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.


People Don’t Want to Buy Your Product

They Want to Buy a Better Version of Themselves..

One of the most difficult things for business owners to get a handle on is the true perspective of the needs and desires their clients or customers.  Because we spend so much time working on, perfecting and promoting our products or services – over time we get caught up in how awesome our product is rather than how awesome the client will be once he’s used it.

Reputation Management

All marketing communications should focus on showing the prospect the better version of himself he secretly desires.

Instead of talking about the specs, features, details, delivery, etc. of the product, you should paint a picture of how those specs and features will give them the outcome they want – from using your product or service.

Most successful high-end products are marketed this way.  Those who market these products understand that if they can tap into how a person will feel after or while using the product, the price becomes a secondary consideration.

If they instead focus on specs and features alone, their product becomes a commodity and price becomes the main consideration.

Take a simple high-end product like Starbucks coffee – of course people like the way it tastes, but if that were the only reason, the price would be similar to McDonalds or Dunkin Doughnuts coffee.

Because Starbucks offers the buyer a way to feel better, look better, or fit in – they can charge a premium for what has been historically nearly a free product.

More Isn’t Better, Better is Better

Lead Generation Isn't Only About Volume..

I find it interesting as I begin evaluating prospective clients how infatuated they are with a single metric in their lead generation – volume.  Search volume, click volume, impressions, number of calls – whatever it is they watch it like a hawk and sadly make a lot of decisions based on it alone.

lead generation

I think it comes from the common idea that marketing is a numbers game – so if you want more sales, you simply pump up the volume of impressions, clicks, calls, etc. and eventually a certain number of conversions will take place.

While that may be true to a certain extent, a few highly qualified, highly interested leads  are way more valuable than thousands of unqualified leads that you have to wade through over and over until you find the one that may be in them.

Volume is one of those things that can be seductive.  It makes you feel like there is something going on, that you are making progress, or that whoever is making your phone ring is doing a good job.  It also gives you hope because if there is a high volume someone has to convert soon.

But the problem is, while it is an important metric, it is the wrong metric to measure to determine the success of any campaign. (more…)

The Unlimited Traffic Technique – A Real Life Case Study in Google AdWords

Unlimited traffic?  It sounds like a pipe dream or only a theoretical concept, but in fact it is not only an actual possibility – it will always happen in any online market when someone does a few simple things just a little better than their competition.

google adwords

On the internet, things operate on 90/10 vs. 80/20

When it comes to traffic, 90% of advertisers a fighting over scraps – the traffic left over after the 10% takes their share.  This is why most Google AdWords management companies measure their success by reducing the average cost per click and cost per conversion for their clients month after month.

When you’re on the 90% side of things, you have to worry endlessly about reducing cost per click, cost per conversion, and every way possible to take as much money out of the process as possible.

When you’re on the 10% side of things, your goal is to be able to afford to spend more than your competitors and put as much back into the process as possible.

I know this sounds bass-ackwards, and even blasphemous to a lot of ad management companies – but keep with me, and I’ll explain how it works – and why. (more…)

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…)

Social Media Marketing

There are now almost as many social media “experts” as there are people using social media. But how does someone go from being an expert in real estate law, or multilevel marketing, to social media pro? Just because someone is good at using the medium doesn’t mean they’re good at making it work.

Here’s why.  In one key aspect, social media marketing mirrors ever other effort to grow your business that came before it.

It is STILL marketing.

Which means marketing pros will produce the best results.  I’ve seen this in other marketing mediums as well.  Video for example.  There are plenty of people who can create a video. The technical ability to crank out a video isn’t enough. The hard part is knowing how to create it, craft it, and polish it in a way that it achieves something other than taking up space on a page.  All marketing efforts should be able to move people to action.  

Social media is no different.

Too many businesses jump on the band wagon and start spewing stuff out there.  They try and tackle as many social media platforms as they can with the idea that more is better.  The problem is, it’s nearly impossible to really communicate with people when you’re just trying to get something out there.

