Trimming the Fat From Online Marketing

By ​Bruce Ernst

March 19, 2014

A big part of why I think online marketing can be so hard is because we make it hard.Apple with measuring tape

Nobody has a unifying, simple concept. Instead, we have enormously complicated concepts with millions and millions of options. And it’s no small wonder everybody thrashes around chasing the newest shiny object. We don’t begin with the end in mind. We don’t have a goal, and we don’t express it in a way that’s simple and measurable.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

I’ll admit that fitness and me go together like elephants and algebra—they have absolutely nothing in common. But from a marketer’s standpoint, I was totally intrigued by the recent Fitbit fitness tracker phenomenon.

Here’s the Fitbit approach if you want to lose weight: eat less, move more. Put this thing on your wrist and measure how much you move. I have to take ten thousand steps a day to lose weight? Well, that I can do. If I don’t get up to ten thousand steps, I didn’t do enough—simple as that. The entire concept is easy, it’s doable—and it’s measurable.

But so many marketers think the equivalent of, “I want to get more fit? Well, I could just eat plants. Or I can reduce calories or increase the spend of my calories. Now if I choose the reduce side, there’s all sorts of things I could eat. I could go on a planned phase diet or I could just cut back, and it certainly depends of what kind of foods I like, right?” And before you know it, you have no freaking clue of what you’re going to do. Because you’ve just gotten 70 billion choices, none of which you know how to make.

I think this is what’s wrong with so many products. There’s no context and it’s too complicated. When you have so many choices, you can’t ever pick the right one, because there are infinite other options. So you never feel like you’ve gotten anything done.

As marketers, we have a tendency to make things more complicated than they really need to be. We measure stuff, but we don’t know if it really leads to the outcome we want. Or, conversely, we have desired outcomes like “greater engagement,” or “serving our customer,” or “improving experience,” but we don’t really have a way to measure them.

Somehow, we’ve confused ourselves with thinking that complexity is good, complexity is smart. But the reality is, if you have a million objectives and a million KPIs, you may end up with a whole bunch of stats that aren’t necessarily helping you achieve your goals.

And that’s exactly why Fitbit succeeds. It succeeds because it’s simple.

So how can online marketers emulate Fitbit’s success? You can set clear goals, achievable goals, and, most importantly, you can understand the linkage between your goal and what you’re doing.

It all comes down to the fact that simplicity is your friend. It’s the key to Fitbit’s success—and it’s how you, too, can win.

Image of apple with measuring tape courtesy of Shutterstock.

Bruce Ernst is the former vice president of product management at Monetate. He has more than 20 years of experience in applying strategic plans to immediate execution as well as communicating complex technology solutions in a simple and straightforward manner. Prior to joining Monetate, Bruce was head of Webstore Product Management at GSI Commerce (now part of eBay), a Monetate customer.

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