Almost Timely News, 3 October 2021: Technical Debt, Content Marketing Analytics, Server Change

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Almost Timely News

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Important: I Just Changed Servers

A quick note before we get to this week’s content. I just upgraded my marketing automation software and changed servers, which means two things.

First, there’s a non-zero chance some folks are getting this email that didn’t want to be. I’ve imported literally every unsubscribe I’ve received in the last 2 years to make sure folks aren’t getting this email if they didn’t want it, but stuff happens. Thus, if you’ve changed your mind about receiving this newsletter, [please update your preferences here].

Second, old issues of this newsletter now have non-working links. Sorry about that. If you’re looking for back issues with working links, I’ve started posting back issues on my website, which you can find here.

What’s On My Mind: Technical Debt Repayment

The marketing automation server and platform I’ve been running this newsletter on is now five years old. There have been three major operating system updates since I deployed the server, and two major releases of the software.

Nostalgic look inside a server

And… I’ve updated none of it until now, until today. Why? In the days before Trust Insights, my personal newsletter was more or less a hobby. In the years since the founding of my company, my focus has always been on the company and its infrastructure first, so this newsletter’s back end systems never got the love and attention that they should have.

What this creates is what consultants call technical debt. Like financial debt, technical debt is what accumulates when you don’t make your payments, or insufficient payments. In the context of marketing technology, that’s keeping systems and processes up to date. You can either steadily maintain things along the way, paying your bills regularly, or you can be called to account at some point and have to settle up a really large bill.

My reckoning was a couple of weeks ago, in doing a promotion for a sponsor. It took 23 hours to fully send the promotional announcement out. Why? Because the server and system was so slow that sending a quarter million emails took that long. I almost didn’t make the promotion commitment because of technical debt, and I knew I had to settle up.

Settling up in this case meant building a new virtual server from scratch, installing all new software, and as you saw above, importing all my data into the new system.

We all have technical debt to some degree. Some of it’s unavoidable or cost-prohibitive to resolve quickly. For example, we individually have technical debt the moment a new model of our favorite smartphone or computer comes out and we’ve now got the preceding generation. After a year or two, another model comes out, and suddenly our phone is 3 models behind and doesn’t work as well. That’s technical debt. If we can live with it, then it’s not a huge problem, but if we find ourselves no longer able to do what we want, or in business we’re not able to keep up with competitors, then technical debt is something we have to resolve.

Pop quiz: how much technical debt do you have in your marketing technology stack? Do you know? What’s the impact of it? What, if anything, aren’t you able to do because of it?

In business, there are multiple kinds of debts like this. Strategic debt is when you make insufficient time to plan, to think, to examine what’s working and what’s not. You just keep punching the to-do list every day but your business doesn’t move forward more than small increments because strategic debt is piling up.

Content debt is when your content falls further and further away from current best practices. Anyone who’s done SEO knows the pain of content debt, of content that used to generate results but no longer does – and you don’t make the time to update it.

The most dangerous kind of debt, however, is knowledge debt. This is your continuing education, your professional development debt. When you don’t keep current, when your knowledge of your specialty ages past the point of usefulness and crosses into dangerous, your knowledge debt makes you a liability rather than an asset. This is like an SEO manager who has no idea what BERT is (and why it’s relevant to SEO) or an email marketing manager who has no idea what GDPR, CCPA, CPRA, or PIPL are.

The way to solve debt is by one of the two methods I outlined above: you can pay as you go, which is the preferred way because it’s a little bit very frequently, or you can pay all at once and settle up. I’ve spent my evenings the last two weeks configuring this server and rebuilding it, and I can tell you with great confidence that I will be switching to paying as I go, keeping my systems up to date much more frequently.

What are your non-financial debts? How often do you pay them?

Share With a Friend or Colleague

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ICYMI: In Case You Missed it

If I had to suggest only one of these articles to read from this week, it would be the piece on content marketing analytics. As a followup from my session at Content Marketing World this week, I wanted to offer a different perspective on the topic.

Skill Up With Free Classes

These are just a few of the free classes I have available over at the Trust Insights website that you can take.

Thank You Notes

These are the places you’ve had or mentioned me – on your podcast, on your blog, in your newsletter. Thank you!

What I’m Reading: Your Stuff

Let’s look at the most interesting content from around the web on topics you care about, some of which you might have even written.

Social Media Marketing

Media and Content

SEO, Google, and Paid Media

Advertisement: AI For Marketers, Third Edition

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Tools, Machine Learning, and AI

Analytics, Stats, and Data Science

All Things IBM

Ad: Create Better Content with AI

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Good Reads, Long Reads, Interesting Stuff

Fun, Games, and Entertainment

Economics, Politics, Environment, and Society

Ad: How to Prove the ROI of your Marketing Agency

I put together a brand new talk on how agencies could use data-driven marketing as a way to showcase their value and real results they obtain. In it, you’ll learn the 5 steps agencies must take to be more valuable to its clients. For folks on the client side, these are the things you should expect of your agencies, things you should ask for when agencies are pitching you. Agencies not doing these things will not serve you as well as they could. There’s obviously a lot more detail, so go ahead and watch the talk now.

Watch the talk now by filling out this form »

How to Stay in Touch

Let’s make sure we’re connected in the places it suits you best. Here’s where you can find different content:

Events I’ll Be At

Here’s where I’m speaking and attending. Say hi if you’re at an event also:

  • Content Marketing World, September 2021, Cleveland, OH
  • MarketingProfs B2B Forum, October 2021, virtual

Events marked with a physical location may become virtual if conditions and safety warrant it.

If you’re an event organizer, let me help your event shine. Visit my speaking page for more details.

Can’t be at an event? Stop by my private Slack group instead, Analytics for Marketers.

Required Disclosures

Events with links have purchased sponsorships in this newsletter and as a result, I receive direct financial compensation for promoting them.

Advertisements in this newsletter have paid to be promoted, and as a result, I receive direct financial compensation for promoting them.

My company, Trust Insights, maintains business partnerships with companies including, but not limited to, IBM, Cisco Systems, Amazon, Talkwalker, MarketingProfs, MarketMuse, Agorapulse, Hubspot, Informa, Demandbase, The Marketing AI Institute, and others. While links shared from partners are not explicit endorsements, nor do they directly financially benefit Trust Insights, a commercial relationship exists for which Trust Insights may receive indirect financial benefit, and thus I may receive indirect financial benefit from them as well.

Thank You!

Thanks for subscribing and reading this far. I appreciate it. As always, thank you for your support, your attention, and your kindness.

See you next week,

Christopher S. Penn

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