The number one business opportunity in marketing today


Here’s the number one business opportunity in marketing today: Teach marketing leaders, social media gurus and SEO professionals how to ask the right questions about data.

I’m serious. There is a golden opportunity here because many businesses leaders don’t seem to know enough about basic marketing analytics to know whether their programs are growing or not. We are leading “by our gut” in a world that promises true wisdom and insight if we can understand the numbers.

The implication is that we are potentially (and probably) making incorrect decisions because we’re mis-interpreting the numbers … perhaps we don’t even know the right questions to ask.

If you’re in marketing, you MUST understand this issue!

I believe that just a basic knowledge of measurement tools can go a LONG WAY in helping to propel and differentiate your business … and so does Tom Webster, the co-host on the Marketing Companion podcast. While this may sound boring, I promise you that our latest edition of the podcast is not. In fact, as you will soon hear, it is downright magical. We explore what we consider the number one issue for most marketing leaders today: Understanding metrics to make business decisions —

— The biggest business opportunity in marketing today

— The danger of focusing on the what instead of the why or the how

— Tom’s five fundamental questions to guide a content marketing strategy

— Getting drunk on growth

— The importance of talking to people

— Content marketing at the end of the sales cycle

— Content marketing as “fishing” — are you even in the right lake?

— Guest appearances from Gini Dietrich and Sean McGinnis

— The magic metrics for content marketing and lead conversion

Are you ready for this? Can you HANDLE THE TRUTH? Here we go:

Other Ways to Listen to this Podcast:

Resources mentioned in this podcast:

The book Good to Great by Jim Collins

Our friends Gini Dietrich and Sean McGinnis

Doug Henning

Voices Heard Media

Further reading: Marketing and social media measurement

This content was created as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.
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  • Jennifer Kane

    I run into this a lot and it bums me out. Most clients would rather pay for bad data then do the strategic work (or make the effort) to uncover the good data.

    So if one company will provide them an easy peasy number for X thousand dollars, that’s preferable to me coming in and asking them as series of hard questions (So what exactly is your goal? What does “success” mean? Do you want to increase your reach… conversion…sentiment? What? What else are you doing, and how will those efforts affect these numbers?) for the same amount of money.

    My most recent sad example was the company I worked with (from a highly regulated industry) who was paying $5k a month for a report of “social mentions” that included postings from Asian sex porn sites (cause yes, those people mentioned, “money” and “investment.”) NO ONE was reading these $5k reports — not the giant PR firm who compiled them (and charged through the nose for this crap data,) or anyone on the client side. But since it was data coming from a fancy West Coast firm, everyone just assumed it was valid.

  • Asking matters! Bravo Mark, and Tom… ~Rae…

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  • Kristine Allcroft

    Great stuff! Wish you could also post the transcript . . . I’m a visual person so reading is the medium I learn best with . . . Auditory learning – not so much. That being said, Thank you! Qualitative + Quantitative data analysis is my favorite! In our business, we use the metrics from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, compared with Google Analytics and then the number of phone calls generated from Google – then compared with our conversion into customers. Then, we measure the cost-benefit analysis or use the data to answer the question “how much time, effort, money, energy did it take to get this customer and how much did it increase business? Many many thank yous!

  • Brilliant! And at the same time, as Jennifer points out, very disheartening. I hope that more marketers come to see that *whether* to use data isn’t the point; it’s how wisely you use it (or as you say, Mark, how to ask the right questions about it). It reminds me of a striking point Nassim Taleb makes in his book “Fooled by Randomness,” to the effect that data without logic has no meaning, but that logic can stand on its own. The point being that critical thought is essential to making data relevant and useful. I look forward to listening to the podcast, and as always, Mark, appreciate your post and the great comments from your readers.

  • I just tuned in to this episode. I need to know if getting drunk on growth is a good or bad thing.

  • It’s not as good as meth, Billy, but it’s easier on your teeth.

  • Maybe we should change the name of our company to Fancy West Coast Firm.

  • RandyBowden

    This conversation was so insightfully deep that I bet many would not even “understand” the “correct” questions to ask! Great work men, but tell me, those 4 billion gazillion buku much impressions from a tweet chat are a valid metric right?

  • Jennifer Kane

    Yes. Now THAT is strategic thinking. 🙂

  • My notes from this podcast:

    “The trend is your friend.” – Tom Webster

    “Do the work. Talk to people, Check your churn rate. Inbound formula is fishing net for new prospects but nurturing existing customers is part of the pond worth measuring too. Driving up visits doesn’t convert to business. What converts to business benefits are those that return. Value that makes people want to come back is the key and return visits are a metric worth measuring.”

