What’s working best in digital marketing? is the wrong question

I was recently asked what’s working today in digital marketing, what channels are most successful for me now. This is an odd question, when you think about it, and betrays a certain naive mindset. “What’s working best” implies that there’s a magic wand, a silver bullet that will fix your marketing woes.

What’s working best is governed by two things. First, skill governs what works best. I happen to love poached eggs and am terrible at making them. That doesn’t mean the dish is automatically a bad one; it just means I am relatively unskilled at preparing it. You may want email marketing to work really well for you, but if you’re bad at it, it’s not going to generate results. 


Second, as any engineer will tell you, use the right tool for the right job. There is no best marketing tool overall. There are tools that solve specific problems. If you don’t have the specific problem, the tools will be pointless. 

For example, social media is great for building and engaging audiences. If you have a new audience problem, social can be part of the answer. If you don’t have this problem, then social media marketing is a waste of time. 

If you have a lead nurturing problem, few tools work as well as email marketing. Properly and skillfully done, email marketing can reap enormous benefits. If you have a business in which lead nurturing is relatively unimportant, email marketing will simply be an expensive distraction. 

Rather than pursue a mythical ideal marketing channel, ask yourself these two questions: 

What problem do I have?
Do I have the skills needed for the tools that solve the problem?

You’ll arrive at business-changing solutions much faster this way!

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Are you my next Marketing Technology Account Manager?

One of the cliches I rather dislike is “That’s a good problem to have!”. As Chancellor Palpatine said once, “Good is a point of view,”. A good problem to have is still a problem, and I’ve got a problem you might be able to solve.

At SHIFT Communications, my problem is too many great clients and not enough great people on my team. Perhaps you can help me solve that problem. I’m specifically looking for a marketing management superhero to join my team in Boston.

What sort of person is this superhero?

You’d have Superman’s amazing speed capabilities to solve problems very quickly:


(ignore the fact that basic physics makes this movie plot resolution completely absurd)

You’d have Batman’s deep knowledge of tricks and tools to get the job done:


You’d have Jean Grey’s remarkable mental acuity to see to the heart of any situation and instantly know what someone else was thinking:


Telekinesis is a nice-to-have additional skill.

You’d have Wolverine’s infinite resilience to shoulder the toughest burdens and heal immediately, no matter how rough a situation you faced:


You’d have James Bond’s coolness under pressure and charisma to handle any kind of personality without getting personally involved:


(because really, as Ian Fleming wrote him, Bond is basically a sociopath)

Finally, you’d have Rogue’s ability to instantly learn and adapt others’ talents to your own, because while you may not have all the answers, you know how to get them:


If combining this army of superpowers sounds like it could be you, then I’d encourage you to apply for the job of Marketing Technology Account Manager in SHIFT’s Boston office.

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How much resolution do you need in marketing analytics?

Resolution in optics is defined as how much detail you can see, the degree of detail visible. Televisions are sold by their resolution, with numbers like 720p, 1080p, and 4K. Microscopes are sold by resolution, such as 20x, 50x, and 150x. Even marketing analytics tools offer analogs to resolution, such as how often reporting is available. Data in the web-based Google Analytics interface defaults to daily as the lowest resolution, but in custom reports and the API, you can get data down to the minute.


Why does resolution, particularly in marketing analytics, matter? Resolution costs more as it increases. A 4K TV costs much more than a 720p TV. A real-time social media analytics tool costs much more typically than a rollup weekly or monthly reporting tool. Even in cases where a platform is the same price, such as Google Analytics (except for Premium), resolution comes at a cost. Computers have to work harder to display more content on bigger screens.

Resolution matters in data especially because as resolution increases, the work you need to do on your data increases. If marketing tools only spit out quarterly reports, you’d have to do some copying and pasting every quarter. When marketing tools offer data at the minute by minute level, you have to process that data, transform it, and then glean insight from it.

The key question to ask is, how much resolution do you need? How much makes a tangible difference to you? A television in the lobby of your company can probably be a cheap 720p TV, because no one’s going to stand in front of it and work all day. A television being used as a second screen in your office might need to be a 4K TV because you’ll be staring at it all day.

In your marketing metrics and analytics, how much resolution is necessary in order for you to implement changes? Few marketing programs need minute by minute analysis except on rare occasions such as major events. Few marketing programs realistically need even daily analysis, save for perhaps advertising programs. Certainly, your blogging strategic execution doesn’t need that level of granular detail.

Here’s the benchmark for determining marketing metrics resolution: how often do you evaluate and make program changes? If you change up your Twitter strategy day-to-day, then daily reporting and analysis makes sense. If you write your content marketing calendar weekly, then go with weekly reporting. If you only look at your lead generation numbers monthly, then you don’t need more than monthly reporting.

How much resolution you need is contingent on how often you’ll use the information.

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