If you’ve taken a moment to gander at my photo at the bottom of my posts here on SME then you might noticed I could lose a few pounds. Working a lot at a desk and having a lovely wife that cooks amazing homemade meals most days of the week is easily the best way to increase your physical mass over time. I consider myself a fairly healthy eater who probably, like most Americans, eats larger portions than I should, but One way or another, I have gained enough weight over the last few years to put it at the top of my list of priorities to address.

The Biggest Loser - 12/365

Image by foshydog via Flickr

I know that eating healthier and exercising is the way to go, that’s a no brainer, but where do I start? In the past I’ve taken time to go to the gym and I tried to eat more of what I thought were healthier foods, but soon I realized that I really didn’t have a game plan. Without a more solid idea of what I wanted to achieve beyond the general “lose weight” I would quickly become unmotivated and any time I had previously dedicated was eclipsed by some other lesser important priority. What I really need is something beyond my intuition to give me some baseline knowledge that could help me understand my situation better. I might then start moving in a direction that felt like it had some purpose.

That brings us to last week, when I ran into a friend of mine named Kevin. I hadn’t seen Kevin for many months and he had visibly shed some extra pounds since last we talked. Asking him how he did it, he introduced me to a mobile app and website that helped him in one simple way … it provided him the actionable intelligence he needed to evaluate his current state and point himself in the appropriate direction to towards his desired goal.

How does this all relate to the usual topics covered here on SME? It’s simple. There are countless folks out who are blindly stepping into the world of digital marketing each month. Analysts continue to compile ever increasing numbers and upward trending graphs representing the dollars that are expected to be spent by businesses on social media and online marketing over the next couple years. Six months later, many of those businesses will become frustrated with their results and many will give up. Why? Not because digital marketing is a load of crap, but because they invested time, money and expectations into something without actionable intelligence.

Actionable intelligence, in the marketing sense, is any information that enables you to understand, improve and ultimately become more efficient with your marketing efforts. In this case, I am most specifically talking about folks who are treading the waters of digital marketing/social media for the fist time and the foundational information needed to make better decisions during the inception of a digital marketing strategy. Many brands fall victim to the fact that there are tons of free or relatively low cost online tools and services available within a few clicks. Nobody has to break out the credit card to upload a video to Youtube or start a Twitter account. This low barrier to entry inspires many to dive in head first with nothing to guide their actions. Digital marketing, specifically social media, is a long term commitment that often needs some time to ramp up before its impact is fully felt. That said, in order to make it to that tipping point, most efforts related to social media marketing should be sustainable over the long run.

Bringing it back to the fitness application, the first step in getting usable information is to put some in. You must answer some questions that will help the application better understand who you are and what results you expect. Answering questions like age, activity level and current weight are pretty standard.

Most fitness apps out there provide the following actionable intelligence:

  1. An overall goal in the form of a “goal weight” so that you can understand what you want to achieve.
  2. Daily caloric intake milestones, that if met, help keep you on track over time
  3. Metrics related to food choices so you can better understand the difference between eating something that will push you closer or farther from your overall goal

How does all of this relate to marketing?

Just omit the fitness related words and you get…

  1. An overall goal so that you can understand what you want to achieve.
  2. Daily goals, that if met, help keep you on track over time
  3. Metrics related to choices so you can better understand the difference between something that will push you closer or farther from your overall goal

Businesses are unique in the sense that they each face their own set of challenges and have their own set of goals. As tempting as it is to just dive in, think about those challenges and goals before moving forward.

With actionable intelligence you can:

  • Understand the eb and flow of your content and digital marketing efforts so you can quickly adapt to new discoveries and changes in the market.
  • Stay motivated because, rather than blindly pushing content and walking away,  you can see how your content is being engaged.
  • Gather real information that can be used to obtain buy in from management and stakeholders who may not fully understand the medium.
  • Gauge if you have more than enough resources (time, money, and personel) to dedicate to to your digital marketing efforts or not enough to achieve what you had hoped.

Example Sources of Actionable Information:

  • Customer surveys
  • Your website analytics
  • Twitter search
  • Focus group
  • Discussion with a consultant
  • Google search
  • Your customer support team
  • Socialmention
  • Listening tools (Radian 6, SM2, Scoutlabs, etc)
  • Google Alerts
  • Facebook search
  • Youtube Search
  • Backtype
  • Topsy
  • Bit.ly

All of these sources can provide information that is specific to your company, product, service, or industry. Moving beyond the hype and numbers provided by others, with just a little time using sources like these can drastically change a “ready, fire, aim” approach into a “ready, aim, fire” approach. Which is more likely to hit the intended target?

You might think that much of what I am discussing is simply metrics or the “listen before you leap” approach. You would be mostly right. Although, I believe that the kind of information I am referring to is not what you measure during the process. This information is what you use to better understand the mechanics of the process and how it relates to what your hoping to get out of it. This information makes you a better, faster, stronger marketer because your now more intimately aware of the moving parts and how they might be utilized to achieve success.

