Why you’ve already missed the hottest marketing opportunity

marketing opportunity
By Eric Wittlake, {grow} Contributing Columnist

Want to take advantage of today’s hot new marketing opportunity? Sorry, you’ve already missed the boat.

The best opportunity goes to the marketers who identify it well before it’s hot, not the ones who join at the frothy peak. You won’t see those initial eye-popping results today.

This trend has played out time and time again.

The first online banner ad, for AT&T, 44% click rate. Today’s average click rate for an ad the same size (468×60) rounds off to a nice even 0.0%! The only 44% you are likely to find in today’s banner discussion is the percentage of people with an ad blocker installed.

In 1978, Gary Thuerk sent the first unsolicited email to a whopping 400 people. The result? He successfully drove attendance to two in-person events and ultimately closed more than $10 million in sales. Today’s unsolicited marketing email to 400 people wouldn’t be expected to get a single webinar attendee!

Over the last 16 months, organic reach of brand posts on Facebook dropped from 26% to just 7.8%. That’s 70% shaved from the results of your Facebook efforts just for getting started 16 months later!

The story is the always the same. Twitter. Online video. Google AdWords. Blogging. Infographics. Native Ads. The marketers who get in early are the ones with the headline-making results.

Find Your Opportunities

What can we learn from these and other early adopters who captured outsized returns?

  • Innovate. AT&T took advantage of a brand new type of opportunity on HotWired. More recently, SAP was the first marketer to join the Forbes BrandVoice program and they are continuing to see some of the best results today.
  • Know the trend setters and early adopters in your market. Just like Gary’s first email blast, Pinterest delivered astounding results for early adopters. Often the best opportunities are right in front of you—you just need to see them through a marketing lens.
  • Be different. Did you already miss the best opportunity? Whatever you do, don’t just follow the masses! The unexpected nature of something completely new breaks through the filters we have all established for marketing. For a bit of inspiration in a stodgy B2B space, look up Maersk on Facebook. Or if you prefer, consider Red Bull’s marketing.

The Lasting Advantages

The early mover advantage doesn’t end there. The benefits of starting early often continue long past the point a marketing activity becomes mainstream.

  • In social media, marketers that started early had a head start building an engaged audience.
  • In content marketing, early adopters learned how to connect with their audience effectively (and got a head start on SEO as well).
  • In online advertising, early movers found the hidden gems. Working with a B2B advertising client about 10 years ago, we helped a niche site create their online ad offering. They became one of our best performing advertising partners for years.

Do you want your share of the results that you always see in case studies but so rarely achieve? Then stop chasing the results other people are getting and start finding your own opportunities.

By the time something is broadly recognized as the next great opportunity, it’s really just table stakes.

Here are some of the areas I’m watching with a marketing, not just product and marketplace, lens:

  • The sharing economy.
  • The Internet of things.
  • The proliferation of inexpensive sensors.
  • The brand new insights, segmentation, personalization and (most importantly) services this information and connectivity enables.

Today, these are becoming things we market. Soon, some will likely become ways that we market as well.

Where do you see potentially uncharted and untapped opportunity for today’s innovative marketers?

Eric WittlakeEric Wittlake spends his days working with B2B marketers and shares his marketing views on his personal blog, B2B Digital Marketing. You can find him on Twitter (@wittlake) when he isn’t spending time with his three young boys.

Top photo credit: Leon Fishman via Flickr cc

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  • John Dietrich

    Really enjoyed this article! Makes a lot of sense. What do you think of the new Google +Post Ads?

  • michaelbrenner

    Brilliant post Eric! Just brilliant. Thanks for the mention and for the always-inspired prose!

  • Thanks John! I haven’t had the chance to test the +post ads, but I like the idea and the desktop execution. The ads don’t look more like a social module than an ad. At least for the moment, that difference will be noticable (although once we get used to them, our banner blindness WILL update, definitely an early mover advantage here).

    I have some reservations though about the samples I’ve seen on mobile. They just look like an ad, it doesn’t seem to capture enough of what makes +post ads new and different.

    For marketers using online display and that are active and seeing at least moderate engagement on G+, this is the time to jump in and test it!

  • Wow, thanks Michael!!

  • tracibrowne

    Love it Eric. However there is a downside to being first and also really good at it. Your numbers are inevitably trashed when you’re used as an example of great marketing in a marketing post. Suddenly you’re getting a ton of traffic and are being included in thousands of marketing conference power points and slide-shares. The upside is, if you’re name is attached to the brilliance you can always go into a high paying consulting gig.

  • Eric, I’ve bookmarked your take on “marketing” opportunities to continue learning from you. Thank you!

