Drowning in Data: Using Data to Drive Marketing Truthfulness on the Internet

Facebook Brand MarketingI know what you’re thinking.

Holistic = healing with magnets and scented candles.

But hear me out: All of that business about positive energy
and body cleanses has given an effective approach a bad rap.

Adjective: Characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.

When you boil away all the syllables here, the idea itself
is pretty simple. The whole. Meaning: don’t overemphasize any one piece.

It’s impossible to know it all in the online marketing
space. The technology alone, leaving aside the tactics, can be overwhelming in

Still, a well-rounded strategy has definite benefits:

  • You
    don’t become dangerously reliant on a single source of traffic/business (quite
    a few businesses learned the hard way this year that relying on Google traffic
    alone is precarious).
  • You
    get to test and optimize for the venues and tactics that work best for your
  • Your
    ability to show up consistently in different places keeps you at the forefront
    of your prospect’s minds (warning: don’t be pushy/annoying).

There are some things to keep in mind here.

Keep your hammer, pick up a tool belt.

Most of us come to the game with a core skill set, and usually
one or two specialties.

Maybe you’ve mastered email marketing and believe the power of
showing up in your subscribers’ inboxes creates an unequalled level of
attention. Maybe you’re a PPC geek and know that paid search represents an
unprecedented opportunity to present your customer with an offer at the precise
moment they’re looking for one.

The good news is that you’re right, in both cases. But that’s
not the whole truth.

The web is ubiquitous, and people engage it in a variety of

doesn’t mean you must use every possible vertical and platform to market your
business, but ignoring avenues because you haven’t mastered them is at your own

platforms matter and each has its own unique set of features and patterns. We
don’t build the ecosystems, but we learn to leverage them even when, maybe
especially when, they’re perpetually changing. Or we sink.

trick isn’t to specialize in everything. That’s impossible. Better to get a
decent handle on most of it, to at least learn enough to seek out a partnership
with a true expert, hire someone to own the space, or otherwise find a way to

point is: get a grip on what strategies tend to work for each medium and venue.
Learn enough to outline an overall plan.


Decide ahead of time what your goals are (and how you’ll measure them).

nothing worse than generating a massive amount of activity, spending a chunk of
cash and time, and having little idea after the fact whether you knocked one
out of the park or fell on your face.

sales might go up, and hey, happy day, what else matters right?

what if they only went up a little? Or what if they didn’t go up at all?

want to look back and be able to tell:

  • What
    were we hoping for?
  • What
    actually happened?
  • What
    went wrong?
  • What

If you
don’t ask these questions, allow me to congratulate you on your freedom from
the need for accountability and profit.

you set goals ahead of time, and identify the metrics that match up with
, you’ll have no way to decide whether you’re killing it or it’s
killing you. You’ll repeat your mistakes, be unable to repeat your successes
and will otherwise lead a confused and disheartened existence.


Plan for failure – small risks, constant refinement.

Marketing is experimentation ? meaning you try, you fail, fail,
fail, succeed, fail, succeed, etc. Nobody bats 1,000. You’ll be among the best
if you’re getting hits one third of the time.

You’re going to fail. That’s the game. The only thing that
counts is if you learn from it and get a little better for the next round.

How do
you do that?

make sure that whatever you’re plotting, whatever the cost, even if it fell
flat on its face and produced zero results, you’d be alright. You might hit the
whiskey for a few days, but your business would go on.


You’re only as good as your network.

matter how great a team you’ve built, there will come a time when the answer
you seek will not reside in the minds you’ve assembled.

OK. Don’t go firing people for admitting they “don’t know.” Many people will BS
you as long as they can, which does worse damage. Honesty is far more useful.

online marketing space is unique in that people are willing to help you out. If
you’re used to doing business in the real world, this will shock you. People
are actually helpful!

probably won’t last forever (no good thing does), so do yourself a favor and leverage


In all of the above forums, be prepared to take flak if you don’t play nicely
or just show up expecting free help. Participate. Be a human being. Then when
you have a specific question, fire away. And be thankful for the advice you
receive. People are busy.)

5. No, you don’t need to be everywhere.

get too hung up on this holistic thing.

you’re better off developing multiple streams of business than relying on one
(especially if that one is owned by a corporation). But if you try to do everything,
resources limited as they always are, and at best you’ll have a hard time doing
anything well. At worst you’ll lose your mind.

As you
experiment, measure and optimize, you’ll find certain venues working better
than others. Maybe the stuff that works is just in your wheelhouse. Or maybe
it’s that your people, your customers, are simply more active on Twitter than

for the dead weight and cut it loose. There are no sacred cows. If you can’t
produce results from PPC (if it’s too saturated and costs are through the
roof), don’t bother with it. Focus on what is working.

6. There
is no treasure map.

Most of the “make money online” set pitch formulas and
“easy-to-follow” guidelines for success.

Even if
there was a map, a set of steps that led to success “every time,” the value
would be sucked out immediately by other people who got their first. The gold
would be gone.

stuff is hard. Anybody who tells you they’ve got a foolproof system for
online marketing is either delusional or lying to you.

There are
principles that work. Some of them derive from our basic psychology as social
human beings, and will probably work forever, like those found in Influence, by Dr. Robert Cialdini (read
it if you haven’t). You can bank on those.

ultimate online marketing recipe for your business will have unique DNA. If it
doesn’t, it’s probably because either A) your business itself is on shaky
ground (you’ve been commodified) or B) you’ve borrowed (stolen) your marketing
plan from someone else (in which case it probably won’t work so well and you
should be ashamed of yourself).

to have to pay your dues. Expect that not everything will work, and what worked
for those other guys may not work for you. Expect to learn it as you go.

“Best Practices” by definition create no competitive advantage.

Posts like this one, at best, steer you in a good general

They point out pitfalls. They give you a place to start ? a
framework to start your thinking.

They don’t give you a competitive advantage.

How many blog posts/articles offering neatly packaged online
marketing advice are published every day? Thousands. Tens of thousands.

Most of this information is out there. Best practices for SEO, for example, are readily
available. Title tags, crawlable code, anchor text, link building ? it’s all
been laid out thousands of times in sparingly different ways.

None of
this stuff constitutes a competitive advantage, because eventually (if not
already) your competitors will get this stuff right too.

doesn’t mean you ignore the best practices. They’re mandatory. Without them
you’ve crippled yourself. But, like graduating with a bachelor’s degree,
following best practices doesn’t raise you above the masses. At best it sets
you on an even plane.

there, you’ve got to get crafty. You’ve got to develop unique strategies and
partnerships. You’ve got to take risks.

have to do and build things worthy of people’s attention. Things great enough
that we’ll share them with our friends. We’ll write about them, we’ll talk
about them. We’ll link to them.

but not easy.

tell us, what have you done lately to cultivate a holistic online marketing strategy? Comment below.

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