How can marketing strategy go off the rails?

Marketing strategy is an awful lot like going grocery shopping at the local megamart.

Presumably, you have a list and a goal of things to obtain.

Along the way, there are distractions that can eat into resources, like a Buy One, Get One sale in Aisle 12, or a price jump on your favorite snack food.

There’s the favorite broken/wobbly/odd wheel on your cart (or carriage or buggy, depending on where you live) that constantly threatens to send you walking into a shelf or support pole.

Obstacles are a mix of static, like support poles inconveniently placed in the middle of the aisle, and the dynamic, like the four screaming children who are running wildly in front of you.

Depending on what you’re buying, you may even face competition from other shoppers. You find yourself fighting it out for that last half gallon of ice cream in your favorite flavor because someone made it 60% off this week.

Finally, when you check out, there’s always the chance that the various computer systems fail to read your debit/credit card, ring up your order wrong, or just flat out crash.

Like a trip to the grocery store, marketing strategy is affecting by a variety of factors that can derail it:

shopping cart.jpg

At the end of the day, your marketing strategy has to have a goal or meet an objective that is meaningful to your organization. This is first and most important; a marketing strategy that is not bonded to your organizational strategy is doomed for failure.

Your strategy is determined in part by your resources and capabilities. If you spend your entire quarter’s budget on a new hire or ad campaign unexpectedly, your strategy will run aground fast.

Like the wobbly wheel, there will always be something working incorrectly. Thus, your strategy is one of frequent compensation for error, no matter how good the plan was when it started.

Your marketing strategic obstacles have static environmental problems and dynamic ones. PEST/PESTLE analysis is a straightforward way to understand what those obstacles are, and how likely they are to impede you.

Your competitors dictate part of your strategy. If your competitor can execute the same strategy better than you, you’re going to lose, especially if you’re both pursuing a rare resource.

Finally, like the checkout, marketing technology has as many ways to damage your marketing strategy as it does improve it.

Before you set your marketing strategy, understand what’s most likely to throw it off course!

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Become a necessary luxury

Your goal, as a marketer, is to achieve necessary luxury status.

What do I mean?

Broadly speaking, we can be commodities or luxuries in the sense of both price and rareness. A commodity is commonplace. A commodity is inexpensive. A luxury is not commonplace. A luxury is rare, and almost never cheap.

Broadly speaking, we can be optional or necessary. Necessary things are things we can’t do without. We need them. They’re mandatory for us to get our jobs done. Optional things are nice-to-haves. They’re additions that are welcome, but if we didn’t have them, we’d be okay.

What determines something to be a commodity or a luxury is its functional quality. The better it does at the core tasks asked of it, the higher a price it can command while still being needed.


Think about getting to work. You have to get to work somehow, and for a majority of people, that involves some form of transportation. A car is a commodity. You can buy cars of all makes and models. A Tesla Series S is a luxury that’s optional. You need a car, but you don’t need THAT car, per se. That’s why the Tesla on the chart above is an optional luxury. Its luxury doesn’t improve the core functional quality of being a way to get to work. You get there in more style and with more amenities, but it doesn’t change the core experience.

What about computers? Many people who work in offices need a portable computer of some kind. You can get cheap knockoff laptops or vastly underpowered machines very inexpensively. They’re commodities. If you want great functional quality, a MacBook Pro starts moving you towards the luxury end of the spectrum. However, if you need built-in UNIX compatibility in an easy to use, well-built machine, then you remain more towards the necessary end of the spectrum. These needs transform the MacBook Pro into a necessary luxury.

As a marketer seeking a career in marketing, you begin ineptly. We all do. We begin with very few polished skills, and we don’t perform especially well out of the gate (except for a few savants). We are low performing marketers when we begin our journey. Some of us stay there. Most of us achieve some level of competence, which moves us from optional to necessary.

Your goal, as a marketer, is to advance your skills and capabilities, your functional quality, until you are necessary. As you become necessary, you can command a higher price, until you reach the pinnacle of your career. At the top of your game, you become a high performing marketer, which is a necessary luxury that every company wants, needs, and is willing to pay top dollar for.

Your challenge, as a marketer, is to identify what is necessary and become so proficient at it that you are rare. When you become this, the world is your oyster.

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How to Improve Content Marketing with IQR: New York Times Case Study

How do you know whether your content game is getting better or worse? It’s easy to rely on stock analytics tools, and for the beginning content marketer, tools such as Google Analytics are more than enough. For the veteran marketer who is creating content, how can we know with greater precision whether our content is getting better or worse? How can we more quickly diagnose the bad, double down on the good, and make our program sing?

In part 5 in this series, we’ll apply our lessons in total to the venerable Gray Lady, the New York Times, and how often her content is retweeted. If you didn’t do any of the coursework in part 1, part 2, part 3, or part 4, go back and do those examples first.

We’ll begin by examining the New York Times’ overall record. In the last year or so, they’ve tweeted an astonishing 39,000 times, more than 100 times a day. Overall, their tweets are retweeted an average of 144 times. Let’s begin by setting up our lower quartile and upper quartiles. We’ll measure over a 7 day rolling window, or 700 rows at a time:


Next, let’s plot our bands. What do you see?


Attach the trendlines:


And refer back to our handy chart:


What we see is that the New York Times has a solid and growing content marketing program, a successful one where the best stuff and the worst stuff are both growing, but the best stuff is outpacing the worst stuff.

Let’s add in the interquartile range measurement:


We now have a very clear picture in just a few minutes of how the New York Times is faring in its content marketing program, at least from the perspective of retweets.

What’s the next step for the New York Times? To sort its content by whether the number of retweets is above the third quartile boundary or below the first quartile boundary, then examine what the best content has in common.

Try the IQR methodology to determine how well your content marketing is going!

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