Avoiding being blindsided in marketing

When it comes to things that are going to impede your ability to be an effective marketer, there are three broad categories, made most famous by Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (hat tip to Tom Webster for continued reminders of the quote):

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“Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know.

We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.

But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

Despite winning the dubious Foot in Mouth award from the Plain English Campaign, Rumsfeld’s quote is actually useful, particularly for marketers who are worried about the future.

You know what you know. You know the things that are going to affect your marketing, such as Google SEO algorithms, email open rates, etc.

You know what you don’t know. If Google’s newest algorithm has hit the Internet, you may not know its impact, but you can read up on it and learn what you don’t know.

It’s the last category of things you don’t know and aren’t aware of that are the problem, because this creates a massive blind spot. Think about something as primal as the martial arts. If you step into a boxing ring, you know what you know, your skills. You know what you don’t know, which is what the opponent is going to do, but you have ways of handling that. Finally, there isn’t a whole lot that you don’t know and you aren’t aware of. It’s unlikely that there will be a sniper in the stands or that the opponent has secretly put lead shot in his gloves. Thus, you have an environment which is predictable. On the other hand, if those other things could happen, and you didn’t know that the rules had changed, you’d have a very short boxing match.

In marketing the danger isn’t competitors per se. They are known for the most part. The danger is what we don’t know. We didn’t know how mobile would change behavior, but more importantly we didn’t know that we didn’t know mobile was going to fundamentally change human behavior. We just thought mobile was a miniature desktop computer.

So the next question is how to learn what we don’t know that we don’t know. What is it and where do we go to even start learning about it?

For me, that begins with having a strong social network that is highly diverse. People from all kinds of social and economic backgrounds, people all across the technological adoption curve are going to be the sources from which you’ll first catch wind of something new. Your network will naturally surface new trends if you listen carefully. If you don’t have that network, you won’t have the advanced notice you need to prevent being blindsided.


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Tom Webster on what you’re not measuring in marketing analytics

At a recent Social Media Breakfast, Tom Webster, co-author of The Mobile Commerce Revolution, urges us to get out more and stop relying so heavily on digital marketing analytics data only. In this short 11 minute talk, learn why Google Analytics, Hootsuite, Hubspot, and other digital marketing tools only give you part of the whole picture. If you enjoy this, please pick up a copy of The Mobile Commerce Revolution, and learn how mobile devices are helping us complete the marketing analytics picture in the offline world.

If you enjoyed this, go get The Mobile Commerce Revolution, as I have!

Photo on 10-21-14 at 6.16 AM #2


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Benchmarking your site in Google Analytics

Have you ever had your CMO/CEO/Head Cheese ask you, “So how does our marketing program compare to the industry average?” Despite the fact that industry averages are notoriously questionable and generally a waste of time, when the boss asks, we typically need to answer with something more than a “stop wasting my time”.

To provide a slightly more meaningful answer, Google Analytics now has the ability to display industry average benchmarks inside the application, to compare your web analytics to other typical sites in your vertical. You’ll find it under the Audience menu on the left side; once selected, you have to choose your industry and subcategory from the top submenu:

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From there, the software will attempt to match your traffic pattern to the pattern of the size of businesses in your peer group. For example, for marketing websites like my blog, there are 292 other sites with 100-500 sessions per day:

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This is useful for getting a little closer to apples-to-apples comparisons; it would be grossly unhelpful for me to compare my personal blog to, say, a major content site like MarketingProfs or Content Marketing Institute.

Once you’ve got the basic settings in place, the red/green grid shows you where you’re ahead of your peers and where you’re behind.

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If I were running my blog as a full time business, I would judge from this table that I need to add some paid search advertising into the mix to acquire new audiences, some display ads, kick up my email marketing efforts, and hire a PR firm to get me some more referral traffic. Conversely, I know that I’m doing a better job than average with social media and search, so I don’t need to remediate those right away.

Try out benchmarking to see how your website compares to others in your peer group and see if it gives you any quick ideas about what else you might want to pursue in terms of marketing tactics to bring in more audiences, as well as where competing sites are ahead of you.


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