What does advanced marketing look like?

Kerry Gorgone asked this intriguing question on Twitter:


Advanced marketing subjects is an interesting question. What is advanced marketing? What does advanced marketing look like?

To answer this question, let’s look from the perspective of the martial arts. In your beginning days, you learn mechanics. How to punch. How to kick. How to block or evade. You drill the basics, learn to condition your body and mind, and get good at doing very tactical things.

In your middle years, you evolve from individual tactics to series of tactics strung together. The Japanese martial arts call these kata; loosely translated, kata means form or pattern. They’re the memorialized versions of fights that were won and lessons learned, basic strategies for winning.

In your advanced years of training, you transcend tactics and individual fight strategies to look at strategies and points of view outside of the fight itself. What caused the fight? What causes people to be violent? How can you set up your life and the lives of those you care about to be less at risk of violence?

Turning this lens back on marketing, in the beginning of the career, you’re doing all the 101 stuff. What’s a good tweet? How often should you send email?

In the middle of your career, you should be building campaigns by putting tactics together, leveraging tactical synergies, and working towards your overall marketing goals.

The advanced part of your career is when you evolve beyond campaigns to grand strategy. What’s the big picture really look like? What are the things that will impact your marketing in the next year and the next decade?

For example, I was recently reading the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2015 report. This is a fascinating, brilliantly written report of political, economic, societal, and technological threats to our collective well-being. Look at some of the top-ranked threats:


Let’s look at the upper right hand corner, which are the threats with the highest impact and the highest likelihood of occurring.

Cyber attacks. Water crisis. Underemployment. War. Climate change. All of these risks are macro trends that will impact our entire civilization. If they’re societal shocks, you can bet they’re going to impact your overall marketing strategy. The question becomes: what are you going to do about it? How are you going to plan for it?

Some of these macro trends will be marketing opportunities. On climate change, technologies that slow or even reverse climate change and carbon emissions will be hot commodities. If you’re looking for an exciting marketing opportunity, that kind of technology promises adventure for you. Underemployment will change the landscape of the workforce; can you be one of the leaders in finding new ways to retrain people or identify transferable skills we’re not even looking at now?

This is what advanced marketing looks like. It’s light-years beyond the best time to tweet or what color a dress is. Using your marketing skills to address these challenges will not only be profitable, but could make you into the superhero you’ve always wanted to be.

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How much should you give away in content marketing? Part 2 of 2

In the last post, we discussed a basic tactic for determining what you should and shouldn’t give away in your content marketing strategy. Let’s look at a more advanced strategy that’s derived from the old ninja clans of ancient Japan.

In the lore of the ninja, one of the most prized items held by the headmaster of the clan was the densho, or scrolls of martial techniques. These densho held descriptions of the clan’s secret fighting techniques, along with illustrations of how to perform the techniques, construct the tools, etc.

Winchendon Martial Arts Center

Their value was priceless and could mean the difference between literal life and death for the practitioners of that clan’s martial arts. As such, the techniques were closely guarded secrets, and were encoded in a very special way. Each technique was encoded in such a way that an uninitiated practitioner would read the technique and if they attempted it, as written, they’d end up getting themselves killed. The way the techniques were written was wrong.

Only those initiated by the clan’s master teachers were told exactly how the techniques were written down wrong, so that they knew what to adapt, ignore, or adjust to make them work. Sometimes it was enough to simply know that a technique should be on the reverse side; other times, the name of the technique gave a hint as to what it should feel like, rather than the written description.

We can take this technique and adapt it to our content marketing in a less harmful way. What can you safely give away? Give away the basic techniques, tactics, and methods, but make your content incomplete. Anyone who doesn’t work for your company or brand gets value, but doesn’t get the whole picture. For example, take a look at this simple recipe for cake. Ignore that there are no proportions; they’re unimportant for this example.


