I spent 15 years working in the online publishing industry. One of the last professional events I attended while still on the media was an IAB-affiliated event about the “future of media and advertising.” I recall one of the speakers ignoring the publishers in the room completely. He directed his remarks toward the vendors and big brand players in the room. His advice to them was “work toward a future where your organization produces content that is so good, you’ll put the Industry Trade Magazine in your market right out of business...”Since I worked for a big B2B trade publisher at the time, I found this idea kind of out there. But it definitely stuck with me.
One sure way to situate a movie scene in the mid-20th century is to stage a young man holding a wrench in the act of leaning over a car engine, happily tinkering. In those days, many of the processes going on under the hood of a car were accessible to anyone willing to get their hands greasy and spend some time. My last mechanic taught himself how to fix cars in Guatemala several decades ago. Even my mom used to have a little trick she would perform under the hood (you might call it easily reversible sabotage) that let her disabuse people of the notion that women are helpless around engines.By comparison, today’s automotive systems are much more complicated, much more opaque. It’s hard even to see what’s going on or how to approach repairs without sophisticated computer diagnostic gear.
Over the last couple of years we’ve heard a lot of noise about marketing becoming a “revenue center, instead of a cost center.” I first heard this particular soundbite in 2014, skillfully laid out by a very engaging and data-savvy presenter. I was attending one of those huge annual marketing conferences in Las Vegas. It was a great event -- I learned a ton. But there was also a pep rally feel to some of the keynote talks. While I, and many others, walked away with a new understanding of the Accountability Horizon that the digital marketing industry is moving toward, in retrospect our celebrating seems premature. It was as if someone shouted, “Hey, we’re Marketers -- in Las Vegas... Woo-hoo, we see the Digital Future! Let’s party like we’re already there!” And we did.The hangover has lasted three years.
How much of the money your company spends on advertising and marketing goes untracked? Or suboptimally tracked? Do you know? Does anyone in your organization actually know?The digital marketing industry is suddenly awash in new technologies that allow companies to optimize their marketing spend by refining attribution, to the point where each step along the customer journey (in somes cases including analog or offline touches) can be measured and assessed for their impact on revenue.But the best optimization and attribution tools in the world can’t help you derive real insight if the initial tracking data you used is messed up. Likewise, if the tracking data you’re using can’t be looked at holistically -- for example, if you can’t directly compare performance from one platform to another because your Facebook campaigns don’t use the same tracking conventions as your DCM campaigns...your ability to derive real insights for your organization is limited, at best.
When you’re in charge of the Library of Congress, there are probably all kinds of pressing practical concerns. Daniel J. Boorstin, twelfth Librarian of Congress, appears to have made time to consider the big picture as well. He is credited with this assertion: "the biggest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance -- it is the illusion of knowledge."Consider what this could mean for your analytics data and your business. If your analytics relies on legacy spreadsheets developed over the years in various departments, if the uploading of tracking codes and classification tables into your analytics tool is done by hand, if you find that your reports aren’t always capturing the data you want due to corruptions or mis-classifications of your campaign codes, then instead of knowledge about your business, you’re likely laboring under the illusion of knowledge. That’s why you have the sense that your reports aren’t giving you the whole story. That’s why you don’t feel you can trust them.
This past weekend, my 15-year-old was mowing the grass in our yard -- a Memorial Day tradition for generations of American teenagers. About half way through the job, the lawn mower died. It turns out he had used the wrong fuel for the engine. Though it was taken from a can that was sitting in the garage next to the mower, it was fuel that was intended for use in a chainsaw. Not only did using the wrong fuel cut short that day’s mowing -- it appears to have burned the motor out, permanently.The experience reminded me of the much-discussed challenge in marketing analytics of “garbage in, garbage out.” We are at a stage in the marketing automation revolution where we have a multitude of sophisticated tools. They can handle audience segmenting, attribution tracking, re-targeting and micro-targeting, allowing us to use consumers’ past behavior and preferences to predict their behavior to the finest level of detail and market to them just when they are at the point of considering a purchase.
I recently came across an idea that interested me in The Way to Design, by Steve Vassallo, award-winning designer and entrepreneur. He elaborated on a concept familiar to many engineers (and one that’s increasingly been adopted in the marketing world), that of “T-shaped” people, those who know a certain field very well and have enough understanding of adjacent disciplines to allow them to develop and launch products successfully. But Vassallo says that more is needed. In his words, “if you want to build enduring companies and really earn your seat at the table, I think you need to be π-shaped. That is, you need to have depth in both the creative and the analytical. Left- and right-brained. Empathetic and data-driven” (The Way to Design, Chapter 4). There may be certain people for whom developing strengths in more than one discipline comes easily: not just T-shaped, or even π-shaped -- picture a three-legged stool of talents. But for every person who finds this a breeze, there are probably many more people for whom one area of expertise is plenty. Given the value that such breadth can bring, Is there something that we can do in our organizations to help people get to the place where they have more than one leg to stand on?
Take a look here, to see what we’re reading and talking about. Some of the headlines:--Marketing Technology May Never Consolidate (But That's a Good Thing)Marketing technology has consolidated to the point where it looks like a pyramid: a few billion-dollar giants on top, dozens of $100 million firms at the next level, and thousands of companies with less revenue below that -- with that number increasing steadily. By revenue distribution, the industry is consolidating. But by number of firms, it's expanding: a common market structure in the digital age known as a "long tail." The result could be a market that is consolidated at the platform level, with diverse specialized products available to plug into those platforms.Ad Age(4/17/17)
Tracking First is hitting a growth spurt. Since the new year we’ve renewed six annual contracts and brought on three Global 500 clients, two financial services companies and one leisure and hospitality provider.We are actively seeking agency channel partners to help us develop a white label partnership model that will allow us to work seamlessly with other analytics consultants.
A friend of mine recently shared a post about what it’s like to work for one of the Super-Innovator companies: Google, Apple, etc. It’s a great read (you should check it out), but one paragraph in particular jumped out at me “At Netflix...there is no expense policy. The only policy is, ‘Act in the best interest of Netflix.’...They tell employees to assume their best judgment, and they can be more productive if they’re not held back.”Think about that for a minute. What would it be like to work for an organization that truly prioritizes innovation over cost controls? It means the company trusts and values their employees enough to empower them to act on their unique insights. Kinda makes me want to cry. Maybe you’re lucky enough to work for such an organization. In reality most companies, for one reason or another, can’t follow this model fully. Tracking First for example, is a lean, boot-strap startup. I hope we get to the point where innovation is our most advantageous use of funds. I expect it to be a while. If you’re not one of the lucky few who ends up working in a super-innovator culture, there are still guidelines you can use, to evaluate if the culture is a fit for you. Here’s what I watch out for: