Business Strategy

What Can Sherlock Holmes Teach You About Digital Marketing?

marketing sherlock holmes

Hullo, what’s this?

Is it possible that a Consulting Detective from the late 1800’s can teach us about a practice a century younger than he is?

Rudimentary, my dear reader!

Holmes’ success in solving crime has much to do with his understanding of human behavior– not all too different from how one delivers a successful marketing campaign.

Go ahead and picture the sleuth in his most traditional and exaggerated renditions: back hunched over, magnifying glass to the ground, pacing to and fro while muttering, “Hmm. That’s interesting.” Now take a look at your colleagues in the marketing department: necks cocked towards their computers, eyes darting across campaign reports, and muttering, “Hmm. That’s interesting.”

Here are three lessons you can take from Holmes to make the most of your marketing efforts.

  • Make Thorough(er) Deductions About Your Potential Customers

Holmes is famous for painting an exact picture of the suspect before setting eyes on them. He is able to measure their footprints and the length of their strides to determine their height, and ascertain their country of origin by examining the ashes of their favorite tobacco.

Similarly, the first step for any marketer (after establishing a solid understanding of their products or services and how they fall in the market) is to be able to define their target customer. Need help? Get inspiration from Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter’s ad set builders. They can give you a preliminary idea of who your target audience might be, including: Location, Age, Gender, Interests, Job Title, Name of Employer, Mobile Device they Use, Degrees Obtained, Interests, Incomes, and beyond.

But for a master detective, that only scratches the surface of truly understanding one’s motives and behaviors.

Dig deeper and determine their challenges, problems, and needs, and how those match with your solutions or products. Accomplish this either by interviewing your happy, current customers, or surveying potential customers. To help better understand your customers, review this list of 20 questions to ask your customers to define a persona, as suggested by Pamela Vaughan.

Vaughan also recommends identifying negative or “excluding characteristics” of your customers (those who might be outside the scope of your target audience) to help focus your marketing. For example, your products or services might be too expensive for small businesses to afford – or should only be marketed to those at a company that make the big decisions.

And when building out this persona, remember that “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Your customers are your customers – even if your idea of who they should be says otherwise.

  • Lure Them In

Sometimes, it makes much more sense to have the criminals (or your customer) come to you. On many occasions, Holmes would simply invite criminals into his living room on Baker Street.

How, you ask? Extremely-specific offers placed where the criminal is likely to find them.

Holmes would place classified ads in the local papers to advertise that he had recovered a missing object (one that the criminal would have lost) or information of interest, to be claimed in person. In a way, this is not unlike an example of effective content marketing: a very specific demographic is targeted, and offered an equally specific bit of information.

Of course, you probably need more than one customer to engage with your campaign. But that’s where hypertargeting (as exhibited by Holmes) comes in to play.

When advertising on social media channels, you can easily share your message with hundreds of thousands of people – and generate sub-par returns. However, Likeable Media Founder, Dave Kerpen, offers a modification of a famous line from the film, The Social Network, “You know what’s cooler than reaching a billion people on Facebook? Reaching the right 1,000- or 100 or 10—to best grow your business.” He employs hypertargeting to dial down his message to only the relevant groups of people.

  • Don’t Overlook Their Actions

One of the most powerful tools that Sherlock had at his disposal was his knack for the art of deduction. He would figure out where someone was going, where they had been, and why they left, just by looking at their footprints, or determining the origin of the mud they dragged in!

The good news? So can you.

Now that you have lured in your target audience to your landing page or site, the case isn’t closed until they have completed your desired action. Using Google Analytics is a valuable (and absolutely necessary) resource used to study where people come from, how far they progress through your website, and most importantly where they might leave.

But it doesn’t end there!

Google Analytics’ Event Tracking for example, allows you to not only monitor simple actions such as video plays or whitepaper downloads, but also advanced actions such as how far people scroll through your page, or how many fields they fill out in a form before exiting.

This type of information is critical for optimizing your pages, and encouraging your customers to complete a task such as purchasing a product, subscribing to a mailing list, or attending an event. Use these tools to understand their motives for leaving a page or, abandoning a form.

About the Author

Greg Olsten is Ivy Exec's Sr. Content Manager, producing Online Classes, and Executive Intelligence articles.