If you were to bake up a cake with this basic recipe, you’d get a decent chocolate cake. However, there are two ingredients missing that could turn this average cake into a great cake – vanilla extract and salt. A pinch of salt drastically alters how our taste buds perceive flavor, and the vanilla adds a lot of depth to the flavors.

If I were working for a company that made cakes, I’d publish the basic recipe, while holding onto the “secret ingredients” for my company’s cakes that made them superior. The cake you baked with our recipe would still be good enough for when you just wanted some cake, but if you had a special occasion, you’d know that there was always something a little extra from a cake bought from our store.

No matter what your product, service, or company, there are likely basic and advanced recipes. Take a look at what recipes you have, determine what you can omit and still deliver a passable result, and use that as the basis for your content marketing. You can even tier your content marketing; a while back, I wrote a blog post about benchmarking in Google Analytics, but only premium subscribers to my newsletter got the advanced recipe.

Try this method of content marketing strategy to deliver value to your audiences without giving away everything!

…Of course, that does make you wonder what I left out of this post, doesn’t it?

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Marketing sophistication and the Art of War

Sun Tzu said in the Art of War, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Today, knowing yourself and your competitors when it comes to digital marketing is easier than ever. With freely available tools, you can quickly ascertain the sophistication of a company’s digital marketing capabilities, from your own company to competitors to prospective customers.

Let’s look at an easy way to get started. Assuming you’re using the Chrome browser, head to the Chrome app store and install these two free extensions, BuiltWith and Ghostery.

Ghostery tells you what kinds of marketing and tracking tags a site is running – who else is getting visitor information about you. Generally speaking, sites who are thinking about analytics and monetization have more stuff installed. For example, here’s Chris Brogan’s site:


Note that there are relatively few extensions running on it, just a handful of software packages providing tracking. (I should clarify that in no way do I think of Chris as a competitor, opponent, or enemy, I just needed a non-work-related site to compare!)

Now compare to all of the stuff running on my site:


All of these tools are gathering data about your visit. What does this tell you about these two sites? The primary message is that I measure more stuff than Chris does. That’s neither good nor bad in itself; however, if you were looking to sell analytics tools to either one of us, you’d be faced with two very different potential customers. I might be more receptive to what you’re selling because I understand the value of analytics, but one or more of the tools I’m already using might solve my analytics problem, and thus you’d be trying to do a competitive sale. Chris Brogan might be less receptive to your initial pitch but might have greater need because the relatively small handful of tools he’s using leaves more opportunity.

The second tool, BuiltWith, requires you to manually assess each site from a little button in the Chrome toolbar. Let’s take a quick look again. First, Chris Brogan’s site:

chrisbrogan_com_—_Building_the_Digital_Channel_-_Beyond_Social_Media 2

Note that it picks out that he uses InfusionSoft for marketing automation and runs WordPress with its stats module. He also uses Shareasale and Avantlink for revenue. This tells you something about his business model and what he’s promoting. His website is a direct commerce engine, powering his business; we know this because InfusionSoft is a higher-end small business marketing automation system.

Now compare with my site:


I’m using lots of analytics tools to measure my audience but doing relatively little with them. There’s an entry-level marketing automation system, LoopFuse, which indicates that I’m not running this website as a business, just a personal blog. I’m studying my audience carefully, but not investing heavily in the tools I’d need to make the website a full-time business.

From a competitive analysis perspective, who constitutes the greater “danger”? Without a doubt, Chris Brogan, in the sense that he’s taken the time to invest heavily in his site to make it a real business. My site is personal in nature and while I measure lots of stuff, I’m clearly not intending to do much with it at the moment.

Once upon a time, in the era of Sun Tzu and the ninja of old, you would need to send spies into enemy encampments to understand what was going on. Today, just install a couple of browser extensions and know what you’re looking for – we’re all giving away our secrets right on our homepages.

Check out your own site. Check out your competitors’ sites. See what they are telling you!

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