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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What Ingress could mean to digital marketers

Yesterday, Google finally opened up the augmented reality game Ingress to iOS users, after having been an Android app for over two years. Ingress is a game in which you travel the real world, gathering resources, and looking for “alien portals” to take over or defend using your smartphone or tablet; these portals exist in the real world as historic landmarks and points of interest.


It’s a fun game, filled with a great storyline and intriguing gameplay, especially since it requires that you actually get off your butt and travel to physical locations around you in order to attack or defend these portals.

What it is also, however, is a stellar example of what mobile is evolving to. Ingress is a beautiful demonstration of an immersive experience that blends offline and online nearly seamlessly. It’s not just another app. It’s also not just a game. It’s a hybrid experience that more brands and marketers will need to embrace and emulate if they want to stand out from the crowd.

Imagine taking the same level of engaging augmented reality to things like museums, encyclopedias, product guides, even the field of marketing. Imagine being able to visualize the reach of your competitors in the real world and taking real world actions (mapped to the social graph) to counteract them.


Imagine looking at a real world map and seeing a social influencer activate, then seeing who they’re connected to, and touching the screen to see how to activate them. Imagine seeing a competitor’s business getting new links to their website and then identifying nearby media properties granting those links – and being able to win them over to your business.

Suddenly the idea of augmented reality seems less a game and more a viable way to conquer your niche, especially for local businesses.

The next wave of mobile is here: mobile as an integrated part of real life, not a distinct environment that insulates us from it. The games are just the beginning.

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The final frontier of marketing

If you were to ask me what the future of marketing is, where the next biggest thing is, what’s huge but not being talked about, my answer would be one word: repositories.


For folks who aren’t programmers, repositories are collections of computer source code that get compiled and turned into the programs that shape our lives. Think of them as libraries of code. One of the greatest meta-repositories online can be found at GitHub, where you as the average person can find projects, programs, and code for nearly anything imaginable that can be coded. There are GitHub repositories for astrophysics and life sciences, repositories for social media and Big Data, repositories for games, and even ridiculous applications of cool technology, such as text analytics of adult video titles.

If you can think of it, chances are someone’s working on code for it – and that code is available to you on GitHub as a fellow programmer. Most repositories that are public can be “forked”, which means that you can make your own copy and start working on it (assuming you have some programming skill). You can make improvements to existing programs and merge them back into the source project, or you can keep going on your version of the project (as long as you obey the original author’s licensing terms and give credit, of course).

Here’s an example of a code base that leverages all of the major popular web technologies to launch a startup relatively quickly, intended for use at hackathons where you don’t want to waste precious hours setting up the basics. Drop this code into your server and you’ve got the framework to actually start building something.

If there’s a game-changing app coming for marketing tomorrow, chances are it’s in someone’s GitHub project today.

What if you’re not a programmer? What if you can’t code? GitHub still has its uses. At the very least, search for problems you’re trying to solve in your business with technological solutions and see if someone’s got a GitHub repository that might solve that problem. For example, let’s say you wanted to do something with Klout scores. Search for Klout on GitHub to see what developers are working on, and if you find a project (as a non-programmer) that looks like it’s close to what you want to do, you can click on the developer’s name, read their bio, and possibly hire them to modify their code for your specific purposes. Who knows? By partnering with a developer who has already done a good chunk of the work you want to achieve, you might be the sponsor of the next big thing!

Explore GitHub and see what could be in your future, now.

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