    – Webster & Schaefer

    “You can sell stuff to drunk people.” – Tom Webster

    “Drunk people love my blog” – Mark Schaefer

    “Two metrics I care about: 1) Net revenue by marketing channel 2) Look at individual page analytics to determine opportunities for improvement

    – Sean McGinnis

    “My key metric to measure is revenue. Show your communications are an investment and not an expense.”

    _ Gini Dietrich

  • Ugh. We can certainly spend time swapping stories like this Jen!

  • Thanks for listening!

  • I need to look into that. Have had several requests for that Kristine.

  • Thanks so much Pete. A lot of people criticize Millenials for lack of critical thinking but I don;t think thy have cornered the market on that!

  • Always love that voice of experience you contribute Tom : )

  • Of course Randy. We make that anything you like it to be. Let’s start with that being a sign of “influence” : )

    Thanks for the nice comment.

  • A good summary Billy. Thanks for capturing my “drunk” strategy : )

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  • Fabio Valeri

    Loved the podcast. You’re spot on Mark, this is so vital. I can relate to the experience you described toward the beginning of the podacast !

  • Tom pointed out on the podcast that the industry (digital marketing) is still in it’s infantry, which is why we are not seeing more thinking like this.

    Personally, I think it’s also because it threatens the ego of the C-Suite (CMO, CEO, etc.) who would rather decide with their gut than use data. The other aspect is that data is confusing to many people, and they’d rather ignore or avoid it than do the critical thinking necessary to understand.

  • LOL! I listen and read sober, Mark! Another fun and helpful podcast.

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  • Jeb Harrison

    Good timing! This dovetails into a blog post we just published on behalf Noah Iliinsky, IBM visualization luminary, plus the recent release of 2013’s killer infographics:!

    There are a great number of us through no fault of our own view numbers as the purest possible form of abstraction and have been having seizures at the site of multiplication tables since 3rd grade. We depend entirely on the folks that can help us visualize what the numbers mean so that we can come up with the non-numeric component of the solution. If I had to pick the #1 career opportunity in marketing it would be in the field of data visualization (that includes the ability to animate them in a 4 minute video) – just a little tighter focus than what you’ve teed up, Mark.

  • Loved this podcast! Finding effective ways to monitor and interpret data throughout the sales funnel / process is something I have a keen interest in at the moment and working with some clients on.

    I’ve witnessed it in the past with reports being sent, filed and forgotten and no actual action being taken to learn and adapt based on the findings – very frustrating.

  • Many thanks for stopping by Fabio.

  • At least there is one of you out there. : )

  • Interesting point. I think I’m coming from a different angle though. You usually have to dumb the data down to make it into a picture when the real insight may be in the details. I also think the more people rely on infographics, the less critically they need to think, like answering the question: Where did this data come from? Is it statistically valid? Can I trust this source to do the work?

  • Hang in there with this Louise. You may be ahead of your time but if you develop this competency I think you will eventually be rewarded. PS, I’m coming to Australia in April!

  • If you come across any good resources – please do share them – it’s an area I’m really trying to hone in on at the moment – especially now social media analytics and ad management is starting to get a little more useful – and is able to be compared to data from other channels.

    That’s great! For holiday or work? I’m in Sydney so you’ll have to let me know if/when you’re in town!

  • Honestly, just a business-oriented stats class would give you an advantage I think. I don’t think marketers need to be data experts, but they need to be able to ask the right questions so they don’t get fooled. It is so dangerous to spend money and plan a strategy off the wrong data! Also this book by Chuck Hemann is good:

    I will be keynoting the Content Marketing World event in Sydney so we can definitely get together.I’ll be in Sydney for 2-3 days I think.

  • This is excellent – and a needed post. I read the guru blogs and wonder if they ever really study the demographics of the sites. My long suit is data – “the truth is out there” – but you have to do the work.

  • geofflivingston

    I could not agree more. If you want to be a CMO today, you have to understand data. But not only understand it, rather to use it to intelligently inform campaigns and instill a sense of human spirit into marketing.

  • And, in the long-term, you will win! : )

  • Perfectly said Geoff. Always an honor to have you stop by!

  • Mike Campolattano

    Agreed most marketers don’t even have a clue about what questions to ask to uncover the true idea of what is the “r” in ROI to them

  • All great points Bobby!

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