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The Secret to Disruption: It’s Something you DON’T KNOW that you DON’T KNOW

The Vision

All great companies have a secret to success. I’ll get into the exact details of the secret later, but let’s just say that it equates to one thing – the drive to figure out something that works for your company and the passion to continue doing it. It all starts with a vision, which develops a compatible and winning mindset, and then into a set of processes to fulfill the vision.

On November 13, 1962, John F Kennedy announced that the United States would “land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth (within 7 years). ” This purely visionary statement made without much of the knowledge required to achieve the task.  NASA fulfilled on this vision and it required a certain mindset – what is that? You start with your vision – your guiding principle. Then you move on to your mindset, which should be “I accept that what I currently know about achieving this vision is a miniscule fraction of what I will need to know”. In fact, “I accept that I DON’T EVEN KNOW what I DON’T KNOW in order to achieve this mission.”

Success will require a deep dive into the unknown and countless hypothesis testing and iteration until you navigate yourself through the deep unknown and come back with a set of working processes. Soon success will be in your hands.

Let’s take a closer look at this mindset in greater detail.

Things I KNOW – I KNOW:

  • I know that my name is Richard.
  • I know that I have an MBA from Michigan
  • I know I am passionate about Marketing. Chances are likely that there are things like this that you know, too.


  • I know I don’t know how to speak German
  • I know I do not know how to perform brain surgery
  • I know I do not know when I will visit Mississippi, Hawaii and Alaska to complete my 50


This is a tough category to explain. Many think it equates with disavowed beliefs. In my case, there were times in my life I would disavow being an introvert. At the point of reconciliation, I would say.. I DIDN’T KNOW – I KNEW that, but now I KNOW for sure – I am introverted. In any case, it’s the least exciting quadrant for our discussion.


This is information that is completely hidden from view and yet to be discovered. Thus, I cannot give you any examples, but the most successful businesses know that uncovering UNKNOWN-UNKNOWNS is the “secret” to super success. And when it comes to doing this, no business does this quite like Amazon.

Amazon – Once a river, now a tsunami!

For a small, eccentric bookstore started 23 years ago in Seattle, Washington, Amazon is on the way to world domination. Amazon’s original Vision was to become “the world’s largest bookstore.”  Now over one third of the money spent in the United States is spent at Amazon. For some, it might be unfathomable to imagine how this might have happened. However, there is a method to their success, and it revolves around relentless discovery. That is, bringing light to the UNKNOWN-UNKNOWNs.

Amazon set out to discover everything about their business processes. Since this is a Marketing blog, I will focus on these practices. Amazon test every single aspect of the online customer experience. Webpage layouts, logos, call-to-action buttons, thank you pages, upselling, the checkout process etc. etc. They are never content with status quo.

You may not have known, back when the internet was in its youth, Amazon was testing its limits with its own customer-centric conversion optimization systems. They started gathering customer data with tools they developed on their own because they were so ahead of their time, the tools did not exist yet. That knowledge and data that they gathered from customers helped them gather key information that made their website so successful.

Not satisfied just to perfect processes, they go one step further and collect all of the data about each of its customers. This gathered data allows them to “know you”. When you know a person, you make their experience optimized. They use this to provide a personalized shopping experience.

Luckily for your business, you are in an age where you don’t need to develop your own analytics tools to create success for your business. With low or no-cost tools, you too can do necessary marketing optimization testing and know what you need to do in order to make changes. You, too, can know how to optimize your product descriptions, best use your product images, and maximize your order value.


Processes and Perfection

Let’s review:

  1. What I KNOW – I KNOW
  2. What I KNOW – I DON’T KNOW
  3. What I DON’T KNOW – I KNOW

Amazon operates as though #4/(#1 + #2) is infinite. These infinite discoveries are what fuels Amazon’s phenomenal, unprecedented growth. True, other companies have made a huge splash, like Microsoft. But Microsoft made its money developing enabling technology and being shrewd about its licensure. McDonalds used a process similar to Amazon’s to develop an absolute “Hot-Rod of a kitchen”. Then, much later that they employed analytics to determine “the best” locations for their franchises.

So must you be an explorer with a compass to make it in digital marketing?

What’s the best way to define a customer journey, and what are the metrics that are needed to determine how many people are making it through my sales funnel? How can you tell if these numbers are useful? Where digital marketing takes on almost a magical quality is when marketers must intuit what to measure before taking a stab at measuring it. Then they must quickly adjust to the following measures.

Leveraging Big Data for eCommerce
The digital marketers at Amazon are constantly pushing for ways to find more and better data about their customers. Their deep well of native data that we discussed earlier is used to recommend the next-best match and is highly customized based on the full Amazon customer experience. Even social interactions are leveraged, with the search giant providing ways to “vote up” the most useful reviews to trigger a purchasing decision.

Real-time Responses
Continuous testing by small, agile teams is a requirement for business success. But testing is not the only requirement for success. Once the testing has been completed, teams must be willing and able to make quick and meaningful changes and continue refining the direction. These near real-time responses from customers provide Amazon digital marketers with the data that they need to support continuous improvement.

Beyond Page Views
Marketing analytics today goes far beyond page views. You may know people are visiting your site, but what are customers really experiencing there? It’s not until you dive deep into the metrics that you’re able to uncover the answer. These metrics are what marketers call actionable metrics.

Why Are Some Metrics Actionable?
Savvy marketers make decisions based on their metrics, and while this can be guided by intuition, metrics provide the backbone of where to spend your money and focus. Determining the actionable metrics for your business allows you to iterate rapidly and more effectively, optimizing your marketing and advertising. There are a variety of ways organizations are utilizing marketing analytics, such as:

  • Customer acquisition and retention
  • Audience segmentation
  • Promotion, pricing and product strategies
  • Determining marketing mix
  • Social media interactions

Marketing metrics are the statistical measurements that organizations use to judge the overall effectiveness of marketing campaigns. Reconsider page views. While they tell us how many eyes were on the website, do they truly tell us whether these eyes were making a purchase or taking another step down your sales funnel? Unfortunately, they do not. However, actionable analytics such as the number of email subscribers are the actionable metrics that can be tied back to a percentage of the individuals who visited the site. Those two data points in combination allow marketers to make decisions that will move toward greater engagement and ultimately greater revenue.

Keep Them Clicking
Email continues to be one of the most effective marketing vehicles available. Using metrics to optimize customer email experience is crucial. A high message open rate paired with a low click through rate often means that your subject line was fantastic, but that your message didn’t offer a clear next step to your customers. Reviewing this information after every send provides you with valuable data on how to improve.

Reporting – Analyzing – Predicting
When you consider marketing analytics, it’s important to take a three-pronged approach: reporting on the past, analyzing present responses and attempting to predict the future. These allow you to make informed guesses about how you should adjust marketing to optimize your results. These analytics do not simply drive digital marketing answers, they help gain a deeper understanding of your audience. The most important thing to know about analytics is that there are always more numbers to be chased. Infinite does indeed mean infinite! It can be challenging to know when to draw the line and make decisions. However, if you always return to the definition of actionable analytics – the data that allows you to make decisions that will positively impact business goals and objectives — you’ll be one step closer to knowing what you previously did not know.

Written by:
Richard Stanton
Morissa Schwartz

Exploiting Social Media Virality

The world is full of examples of viral marketing, from the latest pop star’s sensational video to funny kitten and kid videos on YouTube. However, there are certain brands that have achieved this level of super-stardom with their targeted advertising in a way that marketers around the world would love to emulate. What is that amazing “special sauce” that provides a boost to some pieces of content and not to others? Is there some hidden message within the marketing that people simply can’t stop sharing? While it’s nearly impossible to predict what will truly hit a nerve with people and cause them to want to share it with their friends, family members and the world, there are some important threads that tend to take on a life of their own after they’re released into the online world.

Define “Going Viral”

In the world of internet marketing, “going viral” is much better than having a cold rip through your classroom or office, and simply refers to the fact that a large number of people have reacted to a particular piece of content — and decided to share it with others. The “infection” grows quickly when users with a large social media following begin to take action, and grows even faster as influencers begin to enter the conversation by adding their own spin on the content. Viral content can be literally anything: a quote, a tweet, an idea, a person’s image, an animal, a video, a photo or an animation. Just as there’s no set type of content or subject that promotes virality, there’s also no set number of shares that means something has gone viral. For some brands, a viral video would be one that garners thousands of views instead of the low double-digits that other videos have gained, while larger brands might require millions of views before something truly stands out above the rest as successful online viral marketing.

Spreading the Message

Creating a cohesive and consistent message across a variety of mediums is one of the best ways to amplify the viral aspect of your content. For instance, if you create one amusing meme that gets thousands of likes on Instagram, the same piece of content may fall completely flat on Twitter or Facebook. If you’re reaching across a variety of different platforms in an attempt to drive engagement, it’s important to match the content to the distribution method. Here, you’re looking for a theme that can reach audiences across the various social media platforms, and resonate well whether it’s presented in visual form on Instagram, as part of a quick video for Facebook, SnapChat or Vine as well as a longer and more in-depth video on YouTube and Vimeo. This ability to share the concept regardless of an audience’s preferred medium offers that many more opportunities to catch someone’s eye.

Types of Viral Content

Spreading your message is something that marketers do on a daily basis. However, it’s unlikely that a single marketer is able to produce hit after hit of viral content — that’s simply not how people work. Determining what will be engaging to users at a particular time in their day and their life is mysterious to say the least, and it’s often difficult to pick apart what worked even after the fact. There are simply too many variables in play to determine an exact formula for creating viral content on an ongoing basis. That said, there are definitely some steps you can take that will provide your content with the best possible chance to be noticed by a broader audience. Perhaps the most important rule to remember is that timing is everything. If you attempt to launch a large marketing campaign on the same day that a massive weather system is supposed to impact a large portion of the country or there’s another controversial topic in the news, there’s a very good chance that your message will be lost in the swirl of conversation. Viral marketing is the ultimate recommendation engine to spread your message.