  • John Dietrich

    I did a short review of the +Post Ads awhile back: http://gplusgeek.com/google-plus-new-post-ads-display-advertising/ I haven’t seen these on mobile, but seems to me that being interactive brings some value even on mobile.

    That is to say because these ads can be interacted with directly, rather than having to click through to a post, they are quite different even though they may look the same on mobile.

    I guess the question now is will people care about the difference. Hope this comes out of closed beta soon!

  • Patricia Haag

    Really great post, Eric. Thanks for including tips on how to keep up with trends. One question: What do you mean by “inexpensive sensors”? I don’t know what those are.

  • To me this is a very important post, thank you Eric. I am watching all these areas with particular focus right now on the Sharing Economy and how it is going to impact how we are and will design things (products) and companies in the future.

    If products are part of the sharing economy, for example the bicycle sharing networks, with multiple users you are not going to be able to get away with designing substandard products that don’t last. You are going to need a simple user interfaces (even for bikes) with fast interchangeable parts when repair is needed…. so how do we apply this mindset to Architectural Design….. stay tuned.

  • Martin Farr

    Mark – I enjoy reading your posts and have shared several but must say I when I copy & paste your title and get the extra link I find it not only annoying but quite SPAMMY. Do you think this is worthwhile after doing a cost/benefit analysis? See more at: https://www.businessesgrow.com/2014/02/05/hottest-marketing/?utm_content=buffer56339&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=buffer&utm_campaign=buffer#sthash.JeB1ffUs.dpuf

  • I think what you are referring to is a plug-in my tech person added to try to disrupt spammers and the many people who copy my content for nefarious purposes. I had not thought about it being annoying to people so that is good feedback. I will talk to her about the cost versus benefit. Thank you very much for the feedback!

  • Love it, thanks Traci! I’d counter that, if you are that successful, the extra traffic from marketers isn’t going to throw you numbers that much and it is going to give you a big advantage when it comes to recruiting additional marketers! 🙂

  • Glad it was helpful, thank you for commenting!

  • Sure. Today we have more sensors collecting information in products, from things like the Nike Fuelband to more sensors in cars or appliances to sensors in our homes (Nest). All of these sensors gather and make information available to us that we haven’t had broad access to at scale before.

    As marketers, the people we are marketing too today will soon have access to this kind of information. How do we encourage them to share some of that information with us? How do we use it to help them make better choices? How do we determine who our best potential prospects are, based on this type of information? How do we help them collect information that will help them to understand the difference our solution will make?

    I don’t have the answers (for sure!) but I definitely see this as one of the drivers of a huge change in the types of information we have available and I know we will find applications for that information in marketing. And yes, I think the ones that get into this early will both have the benefit of something different and will come to understand it and, for the first few years, will be the ones that find a disproportionate share of the new opportunities within this space.

  • tracibrowne

    too true Eric…I dream of working with Maersk and have fallen in love with container ships. I’ve been guilty of using them as an example of sexy b2b marketing in many presentations.

  • I’m tuned and look forward to hearing about it!

  • Hi John, I agree being interactive brings value, but the mobile display doesn’t really make it clear that it is interactive. I think that is the missed opportunity.

    Then again, it is pretty early stage and definitely will still change. Someone that jumps into the beta now will have a lot more opportunity to influence it.

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  • Patricia Haag

    Eric – Thanks for the clarification. I see what you mean about all of the data being collected by our own gadgets these days.

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  • Chris Conner

    Thanks Eric. Your post gives courage to those looking at new opportunities as risky and uncertain. If we think about marketing plans like an investment portfolio, we can allocate some of our resources to trying new tactics. I’m keeping an eye on Hangouts on Air. I hope I’m not too late.

    Thanks also for the Maersk link. In addition to showcasing great B2B content, you have fed my fantasy of captaining a container ship!

  • Captaining a container ship, wow! I definitely agree, keeping a test budget is key, and not just using it to test a few new keywords or a new partner. Use that to test things that really are new initiatives to your organization. If your test idea doesn’t make anyone nervous, either you are at an awesome progressive company or you probably are playing it a bit too safe…

  • You’re damn right, Eric, as always. But it would be foolish for
    marketers to be looking for the “hottest opportunity”. You know the
    feeling when you think you’ve come up with something original, only to
    find out that about 500,000 other people thought about it before you?
    Sadly, that’s what we’re most often up against.

    So, instead of
    the silver bullet, I would advocate what I’ve sometimes called “4×4
    marketing”. It’s not flashy, it’s got dents and scratches all over, it
    advances slowly, but it WILL get you there in the end. Original content,
    direct mail, customer service, WIIFM approach, and so on. Oh, and do

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