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1st Marketing Trend: Innovative Digital Research-Part A

Posted on: March 23, 2015 by: Thomas Rozof

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series 5 Marketing Trends Competitors Will Use To Crush You
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Digital Research Is The Foundation For All Successful Marketing

EMERGING TREND #1: Innovative Digital Research Is the New Mechanism for Identifying Superior Marketing Strategies (Part A)

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“We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.”       Anais Nin

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The starting point for developing any comprehensive, successful marketing strategy for your company is RESEARCH…specifically digital based research. This is not just a personal opinion. There is now ample evidence to objectively support that the future belongs to innovative companies who utilize the power of research to advance their vision. Any company who neglects this new axiom will find it virtually impossible to remain competitive, especially when facing smart companies who embrace the multiple dimensions of research for all it’s worth.

Marketing In The Dark

The majority of companies today are marketing in the dark. ..which means by virtue of this fact they are unaware of their own condition. Even those experiencing historic and current success are depending on marketing protocols that are in radical flux, yielding decreasing results and costing more to maintain. Yet, by the time these companies acknowledge their attrition they are likely to have lost a great deal of market share to competitors who welcomed all the digital research and analytic light they could absorb. It’s always these go for broke start-ups who seem to instinctively know…”when you ain’t got nothing…you got nothing to lose,” a historic recipe that has led to many a success. So let me say…if you are a new company you have NO baggage. No entrenched CEO that requires a fear lobotomy before the word “risk” can be spoken in the C suite. Trust me…take research and step on the gas. With research you can identify your mistakes early, adjust and optimize all the way to the bank. Yes…be focused, be smart…and be true to your company vision…but by all means put research to work daily.

Using human intuition to guide marketing decisions has always been a crap shoot…even (and especially) in the days of Mad Men. Continuing on this journey is purely an ego driven activity…since no one in his right mind would select the human hunch over the higher ground of marketing guided by science based digital research. But since this is happening in the majority of today’s companies…I’ll let you draw your own conclusion as to why. It’s the reason I love the quote you see above from author/speaker Anais Nin… as it offers poetic insight into how our innate human bias often prevents us from seeing things as they truly are. Yet, when research is properly set up and executed its science based properties cut through human preconceptions and produces a wealth of business intelligence. Without research you are simply guessing, or at best trusting the instincts of a seasoned marketing veteran…and while I agree that human experience can be an advantage, it’s still no match for the objective, comprehensive and multifaceted capabilities of modern digital research…not even close.

Research and Digital Advancement

Research shot to prominence in lockstep with the digitization and automation of marketing processes. Prior to this, marketing was an extremely inefficient endeavor, as there was no cost effective or comprehensive method for determining which advertising processes produced the best results. I once owned an offline business that focused on video based golf instruction. We would video tape the golfer’s swing and by playing it back in slow motion we could isolate the areas that needed improvement. We eventually became the largest private golf training facility in our city. I spent a lot on marketing. However, I had very little knowledge about which of my investments were paying off…so I continued to run them all…including TV ads. Today these same marketing processes are now digitized, which means they can be tracked, compiled, arranged into data segments, assessed and then interpreted to extract intelligence that up to now had never been available. Future posts in this series will reveal how this advantageous marriage between data and research extends far beyond just marketing, and touches every aspect of the business endeavor…but its impact on marketing is undeniable and it’s gradually transforming everything it touches.

Digitization has not only made conventional marketing processes efficient, it has also led to a volcanic rise in new marketing methods, networks, applications, media outlets and a constantly growing accumulation of valuable DATA. The insights contained in this data are so significant that any company willing to decipher the details and respond accordingly could simultaneously accelerate growth and overtake competitors. In fact, in one of the sections below I identify several companies who have done just that. They combined DATA with research and applied brilliant decision making to accomplish unprecedented success in highly competitive markets. Today they are household names, but they began the data-research venture just as we have to…somewhere near the bottom. It’s a fascinating preview into the enormous potential that resides within the new digital ecosystems that frame modern businesses. I found it to be both exhilarating and scary.

