Drowning in Shallow Data

There’s no shortage of digital marketing metrics to choose from. Google Analytics alone has 150. Facebook export has 70 columns-worth, and Twitter export has 40 columns.

As we’ve adopted new tools to help us make better decisions, we may have lost sight of the relationship between the data and the reality we’re trying to understand. Is it possible that we’re making important decisions based on numbers that don’t actually mean all that much?

Given that highly-targeted B2B marketing reaches relatively small sample sizes, the results of any one campaign are unlikely to be statistically significant. An email to an ABM list of 47 Tech CEOs has a low click-through rate, and is dismissed as a failure based on the data. The cycle continues, one tiny sample size after another.

So, how can we use the numbers to make better decisions? Maybe it’s by first focusing on being question driven, not just data driven. After all, the data by itself is meaningless without a relationship to a really good question. Focus on discovering that question, and then explore the metrics available to help you answer it. The numbers themselves don’t answer anything. At best, they point us in the right direction.

“…marketing isn’t a controlled experiment — it’s messy, complicated, unpredictable real life.” Loryn Cole

Better, Not Broader

Who wouldn’t be thrilled to wake up one morning to find that their blog’s subscriber base tripled overnight? I certainly would. And yet, my excitement would likely be misguided.

I’m not in the business of adding subscribers to my blog. Tripling the number of clicks, likes, or comments may do wonders for my ego, but it also may be an indication that I’m actually creating the wrong type of content — work that appeals to “people interested in marketing” as opposed to the very select group of B2B marketing professionals I seek to serve. If I earned those extra clicks and subscribers by going wide, how relevant would I still be to my real audience?

“You shouldn’t focus on growing your audience. Especially if focusing on growing your audience leads to superficial goals, such as clicks and views … from people who are not the right fit for your business and will never buy from you.” Stefanie Flaxman

What’s the Better Question?

Do we spend too much energy trying to come up with better answers to the same old marketing questions?

“How can we increase our landing page conversion rate by 15 percent?” is a fine question, but is it really the most important question that we can ask? Does it focus our creativity on the juicy problems that scream out for solutions, or does it just happen to be the most obvious question at that particular time?

What would happen if we stopped focusing on marginal gains, and instead explored questions that challenge our most limiting assumptions?

Landing pages, email campaigns, and webinar offers are often just knee-jerk answers to generic questions like “how can we create more content to attract mid-sized companies?” A much harder (and more productive) question may be “who are we really focused on serving, why do we care about this particular audience, and how can we become such a perfect fit for their needs that they’d have no reason to look elsewhere?”

This type of question is more challenging because it forces us to make difficult choices, narrow our focus, and be much more specific with our work. They lead to the breakthrough outcomes that make a mere 15 percent bump in response rate seem comparatively trivial.

Marketing Mechanics or Human Empathy?

Have you ever been on the receiving end of a really aggressive, old-school, face-to-face sales pitch — the type of conversation that makes you feel less like a human being, and more like an unwilling participant in a sales training exercise?

All the techniques are being used on you. Making you feel…used. Making you feel like an object, a means to an end. Making you feel anything other than actually buying something.

Copywriting and marketing communications techniques, just like their sales counterparts, are too easy to mistake as the core drivers of success. An obsessive focus on hacks reduces the persuasive writing profession to a constant hunt for the next psychological trick, the next piece of the “killer copy” puzzle. What gets lost (if we let it) is the person you’re trying to serve. Without a clear picture of that person (and I don’t mean buyer persona), how can we possibly summon the empathy required to understand what they care about?

Technique is important. We need strong marketing principles to guide the execution of our message. But best practices come later. First and foremost, we need to be humans hoping to connect with other humans.

“The way we make things better is by caring enough about those we serve to imagine the story that they need to hear. We need to be generous enough to share that story, so they can take action that they’ll be proud of.” From Seth Godin’s This is Marketing

Creative Safety

The point of suspending judgement during a brainstorming session is not quantity for its own sake. It’s to use quantity as a tool to help overcome our blind spots and override the judgmental, linear left-brain thinking that limits our options. We’re wired to find a solution quickly so that we can move on to the next challenge. The problem is that the first solution will tend to be the least innovative.

Most problem solving is just a repeating loop of the same used up ideas. If we’re going to discover better options, we need to feel safe to take emotional risks and push past the obvious.

“If done correctly, an ideation session can be a safe space for your team members to suggest some of their most absurd ideas.” Caroline Forsey


Creative Work

Creativity isn’t about “knowing.” It’s about seeing clearly, making new connections, and testing every idea to find out what really makes a difference. Discovery, not just productivity.

“Listening, gathering data, creating relevant content based on your audience’s hopes, dreams, and fears. Then publication and more listening for feedback before embarking on the journey all over again.” Kelton Reid

The challenge is that the creative process doesn’t always look like hard work. Real creativity often happens when we’re not doing, doing, doing. Incubation, space, quiet, movement. It’s all critical to the process, and it needs to be protected if we’re going to continue to create anything worth engaging with.

Quick Wins — Delivering Measurable Results in Your New Marketing Role

The pressure to deliver measurable results can quickly turn the excitement of a new marketing leadership role into overwhelming panic. You feel like you have to prove yourself at every turn, knowing that your performance during the first six months will directly impact your future.

Where do you even begin? Continue reading “Quick Wins — Delivering Measurable Results in Your New Marketing Role”

Why All B2B Buying Decisions are Emotional

© Nevit Dilmen

Mention “emotion” and “B2B marketing” in the same sentence often enough, and you’ll eventually provoke an ironically passionate counterargument about buyers preferring to “reach their decision based on logic, rational thinking, and business value.” Just the facts, thank you very much. B2B decision-makers are serious people with serious problems investing serious amounts of money. A major investment decision is no time for emotional whims.

If this is true, then the marketing message with the most valid logical argument, and the best data to back it up, wins. Effective B2B marketing would simply deliver relevant facts to the right people, and creative elements would be limited to the safe, accepted, and traditional. Corporate mission statement? Check. Differentiation statement? Check. Stock photography of city skylines, two people shaking hands, and executives smiling blankly around a coworker’s laptop? Check, check, check. Continue reading “Why All B2B Buying Decisions are Emotional”

Rule By Committee

Nothing will kill good content ideas quicker than putting them through the meat grinder of office politics. Content creation by committee guarantees that your ebooks, webinars and blog posts will be ground into bland, vanilla paste. Here’s why…

  1. Great content takes a stand for an idea, a point of view, a vision of the future. Consensus requires compromise. Two polar opposite goals.
  2. Pressure to contribute feedback will lead to painstaking searches for meaningless details to criticize.
  3. It’s impossible to accurately judge content without a clear understanding of the strategy and intended audience.

The opinions that matter most come from your prospects and customers. Write your content for them, not to achieve buy-in from everyone who happens to be employed by your company.