Inevitably interest dwindles, time is taken by other important matters, and it all just dies.  Then the question you are putting into the minds of those who stumble upon the numerous links to your social media assets is “are they still in business? are they doing ok? what happened?”

Having social media accounts that are old, stale, abandoned and forgotten has exactly the same outcome as an active marketing campaign purposefully designed by your competitors to call into question your ability to do whatever you do.

Even in the best cases, those who do keep up with the demand of social media marketing by regularly posting fresh content and interacting with their followers – end up with uninteresting, forced and robotic sounding interaction which also communicates to their readers a feeling of fakeness and the disconnect of a corporate drone.

But it doesn’t have to be this way at all.

By purposefully planning and carefully choosing which social media avenues makes sense, and most importantly integrating it as just another medium for marketing, businesses can really connect with their fans, readers, and followers in a way that all of their traditional marketing should already do.

I think the most important thing is to look at social media marketing as what it is – marketing, and not give in to the idea that since it’s a “new thing” that somehow the regular old rules of marketing don’t apply.

Avoid the mistake of assigning your social media efforts to someone just because they are Facebook fanatics or Pinterest junkies.

Just by remembering that social media marketing is still marketing will help you put it in it’s proper place in your efforts to grow your business.

Reputation Marketing

They days of looking up a business address or telephone number in phone books are over.  A testament to that fact is the number of phone books left in piles on doorsteps, racks in the free publication section of convenient stores, and the fact that you yourself probably haven’t opened one in ages – unless its to check the advertisement for your own business.

The availability of up to date information online has been a valuable resource for consumers, but for many businesses it can be a killer.  Why? because along with the business listing, name, address, telephone number comes a new friend or foe – reviews.

Reviews are extremely important to business owner because they communicate to the prospective customer how well he does in the consumers eyes compared to his competitors. If your reviews are positive, then great! You’ll want more of them than your competitors.  But, if you have poor reviews or even harsh negative reviews it becomes even more important that your satisfied customers or clients review their experiences online.

Unfortunately it is human nature to take action only when we’re dissatisfied rather than when we’re pleased, thus the bulk of reviews for any given business tend to be of the negative kind – not to mention negative reviews fabricated by your competitors, activists, or disgruntled employees.


This is where reputation marketing comes in.

Reputation marketing is simply a defined plan and system to market your true reputation online.

The key distinction between reputation marketing and reputation management is that reputation marketing is primarily a plan and system to promote the positive views and reviews of your satisfied customers or clients, whereas reputation management is historically aimed at flooding the internet with your marketing messages and assets to combat the negative results that appear in the search engine results for your name, your company name, or brand.

See the difference?  One is promoting your customer’s views and reviews, while the other is promoting your own marketing messages.

72% of buyers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations


Since most people who leave reviews will always be the unhappy kind, it’s extremely important to have a system in place to ethically encourage and assist happy customers and clients to share their positive experiences with prospective customers on the internet.

Left to chance, you’ll see a negative to positive ratio of reviews for your company at about 9 to 1 – and that’s just based on those from real customers, not competitors, disgruntled employees or activists who wish to harm your business and reputation.

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.

Ranking algorithms are way more complex than ever – more data inputs, more quality checks, more subtlety.  SEO is no longer about links you build, or the content you create – it’s about what is earned through true value creation and interaction with the community.  It’s no longer useful (in fact it is damaging) to robotically create content, links, and posts that nobody cares about – in the hopes that the search engines will be fooled into ranking your pages.

Real, true and natural interaction with the community or market has always been the best way to go because while you can sometimes fool the machines, you can rarely fool the people – and now, the machines are smarter than you think they are.

There are no shortcuts, and if you are using dated tactics and techniques that seem to be working – just wait, they will soon be a boat anchor around your neck pulling you and your pages into the depths of obscurity.

Rand Fishkin’s presentation from 500 Startups.

“For every 1s in web page performance speed, Walmart experienced 2% conversion increase.”