A Compelling Illustration

To illustrate the degree to which digital technology and data centered processes are redefining the business landscape, let me ask you a question related to just one area: How many marketing automation software applications do you think exists today? 10? 25? 50? Maybe even 100? All wrong. According to Scott Brinker (chiefmartec.com), there are currently 1,876 marketing applications representing 43 categories (see infographic below)…and remember this is just one dimension of marketing.

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Infographic from chiefmartec.com

Growth In Marketing Automation Creates A Unique Opportunity

Our company (Social Media Science, LLC) began noticing this proliferation in marketing software back in 2009 and it caused us to predict that a valuable new form of consulting and software development (led, of course, by new start-ups) would eventually emerge to focus on helping companies discover which of these marketing applications fit best within their enterprise. From our perspective, the only way to effectively accomplish this would be to develop one or more digital based comparison research tools. After all, there is no company today, even if they had the time, talent and money, who would consider it a wise investment to evaluate every software option in order to select the best alternatives. Yet this is an essential task that every business must accomplish if they want to stay competitive, since employing the right automation can lead to a monumental savings of time and money, not to mention the potential it provides for increased sales. However, until there is a research algorithm designed to match company needs with the exact right marketing software features, companies will be subject to purchasing solutions based on the haphazard and ineffective whims of our competitive marketplace, or they must hire consultants who have enough experience in this realm to make adopting their recommendations worth wile. One thing for sure…you can expect to see a lot more innovations around every conceivable facet of marketing…and this is going to have implications for how a company forms and digitizes their entire business ecosystem (more on this when we cover the 2nd trend).

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Superiority Of Digital Research

Superiority Of New Digital Based Research

You have probably noticed that whenever I mention the word research I’m quick to add the description “digital” in front of it. That’s because I’m referring to a new type of research that is fundamentally different from the older, conventional model known as “Market Research.” Whenever I speak about this new breed of research I’m typically confronted with those who immediately assume I’m referring to the traditional version. However, I consider the older version to be outdated, inferior and too costly. It’s also a method of research that is proving to be less capable than ever at identifying the most critical elements needed to construct an effective, modern advertising and marketing plan. This is why a new form of digitally empowered research is emerging to take its place, one that is capable of producing all of the results that traditional methods offers while surpassing its limitations and laborious processes. Digital research is dynamic. It brings excitement, unpredictability and compelling results back into the research arena. It’s potent, multifaceted, and comprehensive, which means that it can include and assess a much larger set of data, while covering research factors and goals that go far beyond those of its traditional counterpart. Because of this, it can generate outcomes so powerful that soon no company will be able to stay competitive without tapping into the revelations and perceptions produced by these newly emerging research systems.

Digital research opens the door to so many new and valuable types of research, each with the capacity to produce their own unique outcomes, that a blog post, even the size of this one, is not sufficient for covering all of the significant possibilities. Yet, in spite of this growth, the field of digital research is still in its infancy. Because of this I’m expecting the entire sector to literally explode, both in the number of companies looking to add research to their marketing arsenal, and in the proliferation of new start-ups aimed at meeting the research needs of modern companies. All of this should help to explain why I see DIGITAL RESEARCH as the new mechanism for, and the first step in, formulating superior marketing blueprints.

To better understand how this new digital research differs from past renditions, let’s begin to unveil some of its more significant expressions and explore how these are being used within some of today’s modern companies.

