The End of an Era, and A New Adventure

Five years ago when I started [meta]marketer, the words “marketing” and “analytics” didn’t hang out together in public all that often. They were uttered side-by-side by only a very small circle of idealistic geeks. I know because I was one of them. A vocal minority of us, at conferences, in interviews, and in written publications, presented a clear and consistent argument for strategic use of data as a means to improved profitability.

Over the next few years, the industry began to sit up and take notice. The ability to mine data for insights, learn about customer behavior, and refine strategy accordingly was compelling, although the execution often proved challenging. Still, data use has grown and more companies are using data to make marketing decisions.

How well companies use that data is another question. We have always stood on the side of responsible data use. We’ve always advocated empathy for the customer experience. “Relevance is a form of respect” is a [meta]marketer core value and catchphrase, as is “analytics are people.” I’m proud that we have always been a champion of humanity in an increasingly data-driven and digitized world.

As we now approach our fifth anniversary, a lot has changed. More companies are offering tools, more firms are offering consulting in this arena, more voices are advocating good sense about how companies work with customer data.

It is partly with this evolution in mind that I announce that I am closing [meta]marketer to pursue new adventures. We enjoyed a five-year run as an industry thought leader and we helped disrupt the marketing status quo by bringing both data accountability and customer centricity to the forefront. We’ve survived many changes and obstacles, but we all now have bigger opportunities outside of the company’s focus. We’ve developed a thorough transition plan for existing clients, and our staff will be given ample assistance in transitioning to new roles. (If your company would be a good fit for any of them, feel free to reach out to them or to me on their behalf, but do it quickly! They’re awesome, and they’ll be snapped up fast.)

For myself, I am forming a new holding company (KO Insights) encompassing several passions and projects:

Public speaking. I have so enjoyed being a voice for strategic, customer-centric, disciplined, data-validated marketing, and I will continue to do so. But in addition my experiences as an entrepreneur, mentor, commentator, and consultant – not to mention my personal life experiences – have afforded me much broader perspective and I am eager to fold that into my message as well. I will be exploring opportunities to speak professionally to audiences large and small about pattern recognition, integrative systems and strategy, and especially about meaningful experiences, both in business and in life.

Writing. I have been writing two books, and will focus on finishing and promoting those, as well as additional professional writing projects.

A forthcoming content project. This is still in development and under wraps, but it is perhaps the project I’m most excited about right now.

Taking on select consulting clients. I still have a personal passion for helping companies make smart strategic decisions about their relationships with their customers. I enjoy the privilege of meeting with companies, understanding their approach, and helping provide clarity and direction. It’s a genuine thrill for me when I watch the dots connect for my clients as we solve problems together.

I’d love to hear from you if you have an event or group you’d like me to speak for, and by all means contact me if your company has consulting needs I can help with. I’m looking forward to meeting more people, helping more companies, and doing more of what I love. I’m also looking forward to seeing my team succeed in their next ventures, and watching this whole space evolve further. It’s been an amazing five-year adventure, and I know the next adventures are going to be just as exciting. If you’re interested in keeping up with my updates, I would love it if you “liked” my speaker/writer/consultant page on Facebook.

Thank you for your support over the years and for being with us on the next steps.

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The clues are there if you look for them.

If there’s anyone who understands the importance of data and analytics, it’s Sherlock Holmes. He’s able to construct incredibly intricate and virtually accurate narratives about individuals derived from the most subtle and nuanced clues of their behavior. Take a look at the clip below.

What if we told you that you could do the same thing when it comes to understanding your customers; crafting narratives of consumer digital behavior for customer segmentation? Because you can.

Understanding your customers’ motivations and needs starts with the subtle clues and nuanced digital behavior found in your website’s data and analytic reports. But data’s just information without analysis. It’s the creative process of analysis that derives meaningful narratives from the data, informing the segmentation of your target audience.

One of our #marketingheroes Seth Godin once said, “Don’t find customers for your products; find products for your customers.” That’s a great place to start in thinking through this process on a pragmatic level.

  • Finding customers for your products is pretty much synonymous with promotion-based marketing. It looks for anyone and everyone that might buy-in. Sure, it can work, but it’s definitely not the most effective approach, or efficient.
  • Finding products for your customers, however, requires a level of empathy. Knowing your customers is more than knowing their broad demographic information. It’s having a clear understanding of their individual motivations and personal needs. Constructing those narratives allows you to effectively and efficiently target your marketing efforts: getting the right content, to the right people, at the right time.

It’s kind of like peddling a pack of spearmint gum. Sure, a lot of people chew gum, but exactly who are these people chewing gum and what are their needs, or their motivations for chewing gum? For example, you might have a hyper-aware individual that doesn’t want to have bad breath. You might have the “I don’t have time to brush my teeth person.” Or maybe the, “I really like spicy food for lunch” business professional. These are just a few examples, but already with this kind of information, your marketing efforts, messages and targeting can become more specific, smarter and more effective.

