Top Marketing Challenge: Finding the Signal Amid the Noise

poltergeist-originalThere’s a famous scene in the movie Poltergeist, where a little girl kneels, transfixed by a static-emitting television. As spirits emerge from the static, she sing-songs: “They’re he-ere.” It was a critical plot development, the inflection point between what came before and what was to come. It was, quite literally, the signal amid the noise.

In marketing, it’s easy to get lost in the noise and spend a lot of time staring into the static, overwhelmed by the volume and variety of information coming at us from all directions. Customers want, and deserve, metrics. Too often, however, I think there’s a tendency to elevate form over function—checking the box without really analyzing the results for relevancy and actionable information.

In public relations, for example, it is still common practice for agencies to report “ad equivalency,” toting up the value of earned media coverage based on the advertising rates of the publications where the stories appeared and multiplying by the number of column inches, typically with a multiplier, on the assumption that credible editorial is worth more than an equivalent amount of paid advertising—that, despite the fact that the Public Relations Society of America has repudiated the practice. (The good news here is that many PR awards judges now summarily reject applications that still use this particular campaign performance metric).

So too, as digital marketing has evolved, many have come to recognize the limited value of impressions and clicks, as opposed to conversions and engagement.

Finding fault is much easier than finding solutions—particularly affordable solutions—the Grail quest on which I find myself now. The sheer volume of information out there is daunting, and the challenge of attaining new knowledge in addition to the responsibilities of running a fast-growing agency, is, at times, crazy-making.

Witness the new Oracle Marketing Suite, a superextrahetradyne marketing analytics tool that costs thousands of dollars a month and is about as intuitive as Oracle’s technically elegant but user-intimidating Creative Cloud products.

The truth is out there, and I know I’ll find my answer—just as I recently found a free and extremely easy path to foreign language fluency through the duoLingo mobile app after years of slogging through academically-derived Berlitz tapes, books, and CDs. It’s just a matter of time and persistence.

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