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Keywords As Origin Of Digital Research

KEYWORDS: The Origins of Digital Research

The growth and popularity of digital research is rooted in search engine based marketing that emerged some 15 years ago as a result of Google and other tech based search engines. The first widely used digital research software focused on “keywords” and today there are still hundreds of applications designed to explore the various nuances of keyword intelligence. Since time and space do not allow me to compile an exhaustive list, below I have identified a few of the top keyword based software tools that I still consider valuable, mainly because each of these continue to be highly relevant in identifying a certain set of critical marketing factors:

  • SEMrush
  • Moz Analytics’ Keyword Analysis Tool
  • Wordtracker
  • The Last Keyword Tool by Themezoom
  • WordStream Keyword Tool
  • Advanced Web Ranking
  • KeywordSpy
  • Keyword Discovery

In case you doubt the reference to their being “hundreds” of keyword tools, I suggest you review the list of 90 plus that Brian Lang compiled: http://www.smallbusinessideasblog.com/keyword-research-tools

Companies today that choose to use only the Google Keyword Planner Tool are missing out on critical insights. By employing the right keyword tool/s to meet specific marketing objectives, a company is able to discover invaluable insights that often provide the difference between success and failure. Even though keywords represent only one kind of digital research, they nonetheless encapsulate enormous marketing power and are capable of producing hundreds of critical outcomes. Below I highlight just a few of the impressive results that can be derived from quality keyword research:

  • Discovering the Thematic Keyword SILO Architecture required for an optimal website – This unique research was pioneered and refined by webmaster and SEO expert Bruce Clay (BruceClay.com). I consider this research protocol to be FOUNDATIONAL since it represents one of the first critical stages in the design and construction of a company’s online web presence. Another company that has taken the SILO premise, and keyword research in general, to new heights is ThemeZoom.com. They have created what I consider to be some of the top keyword research software on the market today. At Social Media Science, we view the thematic SILO to be so critical, we will not even work with a client who refuses to recognize and implement this essential prerequisite. I often tell companies that designing a website around the science of thematic keyword SILO architecture is tantamount to letting the Google search engine design and develop your website for you from scratch. That usually puts the matter in perspective. You can still read about the logic and research process that lies behind Bruce Clay’s SILO keyword intelligence at: http://www.bruceclay.com/seo/silo.htm
  • Finding Profitable Niches – this research helps to exploit low hanging fruit and profitable niches. These predefined and custom filters help any company to quickly sift out the nuggets of gold from the digital dead ends in any market.
  • Website Budget Planning – This research can take your online marketing budget and efficiently compile a list of the most profitable and relevant keywords for a company to target, all based on budget. Remember, even though some like to call this “natural” or “free” SEO, it still costs to develop quality content and to acquire the right links to produce traffic.
  • Conversion Intelligence – This research can identify how, where and why conversions are taking place in specific markets, insights that are critical for producing sales in any industry.
  • External Link Building – This research identifies the natural white hat linking footprint that is optimal for reaching your business goals, with a focus on quality over quantity.
  • Internal On-Site Linking Structure – This research identifies on-site linking structures and significantly reduces the required amount of inbound links for producing optimal SEO impact.
  • Buyer Intelligence – This research identifies the critical conversations that are taking place in a specific market so that companies can learn first-hand what customers want and how this insight produces more conversions.
  • Compiling A Full Competitive Analysis – Competitive analysis exposes opportunities. It’s research that helps companies to stay ahead of the competition and to estimate market entry and maintenance costs.
  • Search Volume – This research includes the analysis of both natural and paid traffic and provides you with a complete picture of the opportunities and activity in your market.
  • Developing An International Picture – The world is a big place. This research helps you to target your markets globally with pinpoint accuracy.
  • Vertical Online Market Analysis (VOMA)- This is a keyword research process that allows for the exploration of major market segments that comprise your online vertical market to determine traffic patterns and historical trending. It uncovers the way money moves through your market via themes and keywords. VOMA makes it possible to segment your market using competitors, cost, traffic, market share, and historical trends.
  • Landing Page Intelligence – This research shows current landing page, ad copy, and destination URL for a particular landing page in order to gain insights into your own project designs.
  • Affiliate Intelligence – Using the right research tool can provide access to the products and ads being used by hundreds of affiliate networks and generates insights that could be critical for any business.
  • Social Media Marketing Insights – The right research tools can help a company to target critical conversations and trends taking place within social networks.
  • FAQs & SAQs- One of the most effective types of content a company can create is to provide ANSWERS to the most “Frequently Asked Questions” and to the “Should have Asked Questions” that circulate in their market. Companies who spend time creating this type of content discover that it generates a great deal of traffic to their site, as well as producing some of their best leads. It all stands to reason. Think about it…a high percentage of SEARCH terms are in the form of questions. If you can employ research to discover the most frequently asked questions from consumers in your market…well, you have discovered a goldmine…and have put your company that much closer to making a steady stream of ongoing sales.