So next time you’re evaluating your data and analytic reports, just pretend you’re Sherlock Holmes. Be on the lookout for those clues that can inform meaningful narratives for greater marketing effectiveness. The clues are there if you know what to look for.

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What Maxwell Smart teaches us about smarter website architecture.

When we talk about website architecture that’s focuses on the customer, you’ll often hear us say that every page is a landing page. It’s a guiding principle of marketing effectiveness, informed by the non-linear characteristics of consumer behavior. Just because something works on one page for one person doesn’t mean it’ll work on another.

Think of it like rebooting a television series.

At the peak of his career in 1965, Mel Brooks created a show about a bumbling secret agent, called Get Smart. It was definitely a product of its time, hilarious and incredibly loved while it aired.

Then came the reboot.

And we’re not talking about the 2008 film version starring Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway. No, this one is much worse.

In 1995, FOX premiered a reboot of Get Smart starring the original cast members Don Adams, as Maxwell Smart and Barbara Feldon as Agent 99. On paper it sounds really great and it actually worked when they reprised their roles for a 1989 TV movie, but the series in 1995… flopped. Big time.

Maybe it was because Don Adams and Barbara Feldon basically functioned as a backdrop for Andy Dick, who played their son. Maybe it was the awkward attempts to sexualize the humor for a 1990’s audience. Or it could have just been the timing of it.

The series only lasted for seven episodes.

Which, would you believe, brings us back to website architecture. Much like a television series, you want each page and each version of your content to perform effectively across your website.

That’s why we like to test and retest everything.

Treating every page as a landing page ensures that each page is optimized for its intended audience, operating effectively and that none of them are a flop. So you never have to say “missed it by that much.”

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Is Peter Gabriel secretly a Tao Master of Marketing?


Peter Gabriel is a marketing hero of ours. If you’re too young to have heard of him, his song is the one that plays when Lloyd Dobler holds the boom-box over his head in that iconic scene in the movie Say Anything. He also used to be the lead singer for Genesis (we’re talking pre-Phil Collins days, when Phil was basically just the drummer).

In 1976, Gabriel left the band for a variety of reasons. In 1977, he released a self-titled solo-album featuring the song “Solsbury Hill” which is widely interpreted as a personal reflection on his departure from the band.

It was a pretty solid hit when it came out, but instead of just sticking to what worked initially, Gabriel is constantly testing and retesting the song– letting it evolve with every iteration– like a microcosm of marketing effectiveness.

You might even say that Peter Gabriel’s entire career could be a read as a roadmap of scalability and sophistication.

It’s like he’s able to hold onto what’s good, but still be free enough to let it go so that it can grow into something better, and even into something a little different. And it’s all intentional.

If there was a “Tao of Marketing Effectiveness” this would be in it.

Peter Gabriel’s latest album drops today, “Scratch My Back… And I’ll Scratch Yours.” It’s a two-disc collection of covers: songs by other artists that Gabriel covered and songs of his that other artists covered, including a cover of “Solsbury Hill” by the late Lou Reed.

We expect it’ll be worth a listen. We also expect to be inspired to iterate and improve on what already works, even if it works well.

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Effectiveness vs. Efficiency, Or The Charlie Chaplin Dilemma

CNN recently ran an article on the perfectionist directorial tendencies of the great Charlie Chaplin. In what the article promotes as “new, behind-the-scenes footage” released on the remastered City Lights Blu-Ray, fans are able to catch a behind the scenes glimpse of a cinema master’s seemingly meticulous methodology.

“Chaplin rehearsed on film — he’d try out an idea and do it over and over again,” explained Mehran. “And since he was the director, he couldn’t see his performance so he had to record it.”

Chaplin’s work endures and was incredibly popular during his own time as well as ours. There’s no argument that his methods were highly effective. But they don’t really seem like most efficient way to actually go about doing things.

In the behind the scenes footage, for example, we learn that Chaplin had one of his actresses run through 342 takes, just to perfect a single scene.

342 is a lot of takes. It’s a lot of time and it’s definitely a lot of film. It seems like a lot of everything was expended in his process to arrive at the finished product.

Marketers commonly use processes and methodologies that, with enough time, money, and wherewithal, can lead to effective results, but which can hardly be called efficient. Efficiency happens when you take what is effective and make it less wasteful. When you figure out to get to effective results after only 200 takes. And then only 100. Efficiency relies on iteration.

It takes a willingness to move beyond someone or something that’s been proven effective; it’s an aspiration for something more than emulation and that status-quo.

The transition starts with one simple question, “How can we do this better?”

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