Illustration by Nick Palazzo
Marketing research doesn’t always apply to you. Collect the pieces, and absorb the advice. Then, come up with your own.
Having a mentor gives you someone to look up to. With eyes glossy and wide with admiration, you decide what you like about each of your mentors and try to instill those positive bits into your character. You follow the words of Regina Spektor and “take the things you like, and try to love the things you took.”
As we’re building our professional lives, we take pieces of the people we meet, see, and read about. Eventually, we build ourselves into somebody kick-butt and worth knowing: a resource, an expert, maybe even a mentor someday. Or, maybe we started out that way.
Big Business Doesn’t Always = Perfect Business
As a marketing blogger, I know that every business is looking for a mentor. They look to their global competitors to watch and see what they’re doing and they read the marketing reports they find online with percentages and graphs and anything that resembles a finger pointing in the right direction.
Having worked with many of those “global competitors,” I honestly tell any small business that they’re looking in the wrong direction. Just because a company is big enough to swallow you whole doesn’t mean that they have all their ducks in a row. Nobody does. What they do have is a budget to hire someone to figure it out for them. When it comes to social media and search engine optimization especially, we’re all still infants.
For example, at BuzzFarmers, our main prerogative is to make our clients look awesome. Don’t look away just yet, because I’m not about to pitch you something. What I’m getting at is that nobody should ever look to us as someone to mock or replicate because every Tweet, email, and Facebook post we put out there is a test. A subject line, ad placement, or graphic: It’s always a test for the greater good of our clients.
That’s the same thing you’ll find at any large competitor. They’re spending lots of money to test things. And they throw a ton of money at campaigns that are sometimes in vain.
So my cautionary tale here is to watch, but don’t try to follow their footprints in the sand.
Numbers Are Great, but Results Are Better
And, on that note, as marketers we love people who give us data and advice. My most popular posts are when I conduct a bunch of tests and share the results, like Dan Zarella, Marketing Sherpa, Which Test Won, and Marketing Profs. We love those guys, right? I know I do.
The problem is that while these tests are often helpful, they’re easy. Not easy for the people who put them together, but for you to follow. If somebody tells you to tweet at 3pm and post to Facebook at 7pm everyday, you do it, right?
I’m not exempt from this data, either: I always test the results from these big research reports, because a lot of the time they have something to test that I haven’t tried before.
That’s where businesses get caught up – especially small businesses.
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A research report is not an Internet bible. Nobody will ever be able to tell you what works best for your exact target audience.
Please repeat that a few times and remember the original quote:
“Take the things you like and try to love the things you took.”
You Are the Biggest Expert in Your Own Business
Once you’ve started testing, head back to your business bunker. For every platform you use, there’s a research report behind it with your name on it. Don’t ignore it. This personal report will offer you the same bullet points that those other research reports do, except they’re just for you.
Email: If you send email, then you have an email management system that tells you which emails had the best subject lines, the best open rates, the most click-worthy links, and everything else you need to start sending better emails.
Facebook Insights: Every Facebook page displays analytics, or “Facebook Insights.” These analytics can tell you how to optimize your page and which posts perform best with your audience.
Twitter Analytics: You could manually track your Tweets, but you can also use bitly or Hootsuite to see which Tweets worked best. Look at which posts caused engagement like a response or retweet. Analyze those popular Tweets by looking at the time you sent them and the words you used.
YouTube Analytics: The data that YouTube gives back on your videos can tell you which videos resonated most with your viewers. You can also see if using keywords make a difference in views, how people are watching them, and where they’re watching. With this data, you can decide what types of videos to make in the future.
Blog / Website Analytics: Google Analytics is completely free and doesn’t leave anything up to the imagination. You can see which keywords drive the most traffic, which blog posts are most popular, where most of your traffic comes from, and whether your social efforts are making a dent.
A/B Testing: There are lots of services out there for your perusal. Optimizely is one we like for easy landing-page testing. Google Website Optimizer used to be a favorite of mine, too; they’re currently moving it into Google Analytics and calling it “Content Experiments.” This integration should make your analytics and page testing completely seamless.
I know this a bit simplified, but all of these analytics are completely available for you to analyze on your own time. Make the time to analyze them.
Marketing research is invaluable, often free, information. I geek out on it daily. But your mentors can only guide you; they can’t wear your shoes and tell you how to run your business. So, go run your business!
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