Again, I share the above list only to provide a “suggestive” compilation of goals and outcomes that today’s digital keyword research tools are capable of producing…since there are far too many to create an exhaustive list. The truth is, just about any goal that you can think of related to keywords can be reached by employing the right digital research tool.

BEYOND KEYWORDS:

In the next sections I will highlight some of the newest and most powerful digital based research being conducted. There are many new tools that are capable of reaching goals well beyond just keyword analysis. In fact, it’s now true that any business intelligence that is important to the ongoing success of a company can be discovered by employing the right investigative talent and/or tools. Most of this higher level research is being conducted either by consultants, specific research based marketing firms, or through tools available to companies who choose to conducts their own in house research. Whatever a company desires in the realm of intelligence can almost certainly be accomplished by one or more of the above methods.

Let’s review how some of these powerful new methods are impacting the business world.

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Code Halos: A Must Read For Marketers

Digital Debris and The Power of Code Halos

There is one main reason why digitization has unleashed such a powerful revolution throughout the globe, especially within the world of business. It’s because for the first time it’s now possible to TRACK, COLLECT, ASSESS and gain valuable INSIGHTS from the various data that surrounds any enterprise or endeavor. When it comes to business, digitization allows for the collection of meaningful data that originates from the various decisions, processes and functions that take place daily within a company. By applying the right digital research tools they can now unlock the meaning that resides within this information. What we are about to see is that this is true, even when it involves data that might be considered worthless at first glance.

Early on, at the inception of our company, we saw that even the data we categorized as “digital debris” (i.e. automatically generated information that appeared at first glance to be cast-off data that was essentially worthless) could contain important insights if the right research were applied. This data is derived from all the user generated information that individuals produce through every digital click, keystroke, tap, or swipe that originates from their online activities and now from the interactions that take place within multiple social media networks. Over time we eventually concluded that NONE of this data is worthless…and that certain data compilations would soon be determining the success or failure of companies worldwide. This was particularly true for companies that put their own innovative data collection technologies in places where it could produce optimum results. The fact that data contains unprecedented power to shape a company’s future is truer now than ever before. If you want your marketing to generate success then this next section, along with the other four posts in this series, is going to help you maneuver your way toward reaching that exciting destination.

Will You Be Part Of The Next Trillion Dollar Club?

Throughout this series I will recommend certain books, reports, videos, podcasts, and any helpful content that I believe embodies and further articulates the critical truths that I can only partially highlight in a limited blog series. The first book that I consider a must read for anyone who cares about how new digital research is redefining the business landscape is: CODE HALOS: How the Digital Lives of People, Things, and Organizations are Changing the Rules of Business, by Frank, Roehrig and Pring. What we identified at Social Media Science as “Digital Debris” these authors see as the ingredients that make up “Code Halos,” a term meant to place value on all the data that circulates around and is being produced by every person, place or thing that is central to a company’s existence. Because they rightly see this collection of data as highly valuable they identify it as a “Halo” surrounding all of these data collection entities…since they each possess their own type of data rich digital intelligence. Once you understand the value of this one discovery alone you will begin to see why digital research is so essential for modern business. All of this newly generated data contains a wealth of information and only the right type of research based interpretation is capable of unlocking its valuable secrets. The authors go on to argue that it was this type of intelligence that led to the creation of the first Trillion Dollar Club, a reference to six digitally wise companies consisting of:

  • Apple
  • Amazon
  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Netflix
  • Pandora

They point out that in 2003 this group had a combined market value of $34.3 billion. Yet, by leveraging the various digital “code halos” present within their companies they were able to reach a position of competitive dominance, so much so that by 2013 they had exceeded $1.2 trillion in collective market capitalization. And consider this, as of February 11, 2015 many insiders, such as Carl Icahn, are predicting that Apple will soon be worth $1 Trillion all by itself.

