How Curiosity Can Help You Be a Better Marketer
We often get asked: What does it take to be really good at marketing? It’s not an easy question to answer. After all, there certainly is an element of natural talent – especially creative talent that some people might possess more than others. There’s also the aspect of just plain hard work. Good marketing, as we’ve talked about in previous posts, requires a lot of attention to detail. And doing those little things simply means putting in the time and the effort – what you’re willing to do to help your company succeed.
That said, one quality that shouldn’t be overlooked is curiosity. Why is that? Because marketing is changing constantly. And with new technologies and tactics evolving, it can be hard for even seasoned professionals to stay up to date. Just think of all the new applications with AI or XR (AR/VR) that some marketers have started to employ. There are also a lot more systems and platforms – which is why marketing is hard these days – so much so that it really takes that extra bit of curiosity to dive into something you don’t yet know.
5 Things to Be Curious About When It Comes to Marketing
If you’re a small business or even just an individual who wants to learn more about marketing, we’ve put together this list of things that you can specifically pay attention to that will help you get up to speed on different marketing tactics and techniques.
No. 1: Pay Attention to the Ads You’re Served
Except for big brands that serve a broad range of customers, most ads these days are specifically targeted toward a particular segment. In other words, the data that advertisers have on you as a consumer or potential buyer is quite extensive in some cases, so only those who fit that particular profile are served a particular ad. I often give the example of Viking River Cruises, an ad that follows me seemingly everywhere I go. See the example from CNN below.
I happened to notice that several years ago that I was getting a lot of these ads. So, I was curious – I asked my students (half my age): Do you get these too? And no one did. As I thought about it more, it was likely the company is targeting me because I fit the demographic it is looking to reach – older Americans (maybe 50+ who are typically more interested in doing a European river cruise than younger people would be.) But I wanted to see more of the company’s creative so I kept on (being curious) and went to Moat (an Adobe company) that looks at display ads run by advertisers: https://moat.com/advertiser/viking-river-cruises — and lo and behold, the individuals in many of the ads the company shows indeed are “older” – clearly indicating the focus on this demographic.
Retargeting and other tactics. You can follow the same approach for taking note of other ads you might see by visiting websites or creating an account with different businesses. Do you suddenly start viewing ads from the company after you do that? Are those ads seemingly following you to different places? As you become more aware, you’ll realize that a company is probably retargeting you. But it all starts with being curious about what you’re seeing in the first place and taking the time to figure out why.
No. 2: With Email, Ask Yourself: Why Did I Open or Click on That?
When it comes to human behavior, it pays to observe yourself and be conscious of what you’re doing at any given moment. Why did you click on that headline? Or why did you click on that ad? What was it that drew you in?
The same goes for emails you receive that are marketing in nature. Take a look below at the email highlighted from Nespresso. I ended up clicking on it.
And then I stopped to think why I did that. Well, for one, the company created an urgency for me to act. “Last Chance! Free Double Espresso Scuro Ends Tonight!” is a great subject line. I also know the company well as I buy products from it. So, I wasn’t surprised that the company is emailing me. And in the preview text, there’s an additional offer: “Plus, Free Shipping from $35.” Going further, if you are curious, you come to realize that there are really only three reasons why I might open this email:
- Who it’s from
- The subject line
- Preview text
So, at least one of those has to be compelling to get someone like me to act. The upshot: Your behavior is a pretty good proxy for what others might do in cases like this. So, pay attention to those little things that make you take action. It’s likely those same things will move your audiences as well.
No. 3: With Social Video, Ask Yourself How Did They Do That?
With the advance of mobile technology and improved streaming bandwidth, certainly one of the areas of marketing that has seen the most change is video. Not very long ago, video remained the realm of video production teams and more expensive video post-production editors. Putting a polished video together took not only a great amount of time and resources but also money. Today, you can do a ton with just your phone and a few apps. For example, I saw this split-screen video being done by a creator on TikTok.
And I wondered, ‘how did this guy do that?’ Well, I figured he wasn’t a video editor (maybe he was but I’ve seen other people do this too who clearly aren’t.) So, what did I do? I looked up split-screen mobile video apps and found a few such as Filmora (on the App Store) where you can do a number of these techniques and more – all without having to know a lot about video editing.
In this case, it probably helps to know a bit about what you’re looking for, but if you are curious and think deeply about it – those video creators who are posting cool videos they’ve produced likely don’t have a lot of technical skill. But they happen to have found the right software that will allow them to create content easily. The upshot: When you see something cool, take note and Google it. You will likely find an answer with different programs.
No. 4: With Visual Design, Take a Deeper Look at ‘Visual Weight’
I’m not a designer, though I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. (That was a joke.) The point obviously is that everyone thinks they know what good design is when they see it. But the average layperson probably can’t tell you why. If you are curious about what good design involves in a digital marketing sense, one concept to become familiar with is “visual weight” – basically what items on a particular design draw the eye. Websites are able to do this in one of 3 ways: 1. Surrounding a focus item with whitespace; 2. Enlarging the size of an item in comparison to other items; 3. Color or other ways to make something stand out. Clearly, when designing any page, you want to create those visual focal points and make sure they stand out. Here’s an example from a company known for its great visual design, Apple:
Note how much whitespace is used on the main home page of the website. Your eye is drawn to a few core things –
- The images of the various iPads
- The iPad headline
- The calls to action.
And that’s it. Note also how the company didn’t try to cram a bunch of things into that same space. It’s simple. Elegant. Being curious, you might go further and look at other sites now that you know this concept. Which ones take advantage of this visual weight concept? And, over time, I think you’ll find that the designs your company uses will likely change. Just because you now observe how really good companies approach visual design.
No. 5: With Competitors, Take a Focused Look Under the Hood
When we work with clients, one of the things we often discuss with them is the competitive environment. What do your competitors do well? Where are they showing up where you are not? And then all of the areas we covered above:
- What ads are they running? And are they effective?
- What do emails look like?
- What kind of video do they do?
- And what does their visual design look like?
- What narrative space do they occupy that you don’t?
(Indeed, if you want to be curious and explore this further, we have created our own guide to How to Analyze a Competitor’s Digital Marketing, which you can download for free.) There’s also a lot you can learn just by observing and looking around in other areas too. Take, for example, the water treatment space (where we have companies that we support). Outside of the ad on the top of the page, look at who shows up for: “water treatment companies near me.”
If you’re a competitor, you might first ask yourself, “OK, why is my competitor showing up but I’m not?” Then, being curious, you might say: OK, what’s behind them showing up here on the map and in the listings? As you dig deeper, you’ll probably come to understand that the competitor has created a Google My Business listing (which is allowing the company to show up on the map) and it’s getting ranked because it has a number of reviews for the business. Finding that out and having that sort of curiosity can lead to your business also creating a listing (if you haven’t yet) and then potentially creating a process to ask for more reviews as you provide products or services to your local customer base. And it all stems from you as a business owner just asking: “Why?”
You don’t necessarily need a degree in marketing to learn a lot about how things work. Indeed, so much is available online and in blogs such as ours at Marketing Nice Guys that you can really take it in as you go. You’ll also pick up a ton if you just keep your eyes open and ask yourself why are you doing this or that in response to a marketing message. Or why, is so-and-so showing up when I’m not? As always, if you still need assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us for a free marketing consultation. We’re here to help you excel in digital marketing.