The Pitfalls of Data Driven Marketing

An Example In Behavioral Health Marketing

I often hear techie marketers boast about how they are “data driven” so they don’t get caught up in the errors of human judgment – as if it is possible to make complex decisions based solely on what their computer model, formula or data shows them.

Dane Shakespear - Data Driven Marketing

The idea is seductive because with large data sets over a large period of time it is possible to predict patterns, narrow focus and eliminate waste by optimizing marketing efforts and budgets to the predictions of the data model.

But the catch is, it will always take a thinking person to figure out what the data means and how to apply it to real world actions.

Too many “data driven” marketers begin relying so much on what the data says, that they ignore glaringly obvious real world indicators that what the data tells them is incorrect, misinterpreted, or just wrong.

In general consumer markets with huge volumes of searches, transactions, and conversions along with a relatively few possible search phrases or keywords used to find the product – such as in the t-shirt market, it may be possible to see from the data that the majority of sales come from women between 18-35 during the months of March through June, using the keywords “cute tee shirts”, “cute sayings tee shirts”, and “cut t shirts women’s” – then confidently limit spend to women of that age, during those months, and for those keywords to reduce waste and increase ROI.

However, in high cost, low volume markets such as behavioral health services it doesn’t work that way.

This is because the overall volume of searches is low, the cost of clicks is extremely high, and spread over nearly 3,000 keyword variations used to search for a solution for a child’s issues.

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The 2 Most Important Functions of Business are Innovation & Marketing – All Others are Costs

More than 60 years ago, Peter Drucker dramatically influenced the foundations of the modern American corporation. His words are as true today as they were then – maybe even more in the digital age when we’re all more easily and directly involved with marketing our businesses.

Peter Drucker Quote - Dane Shakespear Marketing

One of his most significant and profound observations was that innovation and marketing are the two most important functions of business – all others are costs.

Business owners and entrepreneurs probably agree in principle, but few put this precept into practice. Surveys of businesses across the board reveal that the top priorities are usually finance, sales, production, management, legal and people.

Why is Drucker Right and Almost Everyone Else Wrong?

If a meeting is scheduled with the most important department heads in your business, who would have a seat at the table? Legal and sales would be there, the CFO certainly, perhaps the CIO and HR. Would the head of marketing or R&D get an invite? (more…)

Dear Ugly, Outdated, and Self-Made Websites…

I'm Sorry, This is you.

This is a great visual of how ugly, outdated, or self-made websites appear when they don’t measure up to just the basic expectations of the visitor.

website marketing

Yes, the creeper van does offer the same technical services as the school buses, but its presentation not only drives people away – it also recruits otherwise indifferent bystanders to warn others to stay clear.

The only reason I took a picture of it was because of how out of place it was in context of the regular school buses.

Is this for real?  Are they still in business?  Is this a scam? – All questions visitors have when something just doesn’t feel right.  Then they bounce.

Oh, if this is your van – I’m sorry, nothing personal.

A Statistical Correlation Does Not Necessarily Mean a Cause-Effect Relationship

One of the greatest aspects of digital marketing in comparison to traditional marketing methods is the amount of reliable data we can collect in a short period of time.

Marketing Statistics

Like no other marketing medium, we can track just about every aspect of every component of the ad and the people who respond to it.

This is great, but if we’re not careful this flood of data can cause us to draw incorrect conclusions to patterns and correlations we find in the data itself.

Here’s an example.

In 1924 a study conducted at Western Electric on employee productivity concluded that employees were more productive when they changed the lighting conditions.  Years later it was realized that the employees were more productive not necessarily because of the new lighting conditions, but because they new they were being observed during the study.

Another example often cited in statistics classes show the trends on a graph of annual murder rates and ice cream sales.  Both have identical seasonal curves on the graph – they correlate, but does this constitute a cause-effect relationship?  Of course not. (more…)

For Every Hour of Creating, Spend an Hour of Looking and Thinking

This is something I learned from years of working in other people’s businesses.  It’s so easy to take the default path in your marketing, your websites, your advertising.  That’s why so many industries and markets do everything the same.  They watch each other, they follow each other, they copy each other.

Think outisde the box

What results is a never ending cycle of sameness and usually a whole bunch of ventures and campaigns that don’t work.

The default path is the lazy path.  It is the quick and easy – the gamble.

I’ve watched many competitors each doing the same thing (that didn’t work) because everyone else is doing it.  And because each sees their competitors doing it, they persist – even if by their own calculations it is a failure and should be abandoned.

What they see is the appearance of success from the outside.   What they didn’t see was the internal meetings after the fact where the boss says “never do that again!” (more…)

The Temptation of Being Too Commercial

Diluting your business, product, your website, your marketing materials, etc. to make them appear more “commercial” will just make people like them less.

Photographing business owners

It seems to be the “default” mode of doing things for businesses trying to climb to the top. The thought is that “bigger is better”, so tremendous efforts are made to look big by copying the methods and styles of the big guys.

Website designers choose stock photos of professional, unrealistic looking people in a boardroom happily smiling and pointing to graph on the whiteboard that has nothing really to do with the business. They choose a stock photo of  high rise building  to represent their facilities when in reality they’re located somewhere in the suburbs. It goes on and on.

They are confused about the difference between looking professional and looking commercial, contrived, or institutional…

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Reputation Management

Everyone’s heard of reputation management.  The anonymous nature of the internet has been a blessing for those who want to express their opinions without fear of retribution, and a curse for individuals and business owners who do wrong in the sight of their customers or clients.

Anyone can post reviews, comments, and even create entire websites to try and manipulate the online reputation of a business or individual.  Some for good (meaning a positive effect to the reputation) and some for bad (a negative affect to the reputation.)

So how does anyone know the truth?  The answer is – you can’t.

When businesses or individuals are hit with negative reviews or negative search results for their names or brands they often turn to reputation management companies for help.  The idea is to have the company create tons of mini-sites, social media assets, blog posts, etc. throughout the internet and link them in a way that will cause them or other “good” pages to rank for the search term or name thereby “pushing down” the negative or harmful content in the search results where it is less likely to be seen.

Does it work? Yes, but isn’t just a bunch of keyword optimized, meaningless mini-sites and fake pages just adding to the “junk” that shows up in the search results?  It isn’t generally good content either – only content favorable to the subject.

It’s just noise, not information.  Trying to do it this way is like trying to yell louder than the opposition – yelling anything, just louder.

There is a better way to do reputation management.

One that not only helps the problem it doesn’t call your credibility into question.

First, if you’ve done something wrong own up to it.  Fix it.  Fix the people, the process, the situation that caused it in the first place.  Hiding behind the noise doesn’t make the problem go away, it only hides it.  If you don’t do this you can count on a never ending cycle of noise generation.

Second, if you want your search results to be positive you are better off showing the world the real version of what’s going on in your business, not a bunch of meaningless pages of noise.   Real photos, real reviews, real interviews, real people – real.

Everyone wants a shortcut so they throw easy junk out there.

Unless you have nothing of merit to show or tell about, it’s much easier to show off the truth about your business than it is to make it up.  Not only that, it’s maintainable.  Do it the other way and you’ll soon run out of combinations of things to post and promote.

If you truly care about your reputation or how you’re percieved online, it’s critical to do it right, do it well, do it consistently, and do it truthfully.  There are no shortcuts that have long term value.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint.