What do Pinterest, Tinder, and the shopping mall have in common?

Here’s a fun thought exercise for you.

Question 1: What do Pinterest, Tinder, and the shopping mall have in common?

If you said image-driven marketing, you’d be partially correct.

Here’s the flip side of the coin.

Question 2: What do WhatsApp, Google, and your GPS have in common?

A tougher question to answer.

The answer is that the items in question 1 are serendipity engines. They provide serendipity, a sense of discovery, a chance to stumble upon something that you didn’t intend to look for. Pinterest is masterful at this, at presenting all kinds of content that is tangentially related, but with lots of different rat holes to run down.

The items in question 2 are the norm in the digital world, items that provide you focus. You talk only to the friends you explicitly want to talk to on WhatsApp, and no one else. You find exactly what you’re looking for with Google (or that’s their hope, anyway). Your GPS finds you the most direct, most effective route to your destination.

If it feels like the world has lost of a bit of its wonder, a bit of the magic of life, it’s because we’ve made the sorts of services in Question 2 the norm. Cortana, Google Now, and Siri never say, “Oh hey, I know you were looking for the nearest coffee shop, but there’s a really cool one that’s further away and harder to get to but might be a lot of fun”. That doesn’t happen. Our GPS doesn’t have a “intentionally get lost” button (though certainly apps like Roadtrippers can help).

I love America's highways

When we do have the opportunity to avail ourselves of serendipity, we sometimes enjoy it. We pick a new dish on the menu, or we ask a new acquaintance where to eat in an unfamiliar city. The sommelier brings us a different kind of wine. We meet someone unexpected at a conference.

So here’s the marketing angle for you. If your company provides a focus-based service or product, consider what it would take to offer a parallel serendipity offering. Amazon has figured this out to a certain degree with the “things other people also buy when they buy X” but those are algorithms around your theme. You generally don’t get something completely from left field in those recommendations. What if you offered something even more extreme?

Imagine even adding a “surprise me” button to the search box of your website, or a special series of tweets on a Friday afternoon that have nothing to do with your brand (but are obviously not brand-damaging) of cool stuff you’ve found.

How else can you introduce serendipity for those folks who are looking for it?

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How do you know when you’re overanalyzing marketing data?


During last week’s MarketingProfs B2B Forum, Tim Washer asked forgiveness on stage from me and other analysts in the crowd for lambasting over-analysis of data as one of the top obstacles to creativity in business. The thing is, he didn’t have to apologize: he’s totally right.

The logical followup question then is, how do you know when you’re overanalyzing marketing data?

The answer to this comes from what I call the Marketing DAIS.

Data is the stuff.

Analysis tells you what happened.

Insights tell you why.

Strategy tells you what to do next.

You are overanalyzing when you keep going back for more data, and more data does not change the analysis substantially.

You are overanalyzing when you know what happened and you haven’t made progress on knowing why.

You are overanalyzing when you haven’t made the transition to what to do next.

That’s it in a nutshell. You are overanalyzing when you keep treading water, when you fail to move forward beyond the data and the story it tells you. We all love a good story, but if that’s all you ever do, then you’re overanalyzing.

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Lead generation and fishing pools

If you’ve ever gone fishing at a small pond or stream, you know that there are a certain number of big fish, a certain number of medium fish, and a whole bunch of fish you don’t want.

Fall Photos

In the beginning of the season, fishing is awesome. You catch some big fish, take a few selfies, and enjoy some pan fried fish. As the days go on, the fish get smaller on average, until the pool isn’t really yielding great catches any more. After you’ve caught the fish you do want, there’s not much else to do at that fishing pool. You have to leave it until the little fish grow up to be big fish, and there’s no way to hasten that process. You go off and find a new fishing hole and come back to your favorite little fishing hole later in the season or the next season.

Lead generation functions very much like this. The first time you find a new lead source, whether it’s an audience on Twitter, the listeners of a podcast, an email newsletter you can contribute to, etc., it performs great. You get a fair number of the big leads. You get a lot of the medium leads, and you get a fair number of the small leads, too. Then over time, lead quality begins to decline. The volume of leads goes down. Pretty soon, the lead source performs no better than general advertising, and that’s because the only new leads in that pool are coming in from other sources.

What this means for you strategically is that you’ve always got to have another lead source, another fishing pool you can move to. Once a source begins to dry up or show signs of tapering, you can move to the next pool… and then the next pool. This is also one of the reasons why you need a balance of inbound and outbound marketing; inbound marketing methods are effectively only a handful of pools (like organic search and organic social), and switching pools can take a fairly long time. Outbound marketing with paid media allows you to switch pools rapidly – just swipe your credit card and turn on ads in a new pool.

If you’re in a situation where your existing pools have been fished out, pack up your gear and start walking, because you need to make it to the next pool before you or your business get really hungry.

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