Managing Viral Growth

Creating a viral loop is one way to help drive additional viral reach, and involves pulling together tactics that will encourage others to share the content. Once a piece of content has begun to engage a broader audience, it’s important to do everything possible to continue fanning the flames. There are a variety of tactics that will help drive online engagement, such as boosting social media posts with paid advertising, encouraging influencers to post about the topic and introducing the idea to followers who are already engaged with your brand. Remove all possible barriers to entry for individuals by optimizing landing pages and ensuring that products and services are easy to find and share. Provide tools that encourage sharing such as social media buttons on all pieces of content and a way to provide credit back to the party who shared the idea. This is particularly important as one of the key reasons that others share an idea is to appear in a leadership role to their peers.

While technology has changed some of the tools that are used for spreading your message in the recent past, the concept of ideas going viral hasn’t evolved significantly in the last quarter century. Fortunately, there are social media marketing experts that will work closely with you to ensure that your ideas hits all the high points involved in helping drive social engagement with your audience — and beyond. The most important point to remember is that when you create content that is interesting and informative for your audience, they will reward you by spreading the word.

Leverage Neuromarketing to Market More Effectively

There’s a new trend in marketing, and it is based on hard science — specifically targeting the ancient parts of our brain that pre-date human existence! Neuromarketing experts claim that by simply changing the way we market to individuals, we can turn on a secret, hidden “Buy Now” button that will cause people to take action. Whether you believe the hype completely or feel as though this is yet another form of snake oil, there is a lot of concepts to be learned from the tenets of neuromarketing that will allow you to appeal to the most primitive parts of the human brain.

What is Neuromarketing?

Marketing analysts are always looking for new and different ways to engage individuals in making a purchasing decision, and neuromarketing is a more recent introduction to the field that allows scientists to review a variety of physical attributes to determine a subject’s engagement with a particular topic. Specifically, measurements from functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and other techniques are utilized to apply neuroscience to the field of marketing by reviewing human response to advertising, packaging, specific products and other marketing elements. The unique methods used in neuromarketing are highly specific, and can measure a subject’s response even when the individual does not realize that they’re identifying with one particular choice over another. Marketing campaigns can then be developed to produce a brain activity that leads to a certain type of behavior — such as purchasing a product. All together, this field allows marketers to understand not only the answer to which product is preferred over another, but also the all-important “Why?”

The Science of Human Decisions

Understanding how humans make decisions is a question that has been studied for thousands of years, and is still effectively in its infancy. Neuroscience attempts to bring in the science behind human decision making and review the neurometrics, biometrics and even psychometrics required to understand what causes human behavior. There are three distinct sections of the human brain, and each has unique traits that are used to perform activities:

Forebrain: Part of the limbic system, the forebrain is the rational portion of your brain — also called the “new brain” — as it is responsible for thought, language and imagination.

Midbrain: Focuses on our emotional self, and is often called the mammalian brain as it provides memory, value judgments and often unconscious decision making.

Hindbrain: Our deepest, most instinctual self is centered in what is also known as the reptilian brain. Here you’ll find the roots of compulsion, as well as the control for heart rate, breathing, body temperature and balance.

Our instinctual self has a greater impact on our decisions than either the emotional or rational parts of your brain, so this is the portion that neuromarketing suggests should be triggered in order to create a successful sales campaign.

Reaching the Lizard Brain

While the entire brain is engaged in decision-making, the reptilian brain has more of an impact than most of us would like to admit on making snap decisions. Speaking to the most primitive part of the brain can be challenging, as it’s important to distill any message down to its simplest parts and create an incredibly visual value proposition that will appeal to a buyer. Some of the stimuli that appeal to the reptilian brain are messages that are self-centered, have a great deal of contrast, are tangible, have a defined beginning and end, bring an emotion to bear and most importantly — messages that are highly visual. Marketers have long understood the value of emotion in making a sales pitch, but extending that idea brings the ability to visualize metaphors in a new and creative way to improve triggers that lead to purchasing behaviors.

Applying Neuromarketing Techniques Today

Few marketers have the ability to run customers through an MRI and ask questions to determine their likes and dislikes, so how can modern marketers take advantage of these neuromarketing techniques? Fortunately, there is a simple prescription that allows you to use these tools to boost engagement and sales for your brand. The four steps for effective neuromarketing are:

Look for obvious pain points. When you determine what type of pains and fears are in your customers’ brains, then you’re one step closer to presenting a solution to their problem.

Differentiate your claims. Show how your solution or product provides a more attractive alternative to other products on the market in a tangible way.

Create tactics the lizard brain cannot ignore. Visual, visceral cues to the benefits are the ultimate tactic for delivering value to the reptilian brain. The reptilian brain responds a great deal more quickly than your logical brain, as your optical nerve delivers images for feedback to your lizard brain much more quickly than words — which are processed in the logical portions of your brain.

Understanding the structure and reasoning of how the brain works is critical to being effective in neuromarketing as well as traditional marketing. Marketing that is tied to strong, specific and simplistic emotion allows the oldest and most reactive parts of our brains to sit up and take notice, and ultimately hit that wonderful “Buy” button. Unlike traditional marketing, the goal is not simply to evoke positive emotion, but to create emotions that will cause prospects to take a positive action.

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