faced with a question about marketing a podcast, instead of trying to wrack my brain for what I know, I can refer to a map I’ve made of what I know how to do. The map refreshes my memory and brings forward the full set of capabilities I can bring to bear.

Make your own mind maps of solutions you have to common marketing problems. When you face problems of a similar nature, you’ll know what you can do and be far more effective in choosing your strategy.

Remember: you are only as good as the capabilities you remember you can do.

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How to extract value from case studies

There’s an enduring joke about case studies: you can either read one or you can be one. Marketers and decision makers often cite the absence of a case study as a reason for not doing something:

“Where’s the case study on using Facebook?”

“Do you have any case studies on the value of a blog?”

“Why isn’t there a case study about Big Data’s impact on our industry?”

When you hear language like this, you’re hearing a justification for not taking a risk, however small. You’re hearing someone who wants to cover their ass and not be held accountable for a decision. That’s fine; that’s the way some parts of the world work.

However, for decision makers who are more progressive, what’s the value of a case study? It’s not so that you can clone in exacting, perfect detail what someone else did. No, the value of a case study is highlighting that a goal is achievable, that a desired result is possible to attain.

The point of a case study is to determine, knowing what skills, tools, and resources you have, how to attain the same result as the case study. A small business doesn’t have the same resources as Apple, Inc., but you should be able to read a case study about Apple and extract a structure, a concept to apply to the small business.

To extract this value, take a case study, read through it, and divide it up into three pieces: why, what, how.

Why did the organization take the actions in the first place? Was there a particular problem they needed to solve?

What choices did the organization make? What did they base those choices on?

How did they execute on the choices they made? Which tactics succeeded, and which tactics did not?


What you’ll likely find is that you may not have the same resources to replicate how, but you can extract a great deal of value from what and why.

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The freedom to not speak

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Google Analytics Summit, an event hosted for Certified Partners (my employer, SHIFT Communications, is one) to gain insight into the latest advancements in marketing measurement.

What’s novel and unique about this conference for me is that it’s under NDA, a non-disclosure agreement. Every session, every talk, every slide: not a word of it can be shown to the public. No photos. No Tweets. No blog posts (about the content). An attendee who violates the NDA is at risk of losing their Certified Partner status and access to the most valuable information being offered.


As odd as this sounds in this social media age, the lack of sharing is quite freeing. You have no focus other than learning, absorbing, taking notes. There’s nothing to share, no selfies to take, no interviews to conduct. No social media leaderboard in the lobby counting up how many times the hashtag has been mentioned; in fact, there is no official hashtag in order to discourage inappropriate sharing.

Your focus is only on the content being shared and the implications for your business.

For speakers, what would you do differently in your talks if you knew no one was permitted to share the information? What would you share? Think about how your presentations would differ. Would you feel more free to share an extra goodie or two?

For audience members, how much more would you get out of conferences if you had no reason to share? How much more could you focus if you didn’t need to think about photos, videos, tweets, Facebook posts, etc.? Would you catch more information without the cognitive load of determining what to share?

For conference organizers, while locking down an entire conference might be impractical, what if you offered a lockdown session or two, in which each attendee paid an extra NDA fee that was refunded X days after the event in exchange for a completely private session?

It’s a worthy challenge, considering how much mental bandwidth you give to publishing and sharing – and what you could do with that bandwidth instead. Give it some thought before the next conference you attend.

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