A Change in Perspective is in Order

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“I read a most interesting article about Big Data recently sir, passed on via Twitter by another business consultant,” I declared, beginning the latest conversation between The Effective Detective, and yours truly, Watson, his “virtual” (literally) assistant.

“I take it by the tone, you wish for me to read and comment upon said article,” replied The Detective. “Very well, please provide the link.”

“As you wish, sir: http://www.marketingprofs.com/charts/2013/9904/marketers-upping-the-ante-on-big-data-in-2013

I waited patiently while The Detective perused the article, curious to see his reaction. It did not take long, and he did not disappoint.

“Thank you Watson. I have rarely seen such a collection of well-meaning, well thought out, well researched, but largely useless words and charts in my career,” The Detective stated, giving me that slight smile that indicated he was both amused, and open to further discussion.

While I am used to The Detective’s somewhat caustic reactions to things that he does not see eye-to-eye on I was still taken a little aback by his reaction to what I thought had quite a bit of relevance to both our business and those of our clients. “I am not quite sure I understand your reaction sir,” I finally managed to splutter.

“Tut-tut Watson, you obviously referred me to this piece thinking it good news for us as marketers, since we deal in data, and also good news for our clients and readers as it gave some new avenues to pursue, and because the marketing tribe seems to be following the trend, it validates action in that direction. That the data is correct and well presented is not the issue,” The Detective both showed he understood my thinking, but letting me know that he saw a flaw. One that he was doubtless about to educate me on.

“And just what would the issue be, sir?” I asked, to move the conversation along.

The Detective paused, took a deep breath, then started in on his explanation.

“Watson, the issue is simple. Marketing-techno-babble like: ‘Companies are also starting to realize the need for real-time customer data flows to drive more personalized marketing campaigns’ is not only useless to the average small or medium business, it is dangerous. Reports such as these are done on, and for the most part aimed at, larger companies. How do you think a smaller organization feels when confronted with the text and graphs shown in this article?”

“I would tend to guess, inadequate to a degree. They most likely do not have the resources to pursue such projects, so they would tend to ignore the concepts discussed,” I answered.

“I could not have said it better myself Watson! When the use of data is presented in this manner, smaller concerns tend to turn away. They believe since they couldn’t possibly execute the kind of programs that are implied here, data analysis is only for larger businesses. Of course we know that nothing could be further from the truth!

“Every business of virtually any size, has data flowing in. Big Data is a misused term. Unfortunately, writing about simple databases and segmenting customer data across a few categories is not something most of these information sources wish to write about.  They wish to talk about Big Data in reference to the volume of data, when actually it can just as easily refer to the impact even a relatively small amount of data can have on a business,” The Detective summed up.

“Big things can still come in small packages, sir?” I said, not being able to resist the temptation.

“And you accuse me of being corny on occasion Watson? Nevertheless, I concur. It just depends on your perspective. Back to business now,” The Detective responded with a sideways look.

A King Needs a Queen

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Image courtesy of podpad / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I had a burning question to ask The Effective Detective, so I took the initiative to open the conversation. “Sir, I have noticed you have a propensity lately to sigh when you hear the phrase ‘Content is King’. Is there a particular reason for this?”

“I see that your observation skills continue to evolve in a most positive direction Watson,” The Detective answered. “And yes, I would say that I have begun to feel a sense of melancholy when that phrase is bandied about,” he finished heavily.

“I’m confused sir, don’t you advise most stridently that business people need to make useful content the priority in their marketing?” I asked, puzzled at his answer.

“Yes, and I still insist that content is key, Watson. However, I have noticed a propensity among our marketing brethren to spew content randomly as if the entire world could benefit. It may be excellent content, but it is being randomly spewed nonetheless, and that is causing a couple of problems,” The Detective’s voice began to get more animated, a sure sign he was warming to his topic.

“What would those problems be, sir?” I asked, cutting to the chase.

“First, it creates a type of ‘the boy who cried wolf’ scenario. You asked for your audience’s attention by claiming you had something to say that was important and relevant to them. If your audience is then given a steady stream of messages that are frequently not truly relevant to them, or worse, is all about the author instead of his or hers audience – which by the by is most certainly NOT excellent content, then when one does happen to hit the right topic, you have already been tuned out. No one is listening to you anymore, you squandered the trust you were given,” The Detective explained.

“Not to be impolite sir, but if someone wants to gum things up for themselves why is that an issue for anyone else?” I responded to his explanation.

“Ah Watson, an excellent question. That is the second problem. You see, it is an issue for all others because it creates a sense of distrust  of all of us that are trying to deliver content. We are all painted with the same brush, fairly or unfairly. It diminishes our sign up  and open rates because visitors begin to assume that you will bombard them with useless messages just like others. While there is nothing we can do to prevent others from sending irrelevant content, we can avoid it ourselves by remembering a simple truism.”

The Detective paused, prompting me to encourage him to continue. “And what would that be sir?”

“It is quite simple Watson: If content is King, then The Target must be Queen.”

“Corny, but effective sir.”

“Quite so, Watson.”

Swinging for the Fences

The Case of the Opportune Observation

“Sir, I have an observation I would like to get your opinion on,” I began today’s conversation.

“Quite Watson, and what would that observation be?” asked The Detective.

“It would seem that the conventional wisdom today is that one should ‘swing for the fences’ every time you attempt something,” I stated.

“A baseball metaphor Watson? How interesting,'” observed The Detective.