Dominant Old Style Companies Are No Match For Digitally Empowered Competitors

What I found instructive as I examined the growth of these six companies is how they each were up against dominant and formidable competitors when they began. They competed against the likes of Borders, Nokia, HMV and Blockbuster, who at the time were dominant companies in their prime. Because each of these enjoyed such a dominant position (like many of the companies who may be reading this post), they had a hard time seeing Amazon, Apple, Pandora or Netflix as any kind of serious threat. The authors of CODE HALOS labeled these short sighted, leading companies as “Widget Winners” (juxtaposing Widgets over against Digits) and at one point in the book they make the following observation:

“In every case, the Widget Winners initially looked like they should have clobbered the digit-focused newcomers. The incumbents had all the advantages: brand awareness, established customer relationships, extensive distribution channels, research and development capabilities, management experience, employee depth, balance sheets and market valuation. In addition, what the Widget Winners and the new disruptors were selling was the same product in most cases. After all, Netflix and Blockbuster rented the same films; Amazon and Borders sold the same books; and the Apple iPod and Microsoft’s Zune were comparable machines. The Widget Winners held all the advantages, except the key one: they neglected to wrap their widgets with digits, to build digital business ecosystems, and to learn how to compete with Code Halos. As a result, the Widget Winners were vanquished by 2013—either bankrupt or mere shadows of their former selves.”

At the heart of each new company that understood the value of CODE HALOS there also existed the talent and capacity to use digital research tools and technology to unravel and decipher the various meanings and strategic insights contained within all the collective data they had amassed. What’s fascinating is that the data embodied within CODE HALOS, along with the type of research required to transform it into meaningful insights, represents only ONE of the many new forms that data and digital based research can take to assist a company. We have discovered many others that are just as powerful as those outlined in this seminal book.

Leaders In Title Only

Upton Sinclair long ago identified the core struggle that keeps CEO’s from doing their job, when he wrote:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Before I turn our attention to another example, I think it’s instructive that you hear how our author’s describe one of the most frequent problems they encounter as consultants: the unfortunate existence of entrenched and stubborn leaders who refused to see the digital light, until they are viewing it emanating from a competitor as they steamroll over them. At one point they relate a quote made by David Cook, from Blockbuster, as he reflects on its demise:

“Blockbuster founder David Cook articulated their collapse well, lamenting that, ‘It didn’t have to be this way. They [Blockbuster] let technology eat them up.’

The authors went on to say:

“In hindsight, it wasn’t even a fair fight. It was slaughter…They assumed the disruption others were suffering in the face of digitization wouldn’t affect them. We often hear; ‘It won’t happen to us. Our industry is different.’ No, it is not. This value migration will not be contained to a handful of Silicon Valley wunderkinds. Although Code Halos first took hold in these highly technology-aware companies, they’re becoming a universal platform for competition across most ALL industries.”

If you’re a CEO these statements ought to jolt you out of any complacency that might have crept into you or your organization. Marketing success will not be found by selecting and implementing the right automation software alone. Although automation is essential, it must first rest upon a solid research based digital foundation. The right use of CODE HALOS will certainly be one of the central components required for marketing and for overall business success. But when it comes to highly valuable data and the application of digital research we have only scratched the surface.

A Preview Of Part B: On RESEARCH

In the next section I will continue to dig deeper into research as our first emerging TREND that defines superior marketing. We will pick up where we left off by revealing several additional new and compelling expressions of digital research. There is one in particular that I’m almost certain will be completely new to you. I’ll begin by examining the subject of BIG DATA and explore why this is such a hot topic and how it relates directly to the process of research. As we go on in this series you’ll discover that, when used together, all five of these trends amount to an unstoppable advantage.

SOUND OFF:
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