#IronSharpensIron: What can we learn from each other’s digital marketing executions?

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17

This is being re-published from LinkedIn.

Welcome to the first in what I hope will be a long-running series of articles about effective, and ineffective, real-world strategies and tactics for digital marketing, customer/user experience, gamification, community/advocacy, commerce, and more. I firmly believe some of the best learning experiences come from observing live marketing efforts and learning from your peers. I’m tired of the generic “Top 10 Strategies for Success” type articles that litter the landscape. That’s not to say that you can’t gain insights or ideas from such articles, but the more generic an article is, the harder it is to see how well it might work for you because there’s no benchmark to measure from. Nothing beats the real thing as the saying goes.

Learning from each other – iron sharpening iron – means looking at real-world executions of digital marketing and not being afraid to call out failures along with successes. Being specific in this way has some risk; one digital marketer calling out the efforts of another, even in a generic, way might not always be…appreciated. It’s the biggest reason I was afraid to start this series of articles; I work in this industry and didn’t want to come across as someone who’s armchair quarterbacking the efforts of others. But…

As Seth Godin likes to say, sometimes you just have to leap off the edge.

My hope though is that by being constructive in my criticism we can all learn something – and if someone involved in that marketing wants to publicly respond to my critique, all the better! I’m an outsider looking in and of course only know part of the story. I’m hopeful others will jump in and offer their perspectives as well. The beauty of digital marketing is that we can all move fast; try something, measure the results, adjust, try again, and measure the outcome. There are very few scenarios where there’s not an opportunity to learn from failure, adjust, and give it another shot. The Internet never closes.

Failure comes in a few forms, but there’s no bigger hurdle to overcome than the expectations of your customers. In that vein, I am obsessed with the idea of digital friction. It’s a concept first introduced to me by Jason Goldberg during a (sadly under-promoted) hour-long webinar we did with him when I led the now-defunct Business Circle. Once you start to look at all online interactions through the lens of digital friction, you simply can’t look at things in any other way. It’s a customer-centric perspective that has your desired outcome at the end, and evaluates everything – no matter how seemingly minor – along the way that would interfere with the customer arriving at the outcome you want. It doesn’t matter if it’s a newsletter sign-up, a donation, or buying a pair of shoes.

Every process has friction and eliminating that friction smooths the path to success in our efforts.

As marketers we tell ourselves all manner of myths about why someone didn’t do the thing we wanted them to do; many companies under-invest in real-world user research and resist asking customers themselves about their experiences. Or, if they do, it’s with an irritating pop-up survey window that most of us click close on by instinct because we haven’t actually done anything yet (I’m looking at you Foresee). Customer engagement is often viewed as a support-centric experience ad a cost center. “If we’re hearing from our customers it’s costing us money” is how this thinking tends to go. That’s a tremendously short-sighted way of looking at customer engagement and and is something I plan to focus on.

My goal will be to consistently publish one of these #IronSharpensIron articles bi-weekly, and I hope you’ll comment, share, and give me feedback as this series grows – because I’m always open to some sharpening from a peer!