“I admit to some difficulty in selecting an appropriate metaphor for what I am observing. It appears to be this feeling that you should be trying to hit a home run every time you step up to the plate, if I can be forgiven for extending the baseball metaphor,” I replied, perhaps a bit sheepishly.

“Actually, I believe the metaphor to be most apt, Watson,” The Detective assured me.  “It is that belief that prevents a large number of small business people from attempting more simple programs that while not bringing in the kind of results that say a well thought out, expertly written, and executed direct mail campaign to ten or twenty thousand prospects would, might still have respectable returns. What these business people see instead is the need to ‘hit a home run’ and they are terrified to risk it because, ‘what if they get it wrong?’. Frankly, seeing the state of a lot of marketing pieces these days, I would say they are right to be terrified,”  pausing only for a second before continuing on.

“Let me tell you a story about my distant childhood, Watson.”

“I’m not sure that is necessary,” I objected, not sure where this was going to lead.

“Poppycock! Of course it is necessary,” The Detective corrected me, “I shall get to the point directly, if that is what you are afraid of Watson.”

At this point I felt the better part of valor was retreat, so I asked him to continue.

“When I was a young lad, I played baseball. I was probably the smallest person on the team, and not very strong, yet I was always assigned to bat first in the line-up. Can you guess why Watson?” The Detective asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Actually, no sir, I cannot imagine.” I answered, figuring this would be the fastest way to the answer.

“Because, Watson, whilst I was physically incapable of hitting a home run, I was very good at hitting singles. Simply put, I got on base a lot. If I was on base, than obviously I had a much greater chance to score than if I was not. If I had spent my every at-bat  ‘swinging for the fences’ I would never have hit a home run, and probably rarely gotten on base.

“As a small business you most likely will not have a huge budget for marketing – not a lot of strength to hit those home runs that bring in gobs of prospects. But even with a small budget, you can get on base. You can get some prospects to engage, to begin a relationship, and hopefully to, at the risk of a double entendre, eventually score;  to do business with them. Certainly a greater percentage than if you do nothing due to fear of risking a large lump sum. The point is to do something intelligent with the resources that you have,” The Detective concluded.

“A nice summing up of the metaphor sir, ” I responded.

“Thank you Watson, shall we move on?” said The Detective, closing the discussion.

 

A Tactic Gone Wrong

The Mystery of The Narcissistic Newsletter

The Effective Detective was staring at his laptop screen with a look on his face that I knew all too well. His brow was furrowed and his lips pursed as if he had eaten something sour. This did not bode well for our conversation.

“Sir? I am almost afraid to ask what it is you are reviewing.” I ventured, knowing I could not escape so may as well just take the plunge.

“Ah Watson,” The Detective replied,  continuing to stare at the screen, but allowing his brow to loosen a bit and his lips form a slight smile; signs that he was winding up for a lesson. “You are just in time to relieve my frustration before it reached a boiling point.”

“Happy to help sir, and just what is the source of your frustration?” I asked,  feeling slightly more comfortable that the following discussion would be at least relatively calm.

“We’ve discussed tactics versus strategy before, Watson, and you know how my blood pressure rises when I see them done in the wrong order,” the Detective began. “But almost equally capable of producing a headache inducing rise is when they are done in the right order, but the tactic is executed completely wrong.”

“Is there a particular tactic which you are thinking of sir?” I prompted, hoping that the calm would remain.

“Newsletters, Watson, newsletters! An excellent tool to communicate content on a regular basis, but with less pressure than producing multiple presentations during a week such as what we endeavor to do here. However, there is a temptation with such things to stray off into the realm of self-absorption.”

“Sir?”

“Talking about oneself Watson! Regaling the reader with where you will be appearing, things you have accomplished, new products you have, or will be shortly releasing. What might be interesting for you (in a self-important way) or possibly to some readers that are close to you, for the vast majority of your readers will border on the boring. If there is one sin you should not commit in marketing, like speaking, it is to be boring.

“But more importantly Watson, the main reason most people will read a newsletter is that they are receiving information that has value to them, although I suppose they could also perceive value in being entertained. Unfortunately, someone talking about their own or their company’s latest accomplishments tends to provide neither of those. If you are going to go to the trouble of producing a newsletter type piece, and perhaps the expense if you produce a hard-copy, then make it valuable to your reader! Provide useful content! After all, you are asking for the most precious thing they have: their time,” finished The Detective with his characteristic flourish.

“But sir, is there no place to share a personal victory or anecdote?” I protested, but quietly.

“Of course Watson, but include it last or sandwich it between useful content. I suppose there might be people interested in such things besides friends and close relations,” admitted The Detective.

“I believe there is room for both, sir.”

“I will concede the point, Watson, let us move on,” said The Detective, ending the discussion.

 

yes, but…

building the road, and maybe some towns along the way

“One in a million” Seth brings up that if you dream REALLY big (e.g., becoming first violin for the Boston Philharmonic) your odds of achieving that goal are actually pretty small – say, one in a million. However, if the steps along the path prepare you for other outcomes or take you down other interesting paths, achieving the goal or not becomes a lot less important. So determining the steps of the path first not only allows you to plow through where you know you will be using a strength and adjust accordingly when the path will exercise a vulnerability, but you can also set the steps up to enhance your current status (if nothing else), and/or create a multitude of paths that you can follow if the “one in a million” shot starts to look more like the million than the one. Read Seth’s whole post, I think you will see the wisdom in what he says, and how the opportunities you can create can result in a huge bonus when breaking down your goals and dreams into manageable steps (The third key to effectiveness – building the road one step at a time).
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