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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On choosing mentors and teachers

Finding mentors and teachers today is both easier and harder than ever. It is easier because the digital age permits us nearly unlimited access to information and people. Paradoxically, it is also much harder for this very reason – finding the correct teacher is incredibly difficult amidst much noise.

11 years on the path

One of the most important aspects of finding mentors and teachers is knowing what you need. Often, this can conflict with what we want. We may want cheery motivation and gentle support, but what we really need is a solid boot in the butt to get us moving. Or, we may think we needs to go through a hard-core boot camp or “man up”, but what we really need is to take it slowly so as to reacclimatize ourselves to difficult working circumstances and adversity, whether at the gym or at work. I’ve been in both situations!

How do you know the difference between what you want and what you need? Chances are, you know the difference deep down inside, if you are truly honest with yourself. It is the nagging voice in your head that says, you really should do this. You really ought to do that. It is the voice that says, this isn’t the healthiest or smartest choice, or the voice that says, that’s not going to be comfortable, let’s just put that off until tomorrow. The hard part is accepting the honesty you have inside yourself.

Once you know what you need, look for mentors or teachers who are living the results you want to achieve. It’s that simple (but not easy). Look at their lives and see what results they’re getting. If their life looks like what you want your life to look like, then ask to study with them. Be sure, however, to look at the big picture! Someone may be an incredible martial artist but the rest of their life may be a disaster. Someone may be a phenomenal marketer but they may have a miserable family life. Do unrelated things matter, if they’re achieving the goals you want? Absolutely, because their perspective on life will tend to infiltrate yours, and so will their bad habits. Look at the big picture and make your choices from that.

Choose your teachers wisely!

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Leave no fear unanswered


Over the weekend, I did one of my least favorite seasonal things: climbing up onto the roof of the house and cleaning out the gutters. The reason why this task is among my least favorite isn’t because it’s cleaning (which is admittedly boring most of the time), but because it requires me to face one of the fears I’ve had since I was a child, a fear of heights.

My earliest memory of this fear was when I was 5 or 6 years old, visiting a local amusement park. I climbed up a set of cargo nets at the park, and got high enough that I was probably 30 feet off the ground when I slipped. Being cargo nets, I got tangled up almost immediately and didn’t even truly fall, but that was enough to make a negative impression on me about heights.

During my brown belt test in 1999, I took a different kind of fall, dislocating a shoulder on a rock from leaping over a practice sword. After 7 weeks in a sling and another 8 weeks of rehabilitation, I was physically back to normal, but mentally I wasn’t. I had grown fearful of the set of techniques needed to successfully handle that part of the test, and I failed the second time around on that test for that very reason.

One of my instructors, Ken Savage, took me aside and said that unless I answered that fear, unless I tackled it head on, it would continue to grow on me and gain power. So for the next 3 months, I subjected myself to all manner of dive rolling and other sword evasions until that fear lost its grip over me. Before my next test, I drove out to the woods where I took my first brown belt test with a shovel and dug the rock out of the ground, then brought it with me to my third and successful brown belt test.

That technique – the technique of challenging and answering your fears – is one of the greatest benefits I’ve gained from martial arts training over the years. It’s little more than putting yourself willingly against your fears, defeating them over and over again, until the grip they hold lessens. They never go away, but they do lose their power and don’t regain it as long as you choose to not allow them to. That’s one of the greatest secrets of success I’ve ever received: leave no fear unanswered.

That’s why every spring and fall, I’m up on a ladder and clambering across the rooftop, scraping out the leaves. It’s not fun, and my fear of heights speaks loudly to me when I’m up there, but I answer that fear with quiet defiance, one handful of soggy leaves at a time. When I set foot on the ground after I’m done, I stand over my fears once more.

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