Over two weeks ago I started using the fitness app Kevin recommended. Within a couple days I found the new knowledge I had influencing my food choices, meal portions, and frequency eating. On a day to day basis I can make adjustments depending on what the day throws at me. I know what my overall goal is so I can keep pressing forward with a clear understanding of what I am trying to accomplish. My choices have to be sustainable so I don’t give up too soon or become frustrated due to lack of results. Slowly but surely I am moving in the right direction and I have lost three pounds so far.Although there is a great deal more I could do and learn, having some basic information that I can put into action immediately has been the catalyst to get me excited about pressing forward.

What was the discovery that helped you understand more about your digital marketing efforts and got you really excited about pressing forward?

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About Adam Helweh

Adam Helweh

Adam is CEO of Secret Sushi Creative Inc, a strategic design, digital and social media marketing agency. He specializes in the convergence of design and technology to provide businesses with more intelligent and interactive ways to connect with customers and grow. His clients have included Edelman, Broadcom, Stanford Federal Credit Union, the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, Bunchball and others. He's also the co-host of the "SoLoMo Show", a weekly digital marketing podcast, and he has shared the stage with professionals from companies including Facebook, Virgin Airlines, Paypal, Dell and 24 Hour Fitness.

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.russhenneberry.com/ Russ Henneberry

    Great stuff Adam.

    The “ready, fire, aim” approach, I think is due to the vacuum of information that is out there about how to make sound decisions about a digital strategy. Blogs like Social Media Explorer and Convince and Convert are the exception to the rule. And, it sounds like your agency is out there fighting the good fight!

    Thanks for writing this! It was a great read!

    • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

      Thanks for the comment Russ. The space is ever changing. The traditional marketing route has a number of cost barriers that slow people down and make them pause a bit before getting to deep. The low cost aspect of some elements of digital marketing allows for folks to get deep enough that they feel they are doing something, but they are really just in the pool splashing around.

  • http://profiles.google.com/kevinbcarney Kevin Carney

    I’m glad bumping into you was useful for a little more than just weight loss (by the way, I’m down another five pounds since we met).

    I wish I had a “one place for feedback” dashboard for web and social media marketing, but instead I use a mis-mash of free tools, each of which shows me a piece of the puzzle.

    I’ll check out the tools you mentioned that I don’t already use (and I use only a few of them), but if you find any really useful web and social media intelligence dashboards out there, please share.

  • http://www.automatedsocialnetworking.com Treb

    Great post you have here Adam… You have some very strong points here! It was a very good read and a great source of information… Thanks for sharing…

  • http://videoinfluenceproductions.com Shane Melanson

    Awesome post! Its very informative.

    Cheers!

  • http://www.michaeltmak.com Michael T. Makahamadze

    Hey Adam,

    First off, great job on the pounds you’ve shed; that in itself should move you forward towards your goal.

    Secondly, great article you have here. I like your material. I think the reason the “ready, fire, aim” approach is very popular is that it encourages you to get started quickly, then correct along the way. But like you said, many end up just splashing about, and that’s where the problem lies. With the quantity of information available out there, “ready, aim, fire” would probably take some people a very very long time.

    Website analytics, Twitter search as well as Google Alerts have been a great help for me personally. I will start looking into some of the other tools you’ve mentioned though.

    Keep up the great work and the valuable information.

    Have a great day,

    Michael T. Makahamadze

    • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

      Michael I agree that diving in can be a good thing for some, but ultimately it is about expectations. Are you expecting to test/play and learn or are you expecting concrete results right away? I think that is an important element to consider. Thanks for your comment.

  • bross

    I agree, it is really tempting for businesses to just start social media without thinking of how to actually do it. Also, what I have noticed is that most local businesses think that social media can be used to send message after message out to the audience without even thinking about using it as a 2-way communication tool. After they kill their audience with tweets and posts, they believe that instant social media success will come.

    I have found that it is much easier to plan ahead, and ask the audience what they want to know about and care about. However, sometimes the best way to learn is to try it and see what works and what doesn’t. It is important to do research, but you never really know how your audience will respond until you try it.

  • http://blog.socialmediahq.com Nick Robinson

    One of the best analogies I’ve heard about digital marketing. I lost 60 pounds over a 6 month period. It was hard to see the light when I first started, but now I have the historical knowledge of what works and what doesn’t for ME. Same can be said about digital marketing for businesses. Bravo!

    • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

      Congrats on the weight loss Nick. I don’t even know what to think if I lost 60 pounds. That would be incredible. Thank you for your kind comment.

  • http://www.reallyeasycart.co.uk Ecommerce Software

    We are blessed with people who continue to develop the use of technology for our own benefits and through it we should maximize the use of